The Ultimate Test Of Fatherhood: Getting Hit In The Groin

For fathers, there’s a moment just after you hold your child in the hospital for the first time, when the wonderment and awe give way to a near-holy admixture of terror and courage. Your Y chromosome starts screaming out that you need to shoulder the impending responsibility as a protector and provider. If you fail at life from here on out, you’re going to make someone innocent of your sins pay for them — so suck it up, Champ. Don’t let them down.Make no mistake, this is largely a good thing. In the last five years I’ve had two kids, and the constant awareness that the stakes have been raised has honed my focus. I’m not nearly as lousy a husband as I once was, and my career is thriving. I’ve settled into fatherhood naturally, whether it’s having a grand old time pushing the kiddos on the swings or accepting my role as the Hammer of Discipline because someone got caught drawing on the couch. But there’s one unavoidable aspect of fatherhood I find that I have had a really hard time accepting and otherwise coping with.I refer, of course, to the constant assault on my testicles.Before I became a father, nut shots were the Proustian cookie of pain–I can recall with alarming clarity nearly every time I’d ever been hit down there. That tennis serve to the crotch in Junior High with my (female!) P.E. teacher standing over my quivering fetal mass yelling at me to walk it off might as well have happened yesterday. Heck, I even wince thinking about the time my childhood friend Jimmy slammed his bike into a planter box and slid off the seat and coming down on the crossbar sack first. And I only watched that happen.

Now my kids smack me down there so often, I spend half the week walking around like Sal beat me with a sack of oranges because I couldn’t cover the vigorish. Sitting on the couch? Let’s bound on to Daddy’s lap knee-first! That doll with the heavy plastic head? How about we grab the leg and absent-mindedly whip it sideways right into the bullseye painted over the fly of Daddy’s pants that only children can see. Is that Daddy on the other side of the room? Why not run full speed to him, latch on to his leg and then spin around slinging the back of our tiny head right into the family jewels? (Relatedly — why ”family jewels”? Expensive gems are some of the hardest substances known to man. Shouldn’t the expression be ”family Faberge eggs” or something more appropriate?)

I’ve commiserated with enough other Dads to know that, while we all employ different avoidance strategies, it’s mostly inevitable. Still, the more I think about the twisted cosmic irony of your seed growing up only to repeatedly punch the place from whence it came, it almost feels like punishment: You stole the gift of life from the gods, and now here’s your personal Promethean vulture to torment you for it.

I freely admit that this is a pretty crappy way to look at the problem here. Any resentment related to starring in a nightly household production of Man Getting Hit By Football, ends up indicting me as a father. It turns out that getting hit in the d–kbag, makes you act like one. It’s not exactly news that tagging a guy in the crotch tends to make them irrationally angry, irrespective of whether it was intentional or not. It’s the worst when this happens in public. One minute it looks just like your toddler is trying to climb on to your lap, the next everyone around is giving you the evil eye because you just angrily flung your toddler off you. It’s not like you can just announce to everybody that your kid just planted a foot on your junk. And in any event, they clearly didn’t mean to hurt you. So you immediately feel guilty. No matter how much you feel you’ve earned that World’s Greatest Dad coffee mug, you can always be more patient. Odds are the majority of your shortcomings as a parent are related to your inability to have the superhuman patience needed to always respond in a loving manner.

In this respect, this may be the final learn-to-catch-the-fly-with-chopsticks test of fatherhood. If you can ever learn to get walloped in the groin and immediately turn that grimace into a smile, knowing full well that it’s just another acutely, uh, visceral reminder of the miracle of life and just how darn lucky you are to play any role in creating it, well then, you sir will be the Zenmaster Dad.

I’m not there yet, but I’m trying. If my testicles aren’t unbreakable, my love for my children will be.

(Photo: Lisa F. Young/Shutterstock)

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