COLUMN: Obsolescence is a matter of mind

Take a jacket, it could get cold and rain later tonight ...

On Point by Andrew Holota

Take a jacket, it could get cold and rain later tonight.

Nah, I won’t need one. It’s sunny out right now.

She comes home freezing and wet.

Wear hiking boots if you’re going up there. That trail is going to be really muddy and slippery.

I don’t like hiking boots. I like wearing my Nike Airs.

Returns after the hike in soggy, filthy Nike Airs, and equally dirty clothing from falling multiple times on the slippery trail.

Your car has a sketchy gas gauge. Never let the tank go down past halfway.

It’s got plenty of gas. I just filled it up last week.

Phone call: The car won’t start. Do you suppose it’s out of gas?

It’s reassuring to know that after almost 19 years of being a dad, I’m still full of useful information and suggestions. Not that my daughter listens to them because, she is, after all, just about to become a full-fledged adult with all the perks this fall, and adult women don’t need helpful hints from old geezer fathers.

I had a extended panic attack about that very scenario when she graduated last year.

I was about to become obsolete. Antiquated. Out of touch. Uninformed. My beautiful bird was about to leave the nest, and only return for family visits and a brief stop at Dad’s Mobile ATM service, aka: wallet.

It wasn’t a pleasant sensation. All those years of labouring over spaghetti bridges, creative writing essays, and floorsized three-dimensional maps of the Nile Valley, complete with plastic hippos, were to be no longer.

She was all grown up. Self-sufficient. All-knowing, all-seeing. Just like dad. My job was done.

It was a mighty mental struggle.

And then she went off to her first year of UBC, living in residence. Happily, I was needed to transport the meagre trappings of life that could fit into her dorm, or mouse-box, as I dubbed it.

Then came the first essay, and dad the editor was called into service. And then there was the second essay and third and more – an analysis of patriarchy and colonialism; the moral responsibility of non-interference by nation states; and other critical thinking dissertations on matters social, political and global.

I’m not an expert in any of those subjects, but I’m familiar with them, they’re extremely interesting, and I can edit the heck out of problematic punctuation.

I’m lucky. She could be studying genetic coding. I wouldn’t know an amino acid sequence unless it spilled on my lap.

Actually, that wouldn’t be a crisis, either. Because when there really is a relatively minor ‘young adult’ crisis such as rampant exam anxiety, a derailing relationship or a professor carved of ice, most of the time all a dad has to do is listen. I learned a lot about listening this past year. Apparently, I’m not too bad at it.

I think I’m far better at dispensing sage advice. In fact, I’m full of it. At least she acknowledges the last bit. She often tells me so.

Here’s my reassurance to dads who are struggling with the concept of switching up from leading a wide-eyed child to unleashing a freshly minted young adult into the world – you’re only obsolete if you’ve made yourself that way.

If nothing else, you know well enough to take a jacket in case it rains. If you don’t know when the United Nations passed a resolution on non-interference by nation states, just be quiet and listen. You’ll know soon enough.

I don’t pretend to represent mothers here. I’d be afraid of detuning their special vibe in the universe of mom-ness, but I’m pretty sure the same basic principles apply.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go check the oil in my grown-up daughter’s car before the engine seizes.

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