Father’s Day

What’s that? A little late, you say? Well, maybe. The thing is, there were a whole bunch of neat blogs about Father’s Day that meant a lot to the authors and touched a chord with others. That’s a good thing, and I didn’t want to be the sour grape.

My Dad does not believe in Father’s Day. And, in a way, he’s right. Mother’s Day has grown from Mothering Sunday, a church festival, but Father’s Day is an evil plot to sell greetings cards. And power tools. In the house where I grew up, Father’s Day was ignored.

That’s not to say we didn’t appreciate Dad. He’s been a brilliant father, playing football and cricket, giving driving lessons, wise advice, financial help, and turning up with the car when I got stuck or ran out of petrol. But he didn’t expect a card to show he was doing a good job.

I’ve been thinking about fathers a lot recently, as a friend’s father died suddenly, and another friend became a father for the first time. Eldest Weasel graduated from elementary school this week, making me the father of a high school kid. It seems too much of a cliche to say this has come around quickly. Like most other parents in the world, I’m still waiting to feel like I know what I’m doing. Does anyone else out there get a sinking feeling when their partner turns to them and asks “What should we do about this?”

I haven’t shared a secret for a while, but here’s a big one:

I NEVER know what to do.*

There used to be a comic I read when I was small. Among the many stories inside was one called the Numskulls, where tiny men operated a human being from inside his head. At moments of crisis, when Mrs Dim is asking me for an important decision, I can see the tiny men running around inside my skull, some screaming, some crying and some whistling innocently and looking out of the window. At this point in my life, I rather hoped the little men in my head would be sitting in leather armchairs, smoking pipes and engaging in learned discourse, but it seems they’re still riding skateboards, practicing the yo-yo and forgetting to tie their shoelaces.

So here we are. Probably sat in the kitchen, across from Mrs Dim. She’s just asked me a big question about one of the kids. It ends with “What do you think we should do?” How do I answer? As a father, where do my responses come from? Well, the first few can be discounted automatically: Drink beer, go back to bed, play video games. It’s so rare that one of these is the right answer, it’s not even worth considering them.

The funny thing is, the response system seems a lot like writing. I know some people plan their writing, they plot scenes (whether for a novel or a play) and they know in advance how things are going to go. I’ve tried that, but it never works for me. I know what I want to happen, but the words don’t always come out that way. Sometimes characters respond to a prompt in an unexpected fashion, and the story can twist away from my expectation. Don’t look at me like that, I know I’m not the only one this happens to. Anyway, that’s the way it often goes with fatherly wisdom too. I open my mouth and wait to hear what I’m going to say. Luckily for me, it has always made sense to date and Mrs Dim has been happy. Sometimes I think it’s more the calm tone of voice than the reasoning itself. Other times it’s just the fact that I’m contributing, being part of the parenting process. And sometimes, yes, I’ve had a good idea. Or someone has, and I just vocalized it.

It’s been a hard lesson to learn, that there is no “Big Book Of Being Dad” that you get given on your way out of the Maternity Ward. You learn to be a father the same way you learn everything else in life, and that’s probably the significant detail. Because some people do learning well, studying and revising and working at it, no matter if it’s their school subjects, a foreign language or the mystic ways of the opposite sex. And some people bumble along, picking up habits both good and bad, and waiting for the numskulls in their head to tell them what to do.

My parents have never been pushy. I knew, for example, that Dad wanted me to go to university, as he had. But they saw that I wasn’t inclined that way, preferring to fail to have an ambition, blunder aimlessly through my late teens and early twenties and fall into married life the way stuntmen fall off buildings into those giant airbags. The thing is, Dad never expressed any disappointment with my choices. At my wedding he made a point of telling me he and Mum were proud of me. That was a wonderful thing to hear. I hope someday to say something as affecting and meaningful to my daughters.

Then again, it’s easy to say something encouraging. It’s harder to stop yourself saying something critical. I wonder how hard it was for Dad to watch me NOT go on to university and sail off into the world of work and (subsequently) unemployment? He never chided me for not listening, or for wasting an opportunity, and I’m grateful.

So this post is really for Mike, who’s now had time to come to terms with being a father….although actually, he’s probably just had long enough to realize you NEVER come to terms with being a father. And maybe it’s for Robert too (although unless he’s a terrific prodigy, he’ll have to get someone to read it to him) so that he can appreciate the tremendous responsibility attached to being a Dad, and how little guidance you get once you’re in the job.

You and life....

 

….you and life as a parent.
What are your favourite memories of your parents? How late is too late to do a seasonal post? Should I ditch my next draft post “How I spent Christmas”? Does any of this REALLY have anything to do with me being a playwright? How many people have bought my book “Writing a play for community theatre”? Ah, we’re back to my parents again….

 

 

*Ok, well clearly that’s not true. Sometimes I do know. Pinch it till it stops bleeding, turn off the current before pulling the child’s fingers from the power outlet…But “NEVER” sounded more pleasingly dramatic.

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10 responses to “Father’s Day

  1. Hey, D! It’s never too late to celebrate Dad’s day…

    My favorite memories of my father include when I was five and in Kindergarten. I went to school every morning until noon, and every day my dad would pick me up. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday I went to my grandmother’s house for the rest of the day so that he could get back to work. But Tuesdays were reserved as “our days” and we got to do whatever I wanted ranging from going to Baskin Robbins for ice cream or to Olan Mills for pictures. Still to this day, I’m a daddy’s girl. My boyfriend isn’t too pleased that my father raised such a princess. 🙂

    • Every woman has a right to be a princess. At least, that’s what my wife tells me. Your Dad sounds like a great guy – I wish I could spend an afternoon with each of my weasels, but that would only leave two for cleaning the house and shopping. Hmm….Actually, that sounds like more fun.

  2. When I ask my husband “what do we do?” I’m really saying “help me talk this through so I can figure it out myself”. LOL He always feels like he’s supposed to solve it. It could be a man thing. Women just want to vent, then ultimately make the decision. Am I wrong?

    I have so many great memories of growing up with my dad. You can see my Father’s Day post at http://wp.me/p1jCAL-gS.

    • Loved your post – and the three that followed! I particularly liked the rehearsing for the road trip. We’re off on one this morning, spending Canada Day in America. Probably along with the rest of British Columbia. Come to think of it, we mayy be spending Canada Day at the border crossing…..

  3. My dad isn’t a big talker, in fact he’s something of a loner. The thing I do appreciate about him is when I’ve needed extra help with picking up or taking a child somewhere or needed a car because mine was broke down my dad has stepped in and helped me out. Even if he can’t say I love you, he shows it.

  4. In Terry Pratchett’s wonderful book “A Hat Full of Sky” he describes a young girl leaving home to get a job (moving away, in other words). He says the mother cries, the younger sibling cries, and the father gives her a dollar and reminds her to write every week, which is a man’s way of crying. Men are an odd species, but generally we mean welll.

  5. Loved the post.

    My Father was often absent, going away for months at a time doing manly things with a geological hammer and big boots. He always ruffled my hair and told me I was the man of the house while he was away. Touching trust in my 7 year old abilities!

    Thanks for giving me the chance to remember this….

    • Thanks for stopping by Frank! Your mention of Jools’ blog entry gave her the biggest visitor stats ever! She’s really enjoying blogging, having a chance to say so many things about living in Canada.

  6. Pingback: Play focus: Work in Progress | Damian Trasler's Secret Blog – Do Not Read!

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