Fatherhood tragedies, triumphs

Posted on December 14, 2007
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            Fatherhood is a wonderful, scary, privilege. My first child, my daughter, immediately transformed me. I had to be responsible and competent to protect this unbelievable treasure. By the time my son became a teenager, I was, and remain, absolutely convinced that he is a better man than I will ever be. He is as kind, decent, intelligent, funny and generous as anyone I have ever met.

            My stepchildren have all taught me as much as I may have taught them and I experience the same ecstasy in their successes and fears, when their happiness or safety, is threatened that I do for my blood children. I as soon socialize with them and their friends as with anyone my own age. Considering they are all young enough to be my grandchildren, that is, I think, a remarkably good thing.

            I cannot take credit for any of them. Without the pure love and care delivered by their mothers, all these kids may well have murdered me at one time or another. I’m not a natural parent. I always had to work at it.

            Having said that, I’m astonished at two incidents that came to my attention this week.

            In Toronto a father is charged with murdering his daughter who had chosen not to wear religious garb.

            Another father has made an issue of punishing his son for smoking pot with friends by auctioning off his Christmas present on eBay.

            A character in one of my favourite movies, “Pocketful of Miracles,” observed at a heartache moment, “I feel sorry for the whole stinking world.”

            That’s how I feel about a world where a man can be conditioned to think murdering his healthy young daughter is the right thing to do to preserve the family honour. Mohammed would, I am certain, be devastated at the idea of such a thing being done in his name.

            Insignificant by comparison, but confusing, is the case of the man who is auctioning off his son’s “Guitar Heroes III” video game.

            It is bad enough that he freaked out because he caught his son smoking pot. Smoking marijuana isn’t a sin of deliberate cruelty. Those, to me, are the ones that really matter. At worst it is a disappointment and a minor legal infraction.

            The father is a teacher. One would expect that he would know that one of the first rules of human resources management is that you praise in public and chastise in private.

            The other boys who were with his son when he was caught will know what the father is doing and it will become a big tease, taunt and sympathize issue in the boy’s school which is his daily world. Both the taunting and the sympathy will drive a wider wedge between the boy and his father.

            Psychologist Greg MacDonald once told me that a wonderful thing about children is that they will always give a parent another chance. I hope that works out for the teacher and his son while there is still time.

            The prospect of a child going astray is terrifying to a parent. Extended family, miracle teachers, professionals, peers, spiritual advisors and great good luck are all huge factors in helping a parent arrive at a point where family is one’s purest joy.

            Michelle and I expect to see all of our children this Christmas. Aaran will be home for a week on December 21st. We’re counting the sleeps.

            Daughter Joanne is having me over for oysters and drinks with friends this afternoon.

            Life is fabulous!




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