Posts from the ‘Parenting’ Category

Day 2/100 Happy Days – Parents!

2015-12-25 08.41.30Day 2/100 Happy Days.  Yesterday, I wrote of the special bond between parents and children – from the point of view of a soppy, middle-aged man bravely waving goodbye to his son at the airport, stifling a few tears in the process.  Today, I will turn the tables and write about things from the other side of the fence.

My parents have just spent the last two weeks with us over Christmas.  I do not think we could have spent time with anybody easier-going; all we needed to do was provide time and space for the twice-daily walks, and all the cereals know to humankind, and the never-ending cups of tea!

They are wonderful people  and they have accomplished wonderful things.

From humble agrarian roots in India, to hardworking merchant class in England, to demanding white collar jobs in Canada – their story is the classic tale of people seeking a better life, a 20th century version of the pioneer spirit that made this country what it is.

Frugal, hardworking, tough yet affectionate in their own way, they shared their morals, their values, their ethics, and formed the foundations for me and my siblings to  become who we are.

Now, as they and I have entered that last stage of the parent-child relationship – that of friends – I find that our discussions, our chats, our walks, our games, our times together are all special and cherished. I have had the privilege of reconnecting with my parents two years ago as they nursed me back to health after the heart bypass; and though I would never recommend a serious illness to anyone, the whole episode was an opportunity to renew our relationship as adults – to learn about each other and to appreciate what we all offered from a totally different perspective than that of child to adult and adult to child.

And as I have learned from the relationship with my children, a weekly phone call to just say, “All is good here,” is always welcome and rewarding

Time marches on; hair grays, hearing fades,eyes become cloudy, energy saps, but they are always the same, sharing the same old chestnuts of family jokes and stories and laughing those infectious laughs that seem to make everyone’s day.

I love my parents and I am also in the enviable position of liking them as well!. They are a pleasure to be with and they are one of the main reasons I am as happy a man as I am.

Love you, Mom and Dad.

Advertisements

Day 1/100 Happy Days – “Nothing new, Dad…”

A couple of years ago, I embarked on a little bit of narcissistic “performance art” that required a bit of introspection, a bit of creativity, and a bit of discipline, The project, 100HappyDays, was at times a chore, but I found overall it created a positive outlook as I searched each day for something that made me happy. As a result, I looked at things more positively – as opposed to negatively, avoiding focusing on things that made me unhappy. I truly did find it uplifting and judging by some of the feedback from friends, it struck a chord with them too. So starting 2 January 2016, I begin 100Days Part Deux. Indulge me! (for more info see  www.100HappyDays.com )

scan0003

Day 1/100

Just before New Year’s Eve, I hugged my daughter and watched her drive off with her lovely boyfriend to go live her life in Northern Alberta. Today, I dropped my son at the airport, knowing I will go many months without feeling a hug from that goofy Marmaduke-puppy of a man-boy. Saying goodbye to your kids is heart wrenching. It is a confusing maelstrom of emotions: on one hand, melancholy, self-pity, loneliness, trepidation, and worry as you see your “babies” challenge life head on without you. On the other, it raises a smidgen of envy, of much pride, of a sprinkle of excitement as you see them march off on their own, knowing that you have done well raising two tiny beings into confident, hard-working young adults.

Being a parent is a significant challenge. From the moment you accept the familial contract of pregnancy and child-rearing, with its evolution of roles – care-giver, teacher, coach, mentor, banker, counselor, confidant, friend – you pour your heart and soul to them and you love them more than life itself.

You feed them, you clothe them, you support them, you nurture them, you scold them, you guide them, you hold them when things go wrong, you smile the smile of a 1000 suns when things go right. You love them unconditionally with a love that is deeper than all of the earth’s crevices, and larger than all of the earth’s mountains.

I relish their every phone call, their every email, their every Skype chat, their every visit…even if the only things they yield are the contented silence of togetherness, punctuated by a brief “Nothing’s new, Dad, things are good here,” or a few lazy couch potato giggles. Just being able to talk to them, or even better, to hug them, is something you never quite get until you are a parent of older children – and something you wish you realized when you were a younger adult.

And if all goes well, the parent’s return on investment is huge – their smiles, their success, their happiness are all rewards of a job well done. As my Dad said to me when I was just starting on my adventure into adulthood, “Do whatever you want in life…just make sure you add to society and do not only take from it.” Sage words.

That is the grail, and proudly, that is just what I am watching my kids achieve.

Being a parent equals happiness; thanks Alex and Duncan!

Bubble wrap and the Bogeyman….

Need more bubble wrap....

Need more bubble wrap….

