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Dad-isms: Things Dads Say, and Why

Back in December 2019, I wrote a blog entitled Mom-isms: Things Moms Say, and Why. People enjoyed it so much (thank you very much), they asked when I was going to write one about all the peculiar things dads say.

I spent some time reflecting back then put a call out to my five brothers asking for their input. Because let's face it, their childhood experiences as one of five boys were, likely, very different from mine as the only girl.

First, I think it's important to share a little about our dad. He was a salesman to the core of his soul. I'm talking, if a scientist had broken down his DNA strand, there would've been a full-of-bullsh*t gene in there somewhere. I'm sure of it. He had a sense of humor that could make the grouchiest people laugh (except our mother, she was onto him), and he loved to have a good time. Our friends always wanted to hang out at our house, because he was such a fun dude. Being one of his kids was a different story. But that's a blog for another day.

Anyway, our dad, like many others, used to say some of the most bizarre things, and we thought nothing of it. Proves how easily kids can be programmed to accept the unacceptable and ridiculous.

Here we go...

If it'a been a snake, it'a bit'cha. This was a line used whenever we couldn't find something that was right in front of us, in plain sight. I've used this on my husband a few times (read about the jar of jelly here; "I Don't Snore", and Other Silly Things He Says). Considering our dad's deeply intense fear of snakes, I figured this must have originated from personal experience. Side note: knowing your father's personal kryptonite is an amazing way to level the playing field. One well-placed rubber snake, and you could guarantee a dramatic and comical physical reaction. Admittedly, it was nice to turn the tables on him once in a while...even if it meant banishment to your room.

If you had a brain, you'd take it out and play with it. This little beauty was used

whenever one of his six children would do something ridiculous or just plain dumb. Like, say, jump off the roof into our pool. Or, throw clumps of sticker burrs at each other in a kind of barbaric game of tag. I guess you could say it was equivalent to a more painful version of laser tag. For me and my hyper-vivid imagination, it always conjured up the image of someone literally taking out their brain and playing with it. Like, tossing it up and catching it, rolling it around like a bowling ball, that kind of thing. Weird, I know.

Go get the sheriff's belt. Bear with me, because this one requires a bit of explanation.

Wa-a-a-ay back in the day, when our dad was in the Marine Corps, he played poker to make extra money to support the family. He was also a deputy sheriff, and they issued him this wide, thick, embossed leather belt to hold his weapon and handcuffs, and all the other required paraphernalia.

Unfortunately, he kept the belt when he left that job. No matter how many times we moved, it never got lost. The wedding dress my mother made for herself in Home Economics class was lost, but not that damn belt! It always hung on a nail in his closet, so whenever we earned a spanking, he would tell us to go get the sheriff's belt and wait in my room.

I would cry the whole way to their bedroom, sobbing as I'm grabbing it from the closet, becoming much more dramatic as minutes passed. Then it struck me ... I'm in my parents' bedroom! What an amazing opportunity. Ya see, there were two places in our house that were always off-limits to us kids; the "fancy" living room and our parents' bedroom.

All of a sudden, I'm IN their bedroom! Alone! So, naturally, I took it as an opportunity to snoop around. Thinking back on it, I remember being extremely disappointed. There was nothing fun or mysterious in there at all. What a jip!

After about fifteen or twenty minutes, having cried myself dry, I would sit on the floor and wait. Because you never sat on a made bed, especially our parents'. The distinctive clunk of his recliner being lowered would echo across the house. My punishment was imminent and my crying would begin anew. He would round the doorway into the room and halt in his tracks, and give me a look of, What are you doing in here? He hadn't come in to spank me at all, he was just going to the bathroom during the commercial break!

He would see the belt in my hands and say, "Uhhhhh, I want you to tell me why you're getting a spanking." Basically, he'd completely forgotten I was in there! Completely. Forgotten. He would spank me a couple of times, tell me not to do it again, then send me to my room for the rest of the night.

I'm not ashamed to admit, just writing the phrase go get the sheriff's belt still makes my guts clench a little.

Don't make me pull this car over. You can imagine while driving across the country with six kids, two dogs, and a cat, this one was used a lot. And you didn't want to challenge him on this either. Two of my brothers tried and he pulled over to the side of the road in the middle of nowhere, told them to get out, then dropped them off and drove away. Of course, his plan was to let them sweat it out for a few minutes, then turn around and go pick them up. Lesson learned, right? Wrong. My brothers decided to have a little fun and, when they saw him making the turn to come back, they hid. They let him drive around for ten minutes, his worry growing, as they peeked out from behind a building or something. Eventually, they came out laughing and slapping each other on the back at pulling one over on the old man. What they didn't realize was; they'd gone from fighting with each other in the backseat to teaming up to coordinate a counter-offensive against our dad, and ended up having a great time together. Final outcome? Dad won.

Take your head off and set it in your lap. He pulled this one out whenever one of us was blocking his view of the television. Considering there were six kids and only enough seating for three, this happened quite a lot. I do remember the youngest brother actually attempting to do this. Sure wish cellphones with cameras had been a thing back then because I would totally own him now.

You make a better wall than a window. See Take your head off and set it in your lap above.

If you put the same thing in the same place every time, you'll never lose it.

I'm throwing this one in, even though it's one of my husband's Dad-isms. The man has never lost his keys and can find his wallet and work ID badge in his drawer in a dark bedroom without fumbling for them. He drilled this into our sons' brains until they left home, and even after, but I'm pretty sure they were stubborn and ignored him. I surmised this because I've watched both of them search for their wallet and their keys on multiple occasions.

Okay, back to my dad's Dad-isms...

Shakes a glass of ice. This was a non-verbal dad-ism, often deployed when he was sitting in his recliner watching TV. Like Pavlov's dog, without him saying a word, one of us kids would hop up and fetch him more ice. He kept a six-pack of Tabs next to his chair and would pop one open and pour it over his fresh ice. And, no, we weren't allowed to have any. Kool-Aid was the best we got.

Go ask your mother. #1 avoidance technique. Examples:

Me (about eight years old): Daddy, what's a virgin?

Dad (choking on a mouthful of Tab, avoiding eye contact and shifting uncomfortably in his recliner): Go ask your mother.

Me: Can I spend the night at {insert friend's name here} house?

Dad: Go ask your mother

Brother: Dad, can I go to the movie with a bunch of friends tonight? (It's a school night and we all know this isn't allowed but he is counting on dad not being privy to this rule. Which was probably a safe bet, since our mom was the rule maker and enforcer in our family.)

Dad: Go ask your mother.

Brother (shoulders slumped): Never mind.

I'm convinced my dad used this one because it interfered with his image as the hey, look at me, I'm the fun dad. Mom was always relegated to being the un-fun mom.

Don't get me wrong, through my little kid's eyes, he was pretty friggin awesome. Handsome, a great smile, funny. He seemed like the perfect dad. But, as age began to peel off my rose-colored glasses, I realized he was merely human (imagine that), and that he made mistakes and poor choices (remember the poker playing above?), and those poor choices cost him dearly, and I don't just mean financially.

That said, I do owe our dad for my ability to engage with people, for knowing instinctively how to "read a room", and for the quick wit some folks seem to think I possess. Oh, and for being able to write a resume that makes me sound way more accomplished than I actually am. Mostly, I owe him for giving me five amazing brothers ... all of whom would make fun of me for saying that.

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