There’s this term they taught us in psych 101. It’s called learned helplessness. Here’s how it works: if you stick a rabbit in a cage and electrify the floor, the little guy will freak out and jump, trying to avoid the pain. Do it again and he’ll freak out again. But if you do it enough times, eventually he’ll just lie down and take it. He’s learned that there’s nothing he can do; he’s going to get shocked no matter what so he might as well not waste energy freaking out about it.
I don’t know if they’re still doing those kinds of experiments, but if they’re looking for case studies, they might as well just have a look at us dads and spare the poor little bunny.
Wondering what I mean? See if this sounds familiar:
You: Dad, can I have a sleep over?
Me: Not tonight, I’ve got a lot of work to get done.
Half hour later:
Mom: Honey, will you go pick up Billy? He’s coming for a sleep over.
Me: Um, but I…I, um, yeah OK.
You see, there was a time when having a Y chromosome gave us veto power over key household decisions. You’ll quickly learn that, as a modern dad, not only have you lost that veto power, you’ll be lucky to be part of the discussion. Sure at first you’ll try and assert yourself, but eventually you’ll just lie down and take it.
How will you know that it’s happened to you? Here are some things to look for:
You’re snuggled on the couch watching Sex in the City 2 with your wife;
The flower print bedspread and curtains in your bedroom;
That very practical car;
You call the guys to cancel poker night (again) to watch Sex in the City 2;
The fact that you didn’t take your son sky diving for his 10th birthday;
The fact that your St. Pauli Girl light-up beer sign is hanging in the basement rec room and not over the living room mantle where you wanted it.
There are plenty more but I think you get the idea.
So how can you avoid getting to that point when you become a dad?
Can’t help you there. Take a look at me. Do you really think I have any clue?