There are many indispensable Dad Tools – the station wagon, the Hoover Steam Vac, the encyclopedia – but Lord how I love my pocket knife. It’s so simple, so chronically useful, and if that weren’t enough, it creates an aura that rings inside a kid like an iron bell. “This is Dad,” calls the knife, snapping open. “At the ready.”
I produce my knife at every possible opportunity. Apple for sharing? Knife. Box from Amazon? Knife. Are the sausages ready? Knife. Stung by a bee? Knife, both for removal of stinger and ferrying of dead bee to nearby bush.
It’s true that I’ve gone a bit overboard. After dallying with a stiff single-blade and a rusted Opinel, I currently carry a big ol’ mamajama – the Buck 110. Unfolded, it measures eight-and-a-half inches (with handle) and weighs almost half a pound. Technically, it’s a hunting knife and comes with a sheath, but if you throw the sheath away and use it to dissect a bungee cord at the request of a toddler, it’s a pocket knife.
I recently used the Buck 110 at a park to turn a bottle of water into a sippy-cup for my 18-month old, and heard a kid exclaim, “Mom! That guy has a switchblade!”
I looked over to correct him (“Not a switchblade, kid, just a pocket knife…”), but his mom’s eyes stopped me cold. They read, “Inappropriate, jerk!”
“Mom,” the kid repeated, “a switchblade!”
“Uhhhh,” she tried, but it was too late.
“Can I ask him if I can have a turn?”
“Can I ask him if I can see it?”
Different people, different styles. I mention it because speaks to something profound, and probably the biggest reason I bother with the knife. Cutting oranges and opening boxes is all well and good, but when you produce a knife from your pocket, you make real and uncanny magic.
As the knife moves through the world of children, it does not stop with the completed task. If a bottle of water can turn into a sippy cup, what will the knife do next? My own kid, who sees the thing all the time, is still under its spell.
“Climb that big pine tree over there,” he instructs.
“I can’t,” I say, “The branches are too high off the ground.”
“Use your knife.”
Utility begets mystery, and mystery begets unworldly power – coin of the realm in dealings with small children. For the price of some pocket space, I take that deal all day.