Last month was a joyful one in my household as kids trickled in and out for visits during their winter breaks.

Robin Conte
Robin Conte lives with her husband in an empty nest in Dunwoody. To contact her or to buy her new column collection, “The Best of the Nest,” see

It was only marred by one thing. Not laundry. Not empty gas tanks. Not crushed cans and crumpled napkins strewn around the den.

No, it was marred by dad jokes.

Since my husband’s audience has moved out of the house in pursuit of higher education and left him alone with his corny jokes and unappreciative wife, the constant volleying of dad jokes has practically ceased. This has turned out to be (for me) an unexpected perk of the Empty Nest.

But as soon as my youngest entered the door in late December, it began again. My son stood in the kitchen with his backpack still strapped on, dropped his laundry bag and announced, “Hey! I’m home!” And my husband immediately replied, “No you’re not, you’re Michael!”

Do you get it?

Then welcome to my world.

For the rest of the break, each time we got in the car and someone asked where we were going, my husband would respond with, “Crazy!”

Road trips digressed from there. We might pass a sign that said “Roadwork Ahead,” giving my spouse the golden opportunity to announce, “I sure hope it does!”

These are the sort of jokes that only half of the car appreciates. These are not just bad jokes, these are groan-inducing jokes.

Since the household’s humor scale had once again tipped in my husband’s favor while I was left standing in the kitchen rolling my eyes, I decided to investigate a bit to find out what exactly makes a joke a “dad joke.” I consulted the internet, naturally, and found that on the World Wide Web, dogs are the one delivering the lame jokes. So, the competition is fierce.

But when I consulted my kids –who, after all, were the ones tipping our humor scale — they insisted that a dog telling puns does not a dad joke make.

You can’t simply tell a dad joke, they informed me, for this type of humor is very contextual. You must be a master of cleverness and creativity in order to deliver a proper dad joke; you must be alert and agile enough to pounce when someone says, “I really like this cake,” and immediately respond with, “I was talking to this cake the other day, and it really likes you, too!” Or, if someone suggests that you should have a standing reservation at a certain restaurant, you can nimbly observe, “Hey! I’m standing right now!”

Moms are certainly capable of delivering dad jokes, which I know first-hand, because my most nagging childhood memory is that every time anyone in my household asked, “Can you make me a sandwich?” my mother replied, “Poof! You’re a sandwich!”

These quips are somewhat punny and somewhat silly — they are the type of retort that a “Feel like some eggs?” straight-line begs in reply. They are perfectly suited for 5-year-olds and prepubescent boys (who are, let’s face it, future daddies-in-training).

I used to think I was alone in my misery until one of my kids told a story of a friend who was having dinner with his family. The boy’s mother observed that he was sounding a little hoarse, at which point his father stood up and neighed. My favorite part of this story is that they were all in a restaurant at the time.

I’ve droned on long enough with this missive and I’m going to wrap this up.

Besides, right now I feel like some lunch.

Robin Conte lives with her husband in an empty nest in Dunwoody. To contact her or to buy her new column collection, “The Best of the Nest,” see