The Scary First Time I Had to Act Like A Father

John Christian Hopkins

I remember the first time I had to act like a father.

My fiancé—and eventual first ex-wife—worked a couple of nights a week and needed a babysitter. I had lots of experience around kids (my sister has seven), so I figured how hard can it be, right?

As long as nothing unusual happened, I could handle the responsibility.

Cue scary music.

Suddenly the world came to a screeching halt! At least that’s what I thought judging by the wailing coming from my 9-year-old future stepdaughter’s room.

Like a good dad I put down my Diet Coke and Twinkies and raced upstairs, expecting blood and gore. Or at least a stubbed toe. But she was just lying on her bed crying like crazy.

This was a job for Superdad!

With no phone booth handy, I had to change into my costume in my mind. It worked.

With chest puffed out and hands on my hips I asked, “What’s wrong, Grizelda?” (Not her real name).


Damn, I thought, why did I volunteer to babysit? Using my supervision I quickly scanned the scene and discovered no blood or obvious signs of pain. I was relieved because I was afraid she had broken her leg. You see, I’ve watched enough cowboy movies to know what to do when your horse breaks a leg.

I’m not comparing my future ex-stepdaughter to a horse! After all, I still like horses.

“Are you hurt? Did you fall?”


Like Robocop I hastily scanned possible reactions in my brain.

No. 1: Tell a knock-knock joke. When I say “boo” and she says “boo who?” I can respond with “That’s what you’ve been doing for the past hour.” However the success rate for such a strategy was a paltry 4-percent, so I discarded that action.

No. 2: Revert to the way my day would handle such a situation, namely “I’ll give you a reason to cry.” As I recalled though, that seldom ended the crying. Also, I never particularly cared for that approach when I was a child.

That left the final alternative – try to act as an esteemed father figure would.

George Washington was The Father of Our Country and that’s pretty esteemed, so I decided to emulate him. With no river handy, I simple threw a quarter across the room.

When that brought no reaction I chose a different father – Archie Bunker.

“What are ya yappin’ about, meathead?”

The crying grew louder.

That’s when I came with the idea of pretending I was in a scene from “The Brady Bunch” and I was Mike Brady. Mr. Brady never yelled at the kids and never hit them, so I suspected it might just work.

“What’s wrong, Grizelda? Is there anything I can do o help you?”

She began telling me her problem. One of her friends was having a party and she wasn’t invited.

Mike Brady had done his job and it was clearly time for Robocop to re-appear.

No. 1: “Are you kidding me? You’re crying over something stupid like that?”

No. 2: “I’ll give you a reason to cry!”

In the end, I picked No. 3.

“I bet her mom only let her have a few friends over at a time,” I said—hiding my irritation at missing the Red Sox game for this—“I bet you’ll be the first one she invites for her next party.”

That one worked!

As I walked back downstairs I had had enough craziness. I pretended to be in “Star Trek” and said, “One to beam up, Scotty!”

But the transporter was broken. I wanted to cry.

John Christian Hopkins is a member of the Narragansett Indian Tribe of Rhode Island. He is the author of Carlomagno. He currently lives on he Navajo Reservation with his wife, Sararesa.

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Wanbli Koyake's picture
Hau mitakuye John, Wopila cicu, Giving thanks for your humor! For Original Peoples the destruction of our Lifeway/kinship ways/family ways hasn't affected our ancestral sense of humor. We know that sometimes it's better to laugh than cry. Our stories (Ancestral Kinship Education in Life) are still around but they gotta be searched out, it's best to hear them from another human being. Reading our stories is second best. Remember: We are made of ancestors and we are the living ancestors of the unborn generations: they're counting on us to do right by them.
Wanbli Koyake