Monday, January 08, 2018


During the time of the Occupy Wall Street protests, Jamie Diamond, the CEO of banking giant Morgan-Chase, came to speak here in Seattle at an event in the Downtown Sheraton Hotel. Our protest managed to effectively surround the building, blocking all exits, trapping Diamond inside. At one point I was near a side door when a half dozen cops(?) emerged, dressed head-to-toe in military-style camouflage and wielding large weapons. The knot of us near the doors grew quiet for a second, anticipating something bad, when someone shouted, "You're wearing camouflage. We can't see you!" And we all started laughing, calling out, "We can't see you!" until they went back inside.

Today, I tell a version of that joke almost every day at the preschool. For instance, when a child arrives in camo pants, I might say, "Hey, I can't see your legs, they're camouflaged!" The younger kids tend to take me literally, pulling up their pant leg to show me that they, indeed, have legs, while more experienced children just give me that look, the one where they smile slyly while looking at me out of the corner of their eyes. They might add, "You're joking" or "You're silly," but the look pretty much says it all.

I suppose it qualifies as what are often labeled "dad jokes," but you know, I'm a dad so I come by it honestly. I tell quite a few of them, especially around the school, and kids rarely outright laugh at them, even if some of the parents do. In fact, side-eye is probably the perfect response to a dad joke.

When we're using hand tools at the workbench, I always manage to work this one into the conversation: ""I see," said the blind man as he picked up his hammer and saw."

When I'm proven wrong about something, I typically respond with: "I thought I was wrong once, but I was mistaken."

When the subject of princesses comes up, I have a tryptich:

"I know Cinderella's brother. His name is Cinderfella."

"I know Snow White's sister. Her name is Rain Black," and

"I know Sleeping Beauty's brother. His name is Wide Awake Ugly."

When a child mentions he was "dropped off," I say, "That must have hurt to be dropped." When one starts with "But Teacher Tom . . . " I respond, "Hey, did you just call me Butt Teacher Tom?" When a child says she's going to "change," say into a different costume, I reply, "Don't change too much, I like you just the way you are." I've told these jokes so often to so many kids that they are hardly jokes any longer, stripped as they are of the unexpectedness that normally triggers laughter. I'm actually slightly surprised when someone does laugh.

I've been telling these and other dad jokes for years. I think of them as part of my curriculum for teaching children to question authority, to really listen to me, the supposed authority, and when I say something that doesn't sound right, to call me on it. Kids show me that side-eye almost every day, a look full of both humor and doubt. There is wisdom there, a look that says, You'll have to do better than that, you can't fool me. I've been around this particular block.

A parent once told me that he felt that part of his job was to help his kids develop their "BS detectors" and I certainly think that's part of what's happening with dad jokes and that side-eye tells me they get it.

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