I recently read an article in the Globe and Mail by Stephen Quinn.

In his blog, he recounts the adventures of his two lads as they try to make their way home via public transport from downtown Vancouver – with minimal help from  dad. The short piece has its funny bits – sometimes  “funny ha-ha”, but sometimes more  “funny-peculiar” –  like how the two boys were slightly perplexed and seemingly naïve to the perils around them. Well according to the author anyway; his lads seemed confused about the perils as assessed by a worldly man standing 5’11” . The world is probably a lot rosier when you are well protected boys standing only 4 foot plus…

The article took me back in time. No worries, I never  “abandoned” my kids downtown with only bus fare, phone money and a Hot Rod pepperoni stick each. But rather, I remember being a kid in Toronto at a time when parental overwatch was minimal.

Oh the things we did! Before grade six, I remember walking to soccer tournaments during the summer holidays, leaving the house at 7.30 am, walking what seemed a hundred miles to Riverdale Park at Broadview. Funnily enough, I “Google-Mapped” it a little while ago (I think that is a verb); surprisingly, it was really a simple walk through the side streets of the Danforth, across Greenwood then Pape and finally to Broadview – but each walk had Stand By Me proportions. A simpler time, each day Mom would pack me a ham sandwich, an apple and a can of RC cola – and if I was really lucky, a two-pack of Dad’s Brand oatmeal cookies.  That and a hug on the way out the door was all the motherly attention I needed. Heaven!  And at Riverdale Park,  I played soccer all day – no worries of sunscreen, no bottles of water, no sun hat – and ran around crazily all day. I would get home about 10 hours later – dirty, banged up and really happy –  just in time to hear my Dad’s favorite greeting as he walked in the door from work, “…’Jinder, what’s for eating?”

Streetcars on Queen Street c 1970

Streetcars on Queen Street c 1970

Donwtown Toronto 1975...I have no clue who is in the middle of the road....

Downtown Toronto 1975…I have no clue who is in the middle of the road….

I also remember as the oldest child of three – and at the ripe old age of 12 years – leading my brother and sister (aged 10 and 8), right into the heart of Gotham, to Dundas and Yonge. We would see Black Beauty or the Shaggy D.A. or Star Wars at the Old Imperial Six theatre. It was great! And how many times did we jump on the subway or the bus or the streetcar to head to Ontario Place or the Ex’, or Maple Leaf

The Imperial Six....

The Imperial Six….

Gardens or the Royal Ontario Museum, or the Planetarium, or the Science Centre (which even today is not a TTC-friendly destination…)? A kids’ adventure…

And where were my parents during all this?  At home or at work – who knows?  I didn’t care; I had a dime for a phone call – there were lots of phone booths around.  Who needed a smart phone or a GPS or a child tracker? Not us…

I remember those days – we all reminisce about sitting untethered in the back of the station wagon, people smoking everywhere, when biking or skating without a helmet was okay. Parenting today is so different; so many things that we do and things that we buy to keep them safe. Comparatively, we lived a relative Darwinian existence.

I remember being doing things on my own: buying stuff, and making change and generally being aware of things when they just did not feel right. I remember looking both ways and crossing with the green, and reading a map and asking for directions from complete strangers. I never felt threatened nor scared.

But I can’t ever remember letting my kids do that. Why not? Is it because I felt that the world was not a safe place, that the risks were too high? Probably.  And by not letting them, did I do really do them a favour?

Everyone knows that parenting has changed. Even the big corporations. I mean, look at the Chevy car ad…the parents fawning  over their poor lad Tonito!  Okay, what is that all about? That kid is gonna be scarred and look to Mommy and Daddy for everything. He will never learn the life lesson of forgetting your indoor shoes in the winter, or why idiot strings on mittens aren’t such a bad idea or the thrill of swimming to the far side of the pool without water wings and with that slightly terrifying panic of “I’m gonna drown…” – of realising that yes, yes he can do it on his own without mom or dad holding him up – or back.

Lucas the Forever Scarred... See the vid at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-IZDzlZXNG4

Tonito, the Forever Scarred… See the vid at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-IZDzlZXNG4

So why are we so different from our parents? I know – the world has changed… rapists and molesters, murderers and abusers, drug pushers and pimps and slave traders all abound in droves now. But sadly, statistically speaking – and counter intuitively – our kids are probably in more peril being with those in positions of trust than with complete strangers. But still,  I had the same fears as all parents, and I had to fight the urge to be over-protective. Hopefully I kept it in check to some degree – the scar on my daughter’s forehead is testimony to that.

But I am sure that, like all of my generation, I have imparted some of my anxieties and tics to my children. It’ll be interesting to see what their parenting style is like!

