Fathers pass down plenty to their children, whether it’s genetics, surnames or bits of wisdom earned through experience.
But as for traits consigned from fathers to sons, there’s a certain phenomenon that’s too often understated: the Dad joke.
It’s a universal experience.
If you have a dad, you’ve rolled your eyes, you’ve groaned or simply tried to ignore. But if you’re a man of a certain age and you have children, it’s time to address an inevitability: you’ve told a few.
Perhaps you’ve informed a child that a bicycle can’t stand on its own because it’s two tired. Maybe you’ve reminded your children they can call you anything, so long as they don’t call you late for dinner.
I, for one, vowed long ago that I’d never dive down that hole. My humor would remain sharp and clever on a consistent basis with none of that Hee Haw cornfield funny business. I trust that most male children at some point added humor to the list of ways they’d depart from the parental example.
But then it happens. And it all starts innocently enough.
I remember ribbing my son when he was a little guy and had a full-on interest in cars. I tailored the humor to his age and understanding. “Toyotas are fine for kids,” I’d tell him, “but when your an adult, you’ll want a ‘real-car-ota.’”
The seed was planted. Apparently, there was no stopping the growth.
I recently drew a confused look when offering an observation in a similar vein while preparing dinner.
“Provolone cheese is kind of expensive,” I said. “Amateur-volone is much cheaper.”
The groaners often come out of nowhere and cannot be restrained.
I asked the kid a few weeks back whether he thought NBA hall of famer Larry Bird might have a doormat that reads, “This house is for the birds.”
He didn’t crack a smile. He only sighed and said “probably not.”
So where does all this come from?
I’ve begun to wonder whether the Dad joke is a biological trait; a defense mechanism that arrives with parenthood in which men begin to find humor in that which is not funny.
It’s a good theory, but there’s one thing that’s certain.
Once those jokes start landing with frequency, you’ve assuredly reached middle age.
I was recently caused myself to groan while at the grocery store and passing the penne.
“Totally tubular,” I thought.
The jokes cannot be helped. As we lose our hair, we gain in terrible puns. They build within us and we have to relieve the pressure.
But let’s admit … occasionally, they’re funny.
They don’t land in chuckles or guffaws by any stretch. But if you see your child working to stifle a quivering lip lest they encourage the behavior, you know you’ve told a winning Dad joke.
For the record, my son has assured me the Dad joke circle will be broken. Apparently, he’ll be the one to finally buck all of human history.
As a Dad, I’ll wait for the ultimate punchline.
Should my son ever have a child of his own, the ultimate payoff will arrive when he inevitably implores the young one at some point to pull his finger.
And the circle will begin anew.