Your Dad Stole My Rake: And Other Family Dilemmas

Your Dad Stole My Rake: And Other Family Dilemmas

by Tom Papa


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It’s hard being a person, especially in a family, and no one knows that better than stand-up comedian, and family man, Tom Papa

How do you deal with a life filled with a whole host of characters and their bizarre, inescapable behavior? Especially when you’re related to them? Tom Papa is here to help you make sense of it all. Your Dad Stole My Rake is a hilarious and warm book that saws deep into every branch of the family tree and uncovers the most bizarre and surprisingly meaningful aspects of our lives.

Among the topics covered:

- Tiger Mom v. Ice-Cream Mom

- Stop Trying to Be Cool

- In Defense of Family Vacations

- No Fighting Before Coffee

- Wife Lie Detector

- Your Cat Thinks You’re Too Needy

- Just Eat the Bread

Anyone who has a family, grew up in a family, or has spent time with another human being will love this book!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250215598
Publisher: St. Martin's Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/21/2019
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 150,204
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

TOM PAPA is a comedian known for his work in film, television and radio as well as on the live stage. He is the head writer for A Prairie Home Companion, as well as a regular performer on the legendary radio show, which reaches 2.6 million fans weekly. He has recorded three stand-up specials that are all currently streaming and is the host of "Baked with Tom Papa" on the Food Network. When not touring the country, Tom lives in New York and Los Angeles with his wife and two daughters.

Read an Excerpt


moms & dads

My parents are dumb. That's what we all think at some point in our lives. This is what makes it possible to break away as adults and go out into the world to do our own dumb things, like trips to Vegas, collecting mason jars, and doing shots of tequila with Don from sales. But just because we discover that our parents are mere mortals, doesn't lessen the impact they have on us or make our relationship with them any easier.

Our parents are the critics of our lives. Whether they're still living and leaving incomprehensible voice mail messages or they have moved on, finally relieved of their duties, it is their simple offhand remarks about what you were wearing or why you lost the spelling bee that will forever rattle in your head, with more devastating impact than a bad New York Times review on opening night.

Of course, parents don't realize their power because, from their point of view, no one ever listens to a single, solitary word they say. But children hear everything and the stuff that sticks is the stuff that is said without thinking.

My parents started their family when they were twenty years old. That seems impossible today, considering people in their twenties are lying on airport floors in their pajamas, Snapchatting their lives away. But it really happened. If I had known how young my parents were at the time, I would have responded to any demand that I clean my room with loud, laugh-track laughter, more commonly used on my siblings.

I try to take their age into consideration when I reflect on the insensitive things they said or did while I was growing up, like the early Saturday morning when my father and I were driving along on Route 17. I was twelve, so I was probably rambling on about something important, probably having to do with Eddie Murphy's Gumby impression on Saturday Night Live or the kid in school who accidentally blew off all his facial hair with a homemade rocket, when my father turned to me and asked, "Are you going to be one of those guys?"

"The kind of guy who blows his face off with a rocket?" I asked.

"No, one of those guys who talks all the time?"

As someone who went on to build a career doing exactly that, you could imagine how insulted I was. I remember thinking, As opposed to what other kind of guy? A guy who sits alone in the den, in silence, watching nature shows and picking pistachios out of his teeth?

Of course I didn't say any of that, or engage him in any conversation at all, as it only would have helped bolster his point on the whole "talking guy" thing.

But I realize now that he was in his early thirties, having already burned his entire twenties being a family man, and was probably craving just a moment of silence in the car before he pulled into the parking spot of another place hedidn't want to go, in order to do another thing he didn't want to do.

He shouldn't have said it, but I get it.

Eventually you go from judging your parents to being judged as a parent yourself. I had my children at an older age and even though I was wiser than I was in my late twenties, I still made major, moronic mistakes. For instance, when I killed mydaughter's pet right in front of her. To be fair, I didn't know it was a pet, it was a snail she had found five minutes earlier, and I didn't intentionally kill it. I was happily walking up the driveway to say hello, when I heard something go crunch under my shoe. I tried to fix it but it turns out you can't scoop a squashed snail into a paper cup and expect it to survive. Not as anything resembling a snail.

While this may seem like a minor event, she is showing no signs of forgetting and continues to bring it up several times a year.

"Remember when dad killed Snaily?" she'll ask as if she's bringing up a murder that I am still doing time for. " I do," she adds.

Not only does she still remember, but I have a sneaking suspicion that this might be the opening to my eulogy.

It was an innocent mistake, with no ill intent, that will permanently be a part of my record. And that's the rap sheet for every parent. All the smart things you try to say, all the thoughtful lessons you try to impart, are eclipsed by the more memorable dumb moments in between.

