Who's your Daddy?
My Mom got pregnant at a very early age and my father left before I was even born because he didn’t feel as though he was ready to help raise a child. When I was a kid and people from my small Cape Breton town would ask, “who’s yer father, by’?” I would normally crack wise and say that it was Clint Eastwood, John Wayne or Chuck Norris – and that I didn’t get to see him much because he was always away making movies in Hollywood. Sometimes I would throw a wrinkle into things and tell people my Dad was Charlton Heston and his pet name for me was ‘Damned Dirty Ape’. That always got a chuckle.
As a young boy, it was something that I found really hard to deal with and couldn’t reconcile that my father could just walk away from his son with a clear conscience. I was lucky to have my grandfather in my life until my early twenties and he was the one responsible for teaching me all the things a young boy needs to know. Stuff like how to properly mow a lawn, how to fix a leaky toilet, how to throw and catch a baseball, the difference between latex and oil based paints and how to treat a lady on a date – among other things.
I tracked my father down on Facebook a few years ago in order to get family medical history; just to see if there was anything I should be particularly concerned about as it pertained to my children. It was a very business-like interaction with only the basics exchanged, much the way you would deal with any stranger from whom you were trying to extract information. I’ve had more personal dialogues with tire salesmen, to be honest.
At the end of the conversation there was a half-hearted attempt by my father to “get together sometime” and I politely declined. I had made it through over three decades without his parental influence and I simply wasn’t interested in making a new friend. I haven’t spoken with him since.
One of my biggest fears as I grew into adulthood was that my lack of a present biological father would somehow handicap me in being a good Dad to my children someday. Always hidden away at the back of my psyche, the anxiety almost consumed me when I heard that my wife was pregnant the first time. What if I was a complete failure at raising a child? What if I was going to be the worst Dad ever?
Flash to my current reality as I sit in a hotel room somewhere in Quebec, with two queen sized beds occupied by my family as we make a stop on our way to Ontario for our family vacation. Not more than one hour ago, my sons almost got into a physical altercation over who “loves Daddy more” and which one of them would get to bunk with me. It’s about as far from my relationship with my absentee father as it could ever be.
Yesterday was Father’s Day. It’s a day I take very seriously on the calendar because it’s the only day aside from my wedding anniversary that I feel as though I’ve done something to earn. I take being a father very seriously, but I see being a Dad as the most important job I have ever done. Sadly, though, Father’s Day is seen as an afterthought by many folks and I think I have a good idea why.
You see, a lot of modern fathers are portrayed as bumbling idiots who can’t be trusted to take care of our own children without the steady, guiding hand of a female partner. We’re seen as a small step above caveman and there are thousands of ‘funny’ photos on the internet of guys using their kids’ bellies as places to rest their video game controllers, unintentionally putting their kids in harm’s way, and being so incompetent that they can’t even perform the simplest of tasks like feeding or changing a baby. Everyone has a good chuckle and shakes their heads at those ‘poor dumb Dads’.
The fact is, though, that I think some of us are doing really good work. We take our kids to school, we cook their meals. We buy their clothes, we take them to their endless list of activities. We get up with them in the middle of the night when they’ve had a bad dream. We sit with them in emergency rooms with mystery illnesses, we educate them, play with them, read to them, and provide them with more love and support than we ever thought humanly possible.
We do what Dads are supposed to do.
So for everyone who thinks that all Dads are a carbon copy of the buffoons you see on your typical sitcom, please know that we’re not all cut from that same cloth. We understand that Moms have it way worse than us, but we’re trying really hard and we’re doing our best. We haven’t yet reached the peak of perfect patriarchy yet, but we’ve evolved – and are involved -more than we were even a couple of decades ago. Unlike my father, some of us stick around after the fun part is done. Oddly, that’s when the fun part really begins.
Happy Father’s Day!
Labels: Times & Transcript