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NWI Parent
NWI Parent

Knocking out the Swagger

September 16th, 2012 - By Rick Kaempfer

All boys have a tendency to swagger a little bit, so I’ve always believed that one of my duties as a father was knocking them down a peg or two. Now before you get all new agey on me, just let me say that I don’t do anything to damage their psyche, and I don’t humiliate them in front of their friends. But I do have a few techniques that are really effective at un-swaggering a teenage boy.

I have a current favorite with my middle son Johnny, who is 14 years old now–a freshman in high school. This absolutely drives him crazy, so of course, it’s like fresh blood to this father vampire.

Johnny considers himself a bit of a tough guy, especially around his little brother. If I’m not in the room, he talks and acts very much like a dictator.

But as much as Johnny bosses around his little brother, he absolutely melts when he’s around his dog. He really loves her. He can’t walk by her without hugging her, petting her, and playing with her. It’s the only time he drops that tough-guy veneer and gets mushy. He can’t help it. It’s actually quite sweet. He calls her all sorts of pet names like “poochy” and “sweetie” and “lovey” and “beautiful girl”.

And every time he does it when I’m around, and I mean every time, I pretend like he’s speaking to me. I do this with a completely straight face, and I never break character. It goes a little bit like this…

Johnny (hugging Ivy): Oh poochy, poochy, beauty. You’re my sweetie. Oh yes, you are.

Dad: Johnny, please, don’t talk to me that way. Just call me Dad.

Johnny (horrified): I’m not talking to you, I’m talking to the dog.

Dad: Right. Listen, I know you love me, and I know sometimes you can’t control how much you love me, because of all I do for you…

Johnny: I was talking to the dog!

Dad: …But sometimes your love for me is just a little too strong. What would your friends say if they heard you calling me poochy, poochy, sweetie?

Johnny: DAD!!!!!

Dad: That’s better. Dad. Let’s go with Dad. It’s not that I don’t appreciate your undying love and gratitude.

Johnny: I was talking to the dog!

(Dad holding Johnny’s shoulders)

Dad: I love you too, poochy, poochy, sweetie.

Johnny: DAD!!!!!!

Dad: Right. Sorry. If you call me Dad, I should just call you Johnny. I love you too, Johnny.

Johnny: I was talking to the dog!

Dad: Right. Let’s keep pretending that. It looks better that way. It’ll be our little secret.

And then I walk away.

I do this at least once a week, and even though he knows that I know he’s talking to the dog, it doesn’t matter. It’s impossible to swagger when your dad is asking you not to call him embarrassing pet names. It’s simply not possible.

It’s just a bonus that it give me boundless joy to mess with him this way.

Filed under: parent.

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