So put your resentments aside, give them some respect for keeping you alive, and get through whatever phase of the relationship you're in, with the comforting knowledge that of course your parents are dumb. We are too.

no presents for dad

As the next holiday approaches — and it doesn't matter when you are reading this, a holiday is always approaching — I have some great news for you. You don't have to buy your father a gift.

That's right, you're off the hook. No more worrying about what Dad wants. Ever again. No more racing through the mall at the last minute, pricing out ties, looking at mini helicopters, and asking strangers what they got for their father. There is literally nothing he needs and nothing you need to buy. This isn't a fake "Aw shucks, don't worry about little old me" routine. This is real. He doesn't want a damn thing.

Think of your father as a clam. He has his house, he's in it, he's good. You wouldn't give a clam a new sweater with a snowman on it. He'd never wear it. Neither will your dad.

Sure, he needs the basics like deodorant, a toothbrush, and maybe some beer, but these aren't gifts, and only he knows the brands he likes and he's already bought them. He doesn't need you to try to improve on these items, either. He doesn't need a new toothbrush with bristles on the side or an extra arm that reaches teeth he didn't know he had. He doesn't need you to change his unscented deodorant into "Arctic Ice" or "Courage" or "Pine Forest Adventure." He started using a deodorant in high school that smelled like menthol and he's sticking with it.

The same goes for his clothing. There is nothing that bothers a man more than opening a present and finding something he's now supposed to wear. He doesn't want to wear it. He already has the stuff he wears. But now he has to hold it up, pretend he likes it, and then secretly bury it in his closet alongside the other shirts with the tags still attached.

Let's face it, the reason he won't like what you buy is because you don't really know what your father wears. Think about it. What does he wear? It's probably not a question you've even thought about before. The universal answer is, "Who cares?" No one. No one cares what Dad is wearing. Maybe Mom cares when she wants him to make a good impression at church or dinner with the Haskells. He'll waddle out looking for his keys, she'll take one look at him, shake her head, and make him change. Two minutes later he comes back, in a slightly cleaner version of the same shirt, while she lets out a sigh and declares, "We have got to get you some new clothes."

But you really don't. If we were shooting a movie about your family the dad character would be fully developed. His costumes would have been picked, his haircut set, and his lines memorized. He is Dad. Dad doesn't need to be updated. Dad doesn't need to be brought into the future. Dad is Dad.

That's what we like about Dad. He's stable. He's a known thing. The kids are changing every day, evolving their tastes, trying things on, determining who they are. They could be an athlete one minute and be a black-clad emo kid the next. That's okay. That's expected. But not from Dad. Imagine if one morning Dad walked into breakfast with black lipstick and a dog collar around his neck. The earth would literally quake.

Even Mom is expected to change. A new hairstyle. New shoes. A new dress. Mom is all about change. If Mom isn't changing, there's something wrong. It's all she thinks about. She'll spend weeks talking with everyone she sees about dyeing her hair a new color. Eventually she'll do it, parade around with her new blond streaks for a day and a half, and immediately begin asking people for their opinion on her next big idea.

That's not Dad. Dad doesn't change his hair color. We want Dad walking into the room, a piece of hair sticking up in the back, in the same shirt he bought ten years ago, saying the same goofy dad greeting, and poking us in the neck from behind like he always does.

The real core of the problem with buying a gift for Dad is that it shows that we're thinking too much about this guy. Dad doesn't want this kind of attention. Dad doesn't want to be the focus. Sure, he wants to be loved and appreciated, but a hug once in a while is more than enough.

Dad doesn't want to create a hassle. Dad is about calm. Dad is about getting people to relax. He doesn't want you running around town yelling, "We forgot about Dad! What are we going to get Dad?" He wants you to be home. He wants you to be happy. And, most of all, he wants you to leave him alone.

call your mother before she's dead

You should call your mother.

She's not kidding. Your mom really wants you to call. What if she dies tomorrow? This is really what she's thinking. What if she slips in the supermarket and gets caught in the ice cream aisle without a sweater and freezes to death next to Ben & Jerry's? What will you do then?

She raised you, fed you, and changed your diapers, which you wore for way too long, so it's the least you can do. Sure, she judged you but that's what mothers do. And, let's face it, you were a mess for a long time. During my whole Grateful Dead phase, when I grew my hair long and wore the same patchouli-soaked tie-dye shirt for a year, no one liked me. Only my mom.

So, call your mother.

You know, she literally sits by the phone for hours, staring at it, wondering where you are. What are you doing? Who are you with? What tramp is chatting in your ear? Your beautiful ears that should be listening to the most important woman in the world, your mother. You can always get another floozy, but you will never get another mother.