I think about what my parents did, or really, didn’t do. They never drove me anywhere unless they were going there too – I walked, rode my bike or took public transit. They rarely gave me money – I delivered papers, had summer jobs or did chores for money.  Don’t get me wrong.  I never wanted for anything. I had clean clothes (not necessarily the most fashionable). I had good food…though it took me until my 20s to realise that curry was something special. I had birthdays and presents and video games – Pong and Intellivision –  and the ever-present music.

But somewhere between my growing up and becoming a parent, I began to think that was not enough for my kids. I did not want my children to want for anything, or to get hurt or to be sad or tired or hungry or anxious. But in retrospect, I could have done better.  I now believe that independence and challenges are the very best teachers; a fishing pole instead of a fish.   As I look around, I am not sure that coddling or bubble-wrapping kids is working. Failure and rejection and disapproval are pretty good teachers, too.

I am who I am because Mom and Dad let me explore and experience and take risks and the occasional scolding.

Yes, my kids are confident and happy (I think). And they are independent: one living on her own and having spent a good chunk of last summer backpacking through Europe with friends, and the other just about to head off to residence and uni. Not bad, and even though they still do love Dad’s taxi and the occasional help from  Dad’s bank account, who wouldn’t!

But, thinking back, I wish I had released the reins a bit more. Think of all the other places they could have gone and the adventures they could have had.  And you know what, I am sure that if you giv’em a little age appropriate latitude as they grow, they will probably find out where the real bogeymen are all by themselves…

Later,

ASF

Where did all the kids’ costumes go?

Now, admittedly I have lived in the UK for the past three years, where 31 October just means it is the last day before November – so maybe my Hallowe’en rant  has already been aired (and I do not mean I am upset over the supposed “celebration of evil” thing). Maybe living in a country that considers Hallowe’en an “American Scourge” has insulated me from the furor. If so, I appear to not only have missed the start of the debate, but I also think I have missed the “tween” sexual revolution that seems to be the cause of the latest angst…

What am I talking about? I guess if you are one of those people who closes the curtains, turns off the porch light and ignores the doorbell and high-pitched chorus of “Trick or Treat, smell my feet”, or does not parent a twelve year-old girl, you probably have no clue of what I am talking about.

For sure, I am not talking about the home-made costumes that I recall my friends wearing when I was a kid…you remember the ghosts and cowboys and ladybugs and cats and mummies. No, they were cute and age-appropriate.

Time has been kind to the boys – but what about the girls?? How many news stories and blogs have I seen on the subject of costumes for young girls?  It seems that Cinderellas and Faeries and Raggedy Anns have been replaced by Pseudo-Stripper costumes that look more at home in an Adult ‘marital aids” store than the girls’ costume department at Wal-Mart.

If you are not sure what I mean, how about this for a visual…

If everyone’s complaining about them, who is buying them?

Time for one of my tangents….

What’s happening?  Is it something as simple as believing that young girls want to – or should – emulate the options available to grown women? As one of my Facebook friends commented cynically, the Hallowe’en Party at the local watering hole was shaping up to be a “Slutty Policewomen Convention”…I am sure there were a few skanky nurses to be seen, too.

Is that we want to our daughters to use as role models?

Now I am all about hearing the other side…debate should invite discussion and growth comes through entertaining differing views. But despite several blogs on the issue, include Dan Savage’s commentary that Hallowe’en should be celebrated as Heterosexual Pride Day or Heterowe’en (WARNING: some good old-fashioned “adult” language in the last hyperlink…), I am still unconvinced that we need to “slut”-ify the costumes. I think some of the comments in his article may ring true – and perhaps some have been explored while lying on the psychotherapists couch –  but there are also a few comments I oppose (like seriously, isn’t the term “ass-less chaps” an oxymoron – aren’t all chaps “ass-less”?).

Anyway, he is talking about adults and I agree that adults are entitled to dress any way they wish – as long as they abide by popular (and legal) conventions… and if they wish to play a game of Doctor and Nurse in the privacy of their house, who am I to disagree. (I don’t care, but it is not for me… I look horrible in a nurse’s outfit…)

But…

Shouldn’t such attire stay in the adult realm?  Selling that sexualised notion to “tween” and “teenage” girls is just plain wrong.  Perhaps it is a result of mainstream media or women’s magazines or popular film or music videos. Or maybe it is just a sad second-order effect of depressingly disturbing shows like Toddlers and Tiaras or Honey-Boo-Boo (no pictures…it is just too disturbing).

