Dads worry about the craziest stuff. For example: tire tread.
Moms fret about seat belts. Dads worry about tires.
I check the tire tread on my 17-year-old son's Toyota at least once a week. I measure the depth with my thumb and look for uneven wear; anything that could cause the car to pull, skid, hydroplane or otherwise stray from the straight and narrow.
Dads do this because we know that teenage boys are helpless daredevils and that an eighth of an inch of tire tread can be the difference between safely rounding a slippery curve or sliding into a ditch.
Other odd things we dads with boys worry about:
-Lip hair: I caught myself this week raising my glasses to look closely at my son's upper lip. Boys who haven't become daily shavers are often oblivious of their wispy whiskers. This sometimes results in the faint beginnings of a mustache.
You gotta keep on top of this, or the next thing you know you'll be sitting at the dinner table looking at Baby Magnum P.I.
-Shower debris: If you are not careful, a boy's shower can become a biohazard. If I were building a new house, I would have a pressure washer installed in the boys' bathroom.
When I was in college, I shared an apartment with three other guys. I don't think we cleaned the shower for a whole year. One of my roommates used to eat Doritos and smoke cigars (simultaneously) in the shower. I am not making this up.
-Sleep deprivation: I once heard that boys, like dogs, need to be run every day. On the other hand, boys need lots of sleep. When our boys get cranky, I send them to bed. There's almost no stress that a half a can of Pringles and a two-hour nap can't fix.
-Random heartache: Girls seem to be able to burn off heartache (i.e. embarrassment, shame, hurt) in flashes of drama. Most boys don't have that button.
Like dogs that can only cool off by panting, boys dissipate stress inefficiently through quiet suffering. The only way to help is moral support and hugs. Prayer, too. I pray for our boys' physical security, but I also literally pray for God to bless and protect their hearts.
-Inseams: At a certain age — say between 12 and 15 — a boy can outgrow a pair of pants in a heartbeat. When we were kids, we all wore Levi's jeans with folded cuffs. Not anymore. Thankfully, Chattanooga boys now wear shorts about nine months a year, so this problem is less intense.
-Falling down steps: Yes, this is a random worry, but real. Our sons often stagger up the stairs to their bedrooms after falling asleep downstairs on the coach. I listen until their footsteps reach the top of the steps, afraid they'll trip and fall.
-Storm safety: Sometimes when the phone barks a tornado warning at night, I go upstairs and haul them both back downstairs, figuring its safer to be on the ground floor. I worry, OK.
-Tooth-fairy tales: I dreamed that our older son forget to wear his retainer and his teeth grow crooked overnight. I sometimes worry that our younger son's front teeth will keep growing until they are as big as garage doors.
Fathers, having been young men ourselves, are thoroughly versed in the pitfalls of boyhood. So we worry.
And we hand it down like an emotional heirloom, ready to reapply to any grandsons that might one day try to drive on bald tires.
Contact Mark Kennedy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6645.