I'm not saying that making these calls is easy. It's a lot of work. A mother has very high expectations when her children call. My mother always acts like I just got released from a hostage situation.

"Thank God you called! Where have you been? I thought something must have happened. I was watching the news but they didn't say anything so I figured maybe you just forgot about me."

Technology hasn't made things any easier. Of course my mother is confused by the smartphone; the greatest technological advance during her childhood was the four-slice toaster. So, now, not only do I have to call her, I have to give her lessons that would stump even the smartest kid at the Apple Store.

FaceTiming with my mother is like watching a horror film when the zombie pops out of the lake, off the screen, and into your popcorn. It's all giant eyeballs, close-ups of lips, and screaming cries for help when she can't see us. When it does work it's even worse. Suddenly, my mother is right there in my kitchen. She's criticizing the meal my wife is making and asking me why she did that to her hair in a whisper that she thinks only I can hear. What makes it even scarier is that she insists on holding the camera directly under her chin, which, even for Emma Stone, is a bad angle. When my mother does it, it looks like she's trying to scare the children around a campfire.

"Delores said I should sign up for Snapchat," she screams into her phone. "I don't know what that is. Why? Why do I have to do that? I don't know what's happening!" "Mom, you don't need Snapchat. Don't worry about that."

"Delores also says that her daughter is getting inappropriate texts from her boyfriend. How do I get some of those?" she asks, obviously on the second glass of wine.

It must have been simple when you could only call on a landline or, better yet, the pre-Edison days, when your only obligation was to write your mother a letter once or twice a year from your fishing boat. But it's not about us, it's about the moms, and it makes her happy to hear your voice.

So, call your mother.

Seriously, why fight it? You're no match for your mom and you know it. She is a cage fighter and you are a pink belt in thumb wrestling. She will wear you down, fill you with guilt, and stay in your head until you pick up the phone and call.

My mother has promised that if I don't call she will continue to haunt me even in the afterlife. They could offer her a FastPass to heaven and she will say, "No, thank you, I'm staying right here on this dirty earth, where I will follow my son to the end of his days."

So just do it, because when she's no longer here you'll be sorry. And there's a very good chance she could die tomorrow, because she has to go to the dentist and parking there is terrible and she could end up stuck in that underground parking structure until she is eaten by wild dogs that live in the dark.

Just call her.

tiger mom vs. ice-cream mom

There's been a lot of talk these days about the virtues of being a Tiger Mom. This is a mom who is as mean as a tiger. She has scary teeth and claws and stalks you as soon as you come home and she threatens to eat you if you don't get straight A's. She turns all of your free time into go time. Tiger Mom is fierce. Tiger Mom is mean. No one likes Tiger Mom.

Not only does Tiger Mom scare her own children, but she also scares other moms. The regular moms start to feel that just being a mom isn't good enough. Tiger Mom tells you that not only do you have to love your children, care for them, and make sure they're safe, but you also have to kick their asses like a drill sergeant at boot camp.

If that approach is in your DNA and you also enjoy kicking puppies and chewing on glass, more power to you. But if you don't want to run your house like an army barracks, I have a suggestion for you. Don't even try to be a Tiger Mom. Go the other way.

Be Ice-Cream Mom.

Ice-Cream Mom is the best! Kids don't see Ice-Cream Mom and cry. Kids get excited and scream her name, dance, and wiggle around. Because they know when they see her, there's a good chance they're getting ice cream. And everyone loves ice cream.

Kids love it. Parents love it. Your dog really loves it. Even angry, old people love it. I know people who are lactose intolerant who eat nothing but ice cream. Ice-cream cakes, ice-cream sandwiches. Ice cream makes people happy.

It's creamy, cold, and sweet, but taste is only part of it. The whole ice-cream experience is fun. Even the language around it is silly. Cone or cup? Sprinkles or jimmies? Chocolate sauce or caramel? How many scoops? This is silly stuff. Toppings? Who gives you toppings? Ice-Cream Mom, that's who.

When Ice-Cream Mom asks, "Who wants ice cream?" kids cheer, the dog wakes up, and Dad stumbles into the kitchen. With that one question, Mom just called it quitting time and threw the rule book out the window. It's a family safe zone. No one is going to yell at you during ice cream time. There will be no talk of homework or dirty rooms. The pressure is off and that's the point.

There is something forgotten when we talk about raising children: the fact that they're children. Ice cream is a break from all the work and discipline that is enforced all day long. And kids need a break. Sure, this is the time to teach them to excel and learn the right way to do things and be bold and strong and smart. But they also have to make a mess and lay on the floor and daydream. And what do kids daydream about? Ice cream.