Whatever it is, I am not a fan. And I guess that I will just leave it at that…

Later,

ASF

The tragic aftermath of cyber-bullies…

Like most of the connected world, I was saddened by the new story out of British Columbia – the girl who committed suicide, evidently to stop the bullying and to end the cruelty of youth.

What a waste.

For those that have not seen the You Tube video (link here – Amanda Todd’s Story: Struggling, Bullying, Suicide, Self Harm – YouTube), it is disheartening. And it speaks volumes about the evil side of the internet and connectivity.

I have commented before that the internet is whatever you want to make of it. It can highlight beauty and achievement and creativity and humour and wonderment; but then again, the internet provides opportunities for deviants and criminals and trolls and the mean.

It is incomprehensible to what depths that some people can descend; especially the bullies and the trolls.  Hiding behind their keyboards, cozy in their anonymity, they dispense vitriol and venom with reckless abandon – content that they have made someone’s life a misery.

Why? I don’t know…I am sure that no one really does.

Now, when it comes to the poor girl in the video, I am sure everyone will admit that it is true she made mistakes.  But seriously, were they life-ending ones? Yes, she was stupid and careless and ignorant of what the internet could be used for – and as a result she suffered fear, shame, pain and depression.  But why was she driven to such desperation? News reports allude to a stalker – while others report of  bullying from peers.

And though she tried to cope, in the end, it was too much. She killed herself.

Now if there was a predator involved, I hope that they find him and punish him to the greatest extent possible.

As for the kids…it is a sad truth that kids can be cruel to each other. And when the cruelness starts, the only options seems to be binary…hunt or be hunted.  And because most of the “hunted” kids are not mentally resilient enough to “let it go”, the effects can be devastating.  The statistics are mounting.

I often wonder why kids are so cruel.  Unfortunately, there could be many reason and contributing factors.  But without benefit of a Master’s degree in childhood development, or child psychology, I would probably blame it on two possible causes: bored kids or disconnected parents.

The results?

Kids who use the internet to amuse and entertain themselves, trying hard to fill whatever emotional vacuums they suffer, in whatever way they can. Maybe they are desensitized – their own emotions stunted through a lack of healthy stimulation; or maybe they are damaged, and want to spread their own pain to as many people they can because misery loves company.

I don’t know.  I don’t think anybody does.

All I know is that every once in a while, we are shocked that some young person tips over the edge and because of bullying – cyber, physical, mental or whatever – is either killed or takes their own life. And then, in the aftermath, we gnash our teeth and beat our chests and say that those responsible must be punished and that we need new laws to deal with the delinquent and the disturbed.

Close the gate – the horses have bolted.

General deterrence might address the issue – but I doubt it.  Bullying has been around for ever. Why not close the gate before the horses bolt? Why not talk to your kids and learn about their lives? Why not get to know their friends and learn about their “un-friends”? Why not share some affection, so that they don’t have to look for it elsewhere?  The shoulder to cry on should be at home…not on the ‘net.

It is too late to help Amanda Todd, just like it was too late to help Reena Virk.

You know, I hope that we do make laws harder on those that stalk or bully others on the internet. But more importantly, I hope that those of us charged with raising emotionally healthy, secure and confident human beings work very hard at it. We can’t protect against everything – some battles belong to our children alone. But, if we do a good job, maybe whatever these ignoramuses write or post on the net will be irrelevant.  No one will care.

And that, in my opinion, would work better than any new laws…

To learn more about the issue, you can check out the following sites:

STOP cyberbullying: Cyberbullying – what it is, how it works and how to understand and deal with cyberbullies

www.cyberbullying.ca

Later,

ASF

…Most wonderful time of the Year!

First day of school! Back to school supplies, new clothes, lunches all sorted and arranged in a frenzy of preparedness…parents across the continent have snapped pictures and sent the kids packing.  A mixture of pride, and perhaps relief, with a whiff of sadness.  They are growing up.

And for some, the day is full of angst as four-year olds make their first forays into junior kindergarten, or their older kids start at a new school for the first time, and as older ones spread their wings and leave the nest in their first years of university.

So much emotion, so much anxiety.  Will they make friends? Will their teacher be nice? Will they be bullied?  Will they be happy?

The answers – yes, hopefully, hopefully not, and yes.  We were happy – just like the generations before us. Both at school and after school.

