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Father's Day Cards Have It All Wrong

Photograph by Getty Images

Fatherhood has often been compared to many things: war, a thankless job, raising pets—so many metaphors that don’t really encompass the full scope of the sentiments that comprise the beauty and bother of raising a child.

This point is never more evident than on Father’s Day, especially on the holiday card shelves. A quick glance reveals poorly written, half-hearted jokes, and tired stereotypes printed on the pitiful parchment of “Dear Dad” cards. Every year, I feel hopelessly misunderstood by these pathetic attempts at summing up the love between children and their dads.

I believe there is no better description of my role as a father than a simple street mugging.

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You’re all by yourself and then one day, they find you out of nowhere. There is stress and struggle and you’re cornered. Children want everything you’ve got. But the trick I’ve learned is to not resist, just like the police advise us. Don’t resist against the threat of becoming a better person.

My son is 3-and-a-half years old but he has already stolen so much from me that I don’t know what to write on my theft report form. He has certainly taken years off my life because of his antics. He has pilfered my youthfulness, including but not limited to, my desire to jump out of airplanes on a whim, because he depends on me. He is in the process of stealing my hairline, something I can’t seem to stop him from doing. In fact, my forehead looks like it’s trying to run away from my nose. I wonder if I’ll look like a pesticide-ridden chia pet by the time he’s done with me.

Make no mistake, fatherhood is a shakedown.

But my little guy has also stolen things from me that, in all honesty, I could’ve done without, too. He has robbed me of my narcissism, and my need to be perfect. He has seized my petty desire to be self-fulfilled because fulfillment, as a father, is no longer just about me. He’s an assassin of my bullshit. He has stolen some of the worst parts of me, and exchanged them for something I will never be able to describe adequately, though I sure as hell write enough about it.

This style of robber, this toddler thief that is my son, is the only crook I’ve ever met that leaves something behind in exchange. After countless late nights staying up with him during nightmares or bouts of sickness, he follows me wherever I go. My boy is an emotional money launderer. He takes my small investment of hugs and kisses, and turns them into large dividends.

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This process of fatherhood has profoundly shifted the way I deal with life, not unlike a mugging victim. Make no mistake, fatherhood is a shakedown and you’re also shaken up—but he has given me who I am and who I will be for a long, long time.

He’s the only criminal who I want stealing from me for the rest of my life. Where’s that Father’s Day card?

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