The ice cream man served us well. For years he was the only option. Ice cream wasn't kept in the home. There was no Häagen-Dazs or Ben & Jerry's. When we heard that strange man in the rusted truck playing the spooky music we immediately started screaming and running in every direction at once. We all did.

Kids would come out of their homes, from under the slide, out of the woods, and down the street. Not organized; panicked. It was complete, unfiltered pandemonium. Kids would run smack into mailboxes, trip on curbs, and fall into sewers, but emerge with smiles on their faces because they were that much closer to ice cream.

I remember running toward that truck with such frenzied joy that I'd be fighting back tears. Blubbering, joy-filled crying. I'd get within two feet of his truck and only then realize I needed money and that I had none. Kids don't have wallets. They have pockets, filled with dirt and hair ties and chewed gum for later. We needed money and we needed it fast, and there was only one person who you could count on: Mom.

Eventually, with the help of the good people at the supermarket, she was able to cut out the middleman. Why should that weird guy without a high school diploma be the recipient of all that love? Thus, the birth of Ice-Cream Mom.

Is promising kids ice cream a type of bribery? Yeah, it is. That's the point. They'll do anything for a couple scoops. They'll do homework quicker, clean up after dinner, even fix up their rooms. You want your kid to practice their flute? Promise them ice cream. Want them to stop playing their flute? Promise them more ice cream.

My nana bribed us with candy that she kept in her purse. When she walked into the house we knew it was candy time. It was a real sign of love. She wasn't eating that candy. She wasn't walking around town chewing on Smarties. No, she carried that candy, day after day, because she knew that eventually she would see us and when she did she'd have candy. And we loved her for it.


Excerpted from "Your Dad Stole My Rake"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Tom Papa.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction xi

Moms & Dads

No Presents for Dad 5

Call Your Mother Before She's Dead 8

Tiger Mom vs. Ice-Cream Mom 11

Things You Find on Mom 15

Don't Ask Your Father 16

Your Children Should at Least Think You Might Spank Them 19

Things You Find on Dad 22

Stop Trying to Be Cool 23


Welcome to Plain Pasta, Can I Take Your Order? 31

The Kid with the Googly Eye 35

Your Baby Doesn't Want to Go Anywhere with You 41

Boys Stink 45

How to Yell at Your Children 49

Morning People 53

In Defense of Family Vacations 58

The Happiest Place on Earth? 63

No Fighting Before Coffee 68

Least Popular Baby Names 72

School Sucks! 73

Family Life

Someone Threw Up There 81

Worst Family Vacation Spots 87

Nuttier Than a Fruitcake 88

No Phones at the Tablay 95

Stay Out of the Emergency Room 100

Tell Me that Story Again 104

Bad Family Games 109

Birthday Parties Belong at Home 110

Fun Family Traditions 115


There Are No Great Guys 121

Don't Drag Him to an Art Gallery While on Vacation 127

Things Husbands Lie About 131

You Aren't Marrying Who You Think You Are 132

John Is Dead 136


The Wife Lie Detector 143

The Importance of the Forced Romantic Getaway 146

We'll Sleep When We're Dead 150

That Cute Thing She Does 154

What Men Think Their Wives Do in the Bathroom 160

Leave the Past Alone 161

There's No Such Thing as a Soul Mate 165


Your Cat Thinks You're Too Needy 173

Your Dog Doesn't Want to Go to a Restaurant with You 176

Get a Fish 179

Good Family Pets 182

Requiem for Smokey 183

Bad Family Pets 187


Fishing for Sky 193

Old People Shouldn't Twerk 200

Perfect Gift Ideas for Grandma 204

Who's Watching Who? 205

Bad Gift Ideas for Grandma 208

The Outlaws

Your Father-in-Law Doesn't Like You Either 211

Best Places to Bring Your Daughter's Boyfriend 216

Your Mom's Not the Boss of Me 217

Brothers & Sisters

Mistake in the Woods 227

The Brother I Never Had 235

Aunts, Uncles & Cousins Too

Cool Aunt vs. Creepy Aunt 245

Uncle Al, All the Kids' Pal 250

Cool Things to Do with Your Uncle When You're Young 256

Your Cousins Will Ruin Your Life 257


Rocky Road 265

New Americans 270

Trolls 270

Techno-Idiots 272

The Super Sports Fan 272

The Angry, Middle-Aged White Guy 274

Hot Moms 275

Know-Nothing Life Masters 276

People to Avoid on a Plane 279

And, Finally … Just Eat the Bread 280

Acknowledgments 285

Coupons 287

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