I remember the first time I had to act like a father.
My fiancé—and eventual first ex-wife—worked a couple of nights a week and needed a babysitter. I had lots of experience around kids (my sister has seven), so I figured how hard can it be, right?
As long as nothing unusual happened, I could handle the responsibility.
Cue scary music.
Suddenly the world came to a screeching halt! At least that’s what I thought judging by the wailing coming from my 9-year-old future stepdaughter’s room.
Like a good dad I put down my Diet Coke and Twinkies and raced upstairs, expecting blood and gore. Or at least a stubbed toe. But she was just lying on her bed crying like crazy.
This was a job for Superdad!
With no phone booth handy, I had to change into my costume in my mind. It worked.
With chest puffed out and hands on my hips I asked, “What’s wrong, Grizelda?” (Not her real name).
Damn, I thought, why did I volunteer to babysit? Using my supervision I quickly scanned the scene and discovered no blood or obvious signs of pain. I was relieved because I was afraid she had broken her leg. You see, I’ve watched enough cowboy movies to know what to do when your horse breaks a leg.
I’m not comparing my future ex-stepdaughter to a horse! After all, I still like horses.
“Are you hurt? Did you fall?”
Like Robocop I hastily scanned possible reactions in my brain.
No. 1: Tell a knock-knock joke. When I say “boo” and she says “boo who?” I can respond with “That’s what you’ve been doing for the past hour.” However the success rate for such a strategy was a paltry 4-percent, so I discarded that action.
No. 2: Revert to the way my day would handle such a situation, namely “I’ll give you a reason to cry.” As I recalled though, that seldom ended the crying. Also, I never particularly cared for that approach when I was a child.
That left the final alternative – try to act as an esteemed father figure would.
George Washington was The Father of Our Country and that’s pretty esteemed, so I decided to emulate him. With no river handy, I simple threw a quarter across the room.
When that brought no reaction I chose a different father – Archie Bunker.
“What are ya yappin’ about, meathead?”
The crying grew louder.
That’s when I came with the idea of pretending I was in a scene from “The Brady Bunch” and I was Mike Brady. Mr. Brady never yelled at the kids and never hit them, so I suspected it might just work.
“What’s wrong, Grizelda? Is there anything I can do o help you?”
She began telling me her problem. One of her friends was having a party and she wasn’t invited.
Mike Brady had done his job and it was clearly time for Robocop to re-appear.
No. 1: “Are you kidding me? You’re crying over something stupid like that?”
No. 2: “I’ll give you a reason to cry!”
In the end, I picked No. 3.
“I bet her mom only let her have a few friends over at a time,” I said—hiding my irritation at missing the Red Sox game for this—“I bet you’ll be the first one she invites for her next party.”
That one worked!
As I walked back downstairs I had had enough craziness. I pretended to be in “Star Trek” and said, “One to beam up, Scotty!”
But the transporter was broken. I wanted to cry.
John Christian Hopkins is a member of the Narragansett Indian Tribe of Rhode Island. He is the author of Carlomagno. He currently lives on he Navajo Reservation with his wife, Sararesa.