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Let Your Buffoon Flag Fly, Dad!

Buffoon Bart and happy Little E

The headline came screaming from the prestigious pages of the Wall Street Journal, stirring me from my pre-coffee haze: “Moms, Let Dad Be Dad.” I tilted my smartphone to the horizontal view, just to read it better. This was going to be good.

The article cited the work of one Dr. Kathryn Kerns, a professor of psychological sciences at Kent State University, whose research showed that dads’ goofy, silly play is good for children. The study specifically highlighted “hyper-play and teasing” as things that make children happier and, over time, more confident and satisfied with their emotions, which in turn helps them mature.

In other words—and I’m extrapolating here—dads are at their best when they’re acting like complete idiots.

Oh sweet vindication.

The fact that “being a dad” still means running around the house with a pair of underwear on your head singing “Five Little Monkeys” in the style of Metallica (maybe I’m projecting?) is probably something I should be slightly offended by…but I’m not. And in fact it’s actually quite empowering to know that being the class clown of the household isn’t just a waste of time.

And when I’m a total buffoon? When I surrender to the whims of my three-year-old and hit up the Wunderland nickel arcade or pretend that a raccoon puppet named Pinkfoot is gnawing on my jugular or introduce her to the fine art of mooning? That’s when I’m in my wheelhouse.

This study reads like a license to keep up the prat-falls and fake boo-boos and general slapstick. In fact, the lesson here (to my ears at least) seems to be that the more like Will Ferrell I become—the more I chew with my mouth open or stuff mud pies into my face for my child’s entertainment—the more confident, adventurous, and self-sufficient my daughter will, in turn, become.

Little E might become a stunt woman. Or a lion tamer. She might become an astronaut and discover that new Earth everybody keeps talking about.

All because of me. You’re welcome.

After all, if the Wall Street Journal says it’s true, then it must be so.

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