“Son of a…”

Get this: Dads are essential to kids.

According to the National Fatherhood Initiative, kids who grow up without dads are more likely to grow up poor, drop out of school, end up in jail and encounter numerous other struggles in life than kids who grow up with dads.

This information comes as no shock to most men. We know that boys are prone to stupidity and that the creature best suited to taming them is the like-minded fellow called dad.

When I was five, my father told me to stop jumping around the tub, but I jumped anyway. I slipped and hit my head on a ceramic soap dish. It busted into a dozen pieces. My father responded to my stupidity the way he often did.

“Son of a !!!”

I pretended to be hurt, but he knew I was fine. He knew a noggin as hard as mine could have busted a dozen soap dishes without so much as a bruise. Breaking things was one of my talents.

Over the years, I clogged a toilet with an apple core, shattered a picture window with a baseball and hit a golf ball through a neighbor’s window (I fled, was later apprehended, and had to mow a lot of lawns to pay my father back for the cost of a new window).

I made it hard for my father to fix the things I broke though. This is because I lost many of his tools over the years. I was permitted to use them to build shacks and go-carts, so long as I put them back where they belonged.

But I didn’t always put them back. He’d usually find them lying in the yard — after hitting them with the lawnmower blade — which prompted a familiar reaction.

“Son of a !!!”

When I was a teen, I destroyed more expensive items, such as automobiles. My father made the mistake of purchasing a 1979 Ford Pinto with a powerful six-cylinder motor — it could burn rubber at will.  

When he discovered that a right-rear tire only six weeks old was worn to the threads, he had but one response.

“Son of a !!!”

In addition to costing him money, I saw it as my duty to butt heads with him — or, to be more precise, it was his duty to butt heads with me. He grew up without a father and he remembered the dumb things he did in his youth.

He knew that most any boy is only one or two knuckle-headed decisions away from heading off in a dangerous direction. His job was to keep me in line, a task that was often unpleasant for him.

In high school, I began making a lot of money running a stone-masonry business, and I announced I was going to buy my own car. But the unenlightened old man made me do something stupid with the money: save it for college. I was furious and fought him hard, but he wouldn’t relent.

The friction my father caused me, I now know, was also the basis for my respect for him. A father gives a boy someone to look up to and model himself after. And all that friction over the years polishes an average lump of coal into a diamond.

I’m glad people are doing studies that confirm what a lot of folks have always known about fathers. When boys don’t have committed fathers to agitate — and when caring fathers aren’t around to inflict unpleasantness on their sons — the result is too often tragic.

When dads are around, things work out in the end. My dad had the satisfaction of seeing me turn out all right. A few years after I graduated from college and bought my first nice car, I let him take a drive. He revved the motor, dropped the transmission into gear, then burned rubber all the way up the road.

I had but one thing to say to that.

“Son of a !!!”

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  • deirdrew

    People don’t have to share every little aspect of their life. It wasn’t appropriate to swear then or now, and that’s what the father was in essence doing. We all know what words finished the phrase the father started. I found this left a foul taste as we all know what the word is, and it’s not a nice word towards THE MOTHER. I don’t get this site at all. You want to read a nice story, but the reality of the truly foul and vulgar word doesn’t help. AT all. Does the father realize what he was doing, and it was connected to his basically calling the mother a nasty word?

  • mkochan

    No. It has nothing to do with his mother. If you ever notice, men who use this phrase completed will use it to express exasperation with a lawn mower that won’t start, or a tree that has fallen across road — things that don’t even have mothers.

    Your Life. Your Faith. Your World. Understanding that will help you get our site. I’m going to bet that a lot of people relate to this kind of father. And to this relationship between a father and son that did occasionally involve some swearing. But really, is THAT the essense of the article. Or isn’t it really that the father didn’t finish the phrase — maybe if you think about why he didn’t you will get a bit more out of it.

    Some people don’t “get” what we are about because they want CE to be such a pristine little sanitized corner of the internet that nobody but daily-Mass Catholics with a great fondness for Latin and perfect home lives would ever visit the site.

    That my friends, is not evangelization.

  • KMc

    deirdrew –
    You missed the point – my brothers grew up in a solid Catholic home and swore like that as well when the parents were not around. To truly capture who they are as an adult I would refer to that fact as well – we all know a solidly, faithful person who has the weakness of swearing. Certinaly to be corrected, and certainly not tolerable in an adult, but we all have behavior that needs redirecting.
    My few brothers who still swear do not do so in front of me EVER and make sure no one else does either. I can nag them about it or make my expectations clear – i believe the greater witness lies in being an example in this case. One brother in particular works for the church, makes about $20,000 a year living in California, he and his wife home school their 4 kids, teach NFP, and are the single biggest givers of money to anyone in need that I have EVER met (I have met some pretty rich people whose percentage of giving is likely no where near these folks).
    This story made me laugh, reminding me of my brothers – yes, they have the nasty habit of swearing which they are always “working” on but I thank God for their living witness of charity, genrosity,openness to life, sacrifice of personal comfort for the needs of others – it taught me more than their offensive words harmed.
    This same brother, along with another who is challenged with colorful metaphors,did something powerful with their weakness. During Lent a while back when they lived together they, at my telling them they wouldn’t find a faith filled wife due to their mouths, started a Cuss Jar for Lent. The first year it yielded around $175 – they sent poor me at college about $50 as a thank you and sent the rest to local crisis pregnancy centers. The next year they made about $100 and did the same thing, the next year was even less and so on….now they do not need the Cuss Jar though their mouths do pop up once in a while…like when their kid flushes a shoe and they don’t have the funds to call a plumber! The Cuss Jar applied to ANYONE in their house – all their friends, too, if they were visiting. And everyone complied – what a witness they were and are to me.
    By the way, the year they did not need the Cuss Jar is the year they met their future wives – faith filled women. See this story for what it is – we, in our broken humanity, have faults but God can work those to reach many people – people like me. KMc

  • ekbell

    I admit that in my innocence I assumed the missing word was gun. In the absence of any reason to believe otherwise I’ll continue to assume so.

  • bambushka

    Most of the Catholic boys I knew growing up, including my brothers, would cuss and swear like a sailor. That is why for the most part I dated Baptist boys.

    God is good all the time and sent me a friend (he later became my husband) who not only did not swear, but prayed the rosary every day. This week is our 41st anniversary.

  • Cooky642

    ekbell, I grew up with “son of a pup”, so it always jars me to hear how the world ends that phrase. My husband uses it (and others just as inapropriate) a lot. Gives me a chance to exclaim, “Praise be to God!” about 150 times a day.

  • seawood

    People cuss. They shouldn’t but we are all sinners. Ask for forgivness and move on. My wife says more cuss words than I do and yes, it bothers me, but again, that’s life. You all seem to be missing the point. The story is about the father and what he taught the son. My dad has been dead for twenty one years as of yesterday and what I wouldn’t give to have him beside me right now and hear him say, “son of a *#@%$”.

  • patti

    I’ve heard priests say that cussing is not a sin, but using God’s name in vain is. I tell my kids it may not be a sin to swear, but it’s not a nice way to talk and we should use our speech to glorify God. That being said, I think getting offended at the suggestion of a dad cussing instead of appreciating the powerful message in the article was very petty. I go to daily Mass and say a daily rosary and am the mother of a very large family and I thought Tom’s article was great.