To their kids, all fathers must eventually seem conservative. And old-fashioned, and perhaps even boring. But, politically speaking, is there a uniquely conservative way to be a dad? Weekly Standard senior writer Jonathan V. Last has edited an essay collection by 17 conservative writers, policy wonks and entertainers, all offering advice and reflections on the business of fatherhood. Below are some of their key recommendations:

1. Be a man — a manly man! “Fatherhood isn’t just manliness,” Last writes in the collection’s introductory essay. “It’s the purest form of the good side of manliness, the side that brings light into the world. . . . If we are failing as a nation, it may be because we’re failing at manliness. And if we are failing at manliness, it’s probably because we’re failing at fatherhood.” By fatherhood, Last explains, “I refer to the raising and caring for, as opposed to the siring of, children. . . . The single worst thing men have done over the last two generations is to abandon their families.”

2. Give them siblings. “Giving your kids a sibling is the best thing you can do for them, and as often as not, they resent you for it,” writes Stephen F. Hayes, a senior writer at the Weekly Standard and author of “Cheney: The Untold Story of America’s Most Powerful and Controversial President.” Hayes covers the difficulties and frustrations of trying to have your kids get along — “if war is the failure of diplomacy, then sibling fights feel like the failure of fatherhood” — but praises the bonds siblings forge. He reminisces about his own childhood experiences with his siblings: “We were like fraternity brothers who endure Hell Week together or soldiers who survive boot camp.” And when his parents added a fourth bedroom to the house so the kids could have their own rooms, they refused. “The new bedroom stayed vacant.”

3. Watch TV. Yes, says columnist James Lileks, spend time together watching that “wonderful, stupid, mass-market, infantile, corporate-loyalty-enhancing, inventive, banal, inspirational, lobotomizing box in the corner.” Shows such as “Rolie Polie Olie,” “Teletubbies,” “Thomas the Tank Engine” and others gave his family endless memories, catchphrases and inside jokes, and also got them through days when the screen offered nothing but pain. “In the weeks after 9/11, the nightly TV ration — a little Baby Mozart, a Teletubby show — was the only respite we got from the news,” he explains. “We sat on the sofa with novocained faces watching the naughty, proud crown and the happy goat and the baby-face sun in the sky, and it felt a little bit like watching Mickey Mouse cartoons projected on a bedsheet in a bomb shelter. I dreamed of Tinky-Winky doing the news in Peter Jennings’s place.”

4. Get your kid a dog. “Dogs are an antidote to all forms of totalitarian thinking,” writes Jonah Goldberg, author of “Liberal Fascism” and senior editor at National Review. “Dogs serve as a reminder that some bonds are stronger and more deeply felt than those that can be described by politics or the ephemeral pieties of a given moment. . . . Dogs inculcate a sense of rightly ordered priorities. . . . And dogs teach you an awful lot about life. They’re a lot of work. And the trauma of losing a dog is one of those cruel realities that can be hard to impose on a child at an early age. But that’s the point. Life happens, and children need to learn about it eventually. But in the process, they also learn what it means to take some share of responsibility for another life. They learn that the real joys are small and personal. . . . There’s an awful lot of moral instruction you can give a kid in the form of a puppy.”

5. Buy them ridiculously dangerous toys. Daily Caller editor Tucker Carlson reminisces about the risks of his childhood, whether underage driving, constructing a “remarkably effective flamethrower” with his brother, or staging bottle-rocket wars and pellet-gun fights in their back yard. By the time he had kids of his own, he laments, “America’s moms were firmly in charge, and that meant safety was a virtue for its own sake, a concept that had never occurred to me growing up.” So he engaged in what he calls “low-grade subversion” with his kids, i.e., buying them an arsenal of air rifles and blowguns and helping them fire Barbie dolls out of potato cannons. On one occasion, the cannon wasn’t working, so Carlson did something he still regrets: “I unscrewed the back of the gun, stuck my face close to the combustion chamber, and unaccountably pressed the igniter. The fireball that emerged vaporized most of the hair above my shoulders. . . . But at least the kids learned something.”

6. Teach your kids to pray. “Listen up all you red-blooded guys,” admonishes actor and comedian Larry Miller. “You want to teach your kids manners and study habits and how to hit a curve? Fine, but those things mean nothing — nothing — if you forget your first job. And your first job is to teach them how to pray. . . . Let your little boy see you close your eyes and speak to God, and let him know you mean it. Teach them that your church or temple is not a sneaker store or candy shop. Teach him to understand what’s holy. Teach him to stop before entering the sanctuary and think, This is God’s house.” 

7. Give up those dreams of your child’s athletic glory. Once you realize that the best kid on the team that just thrashed your son’s high school football team has an offer to be a walk-on at Indiana State, “you will decide it may not hurt your athlete to miss a few practices to study for his AP chemistry test,” explains David Burge. “Your son will go on to college, where, like you, his athletic career will consist primarily of in-dorm, pregame beer bongs. This will not help him achieve his/your dreams of pro sports stardom, but that’s okay because he/you will no longer have those dreams.”

8. Demystify sex, but not too much. When he had The Sex Talk with his fifth-grader, explains Weekly Standard writer Matt Labash, “I’d probably scared my son off of sex for a good while by overloading him with too much detail. But maybe scaring him wasn’t the worst thing. The modern assumption is that laying mysteries bare is always better. Sharing is caring. But a little healthy fear and ignorance can be just as useful. That which intimidates us can keep us from barreling headlong into a mistake. . . . We should all have a healthy awe of something that can alter our lives in every imaginable way. If I were giving The Talk all over again, I would tell my son that even if his body is ready, his soul and spirit aren’t. And without those three things being of one accord, having sex is like eating your favorite chili without a spoon. It might taste good, but you’re gonna burn your fingers and make an awful mess besides.”

9. Talk to them about “the most important decision they’ll ever make” — marriage. In my favorite essay in this collection, Rob Long, a writer and producer in Hollywood and National Review contributing editor, offers two tips for this conversation. When a son or daughter asks about marriage, compare it to listening to their favorite song — but only that song — for the rest of your life. “Or if you’re not ready to make that kind of commitment, you can keep listening to all of those other songs, skipping happily from track to track, as long as you’re prepared to never listen to your favorite song again.”

His second suggestion: Take your kid to a suburban Starbucks in the middle of the day, a weekday, and point out who is there. Long says you’ll see a lot of middle-aged guys with out-of-date laptops opened to their LinkedIn profiles. They’re networking, e-mailing, resume-padding, consulting, doing whatever they can “to catch up to an economy that seems to be moving just a little faster than they can run along behind it,” Long explains. And then tell your child: “We will all — you can count on it — be lost in the Starbucks wilderness in our lives. . . And when that happens, ask yourself: Will there be someone in my life who knows me, knows how hard I’m trying?”

Long concludes: “When the Men of Starbucks pack up their laptops and toss their napkins and head out into the night, there’s only one thing that will make them feel strong and loved and ready to try again, and that’s their favorite song. Just that one song.”

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