I can’t say that everything at school was fantastic, I mean my Grade 4 teacher Mrs. B used to chastise us with, “Stop whispering back there!  I used to listen for airplanes during the war – I can hear you plainly!” Also, several of her students passed out while executing the daily “Lead the Class in Oh Canada” duty…and there was the unfortunate “karate chop” incident that led to my one-on-one with the Principal…

But overall, thinking of school is nothing but a nostalgic visit with memories that make me happy.  We all have them. Things like:

Recess.  I mean recess…how cool.  Unless it was “Indoor Recess” because it was too cold or too wet.  Recess meant “foot hockey”…tennis ball soccer with goalies using their coats as “goalie pads”. Or it meant Four-Square or Kings’ Corner, with the red rubber bouncy ball (you know, the one that made the pinging sound as it bounced) and three opponents in a four sectioned square.  Or it meant tether ball, or dodge ball or Spud or tag or hide-and-seek or British Bulldog or red-rover.  These were the things that made school fun.

Or was it the School Sports Day?  One whole Spring day full of relay races, where everyone sat down in line – calmly – once they had navigated the obstacle course, or hula-hooped, or put on the clown outfit, or did whatever the teachers invented. A day full of competitive spirit, when every team was in the hunt for the coloured ribbons.  And it was the day when you got that awesome orangey-like juice from the McDonald’s cooler, to wash down the one lunchtime hotdog.

And what about assemblies…the whole school in one place. All the kids kept trying to get the attention of their best friend in the other class…or it was youngest siblings waving at their “cooler” older sibling who was trying their hardest to ignore them. And the snake-like cacophony of the teachers’ constant “shhh”s  as we waited for the Principal to introduce the Visitor.  Rumours were prevalent just before Assembly…would it be Elmer the Safety Elephant or Blinky the Police Car…would it be a guitar sing-song or a short film?  Would we be watching another class do a special play? So much excitement, so much fun!  Regardless of the reason, it was always an exciting break from the routine.  Good for some time away from the grindstone!

And in the same vein, what about the perennial Christmas concert…I have been to them as a parent, and except for that four-minute period that your own child is singing a Christmas medley of Rudolph/Frosty/Jingle Bells…it is painful.  Oh, wait…the kindergarten kids, regardless of their song, are so cute with their snowflake hats or elf costumes!! Regardless of the pain, for uncounted generations, parents have endured as their child has sung with gusto to be heard above the others in the Choir.

And lastly there was the favourite “Parent Night” (not to be confused with the dreaded parent-teacher conference.  Moms and dads coming in to the open house, as their children showed off their notebooks, their desk space (all tidied up and neat for the special occasion), and proudly pointing out the artwork that made the bulletin board, or the short story with the gold star at the front of the classroom.  For me and my sibs, the evening was usually capped off at the house with an evening treat – ice cream or cake and hot custard.  It was awesome.

As I sit and reminisce, I think of all the other things that made me happy to go back to school…

  • the 64 pack of Crayola with the built-in sharpener and awesome colours like Periwinkle Blue and Vermillion, which morphed into Laurentian Pencil Crayons as I grew older….
  • the utility math kit, with the compass and the protractor and the six-inch ruler and the eraser – which usually finished the season with a broken case containing only a snapped ruler…
  • marking your supplies with your name – and usually putting a masking tape “flag” on your pens on which to write your name….
  • Coming home at lunch time to tomato soup and a cheese sandwich as I watched Fred and Barney get into another jam. They were “Stupid Good-lookings”…a “Judo-chop-chop”
  • Chocolate bar sales as we raised money for some unknown cause, motivated by earning that Pizza Party for the class
  • Feeling slightly sad for the kid who forgot his indoor shoes during the winter and had to spend the day walking around in socks…but boy, could they slip and slide down the polished hallways!

  • The audio centre at the back of the classroom, where we could put on a record, don the headphones and listen to “A Spoonful of Sugar” or the “Bear Necessities”… with the teacher tapping us on the shoulder to tell us we were singing a bit too loudly
  • The jokes we used to tell…Knock,Knock…I was born on a Pirate Ship…or the mildly risqué story that was made up entirely of Chocolate Bar Names (you remember, with Oh Henry and Sweet Marie…)
  • The foldy paper-thingy – a “fortune teller” or “cootie catcher” – that had numbers and colours and told you your future depending on the combinations you gave the owner…
  • The arts and crafts that produced Mother’s Day and Father’s Day cards, or Easter baskets or snowflake calendars….
  • And finally, the classroom party – dressed up for Hallowe’en, or participating in the gift exchange at Christmas ( I remember getting socks one year.  Practical; but what 8 year-old wants practical?), or the Valentine Day card-giving (with the little cards, and the unofficial competition of who would receive more, and your parents’ advice to give one to everyone so that no one’s feelings got hurt), Easter and then the  year-end Party. Surprising that we got anything done.

I don’t know if all that happens anymore.  My kids have grown.

Maybe things have changed…maybe computers and smart phones or Health and Safety and our litigious nature have changed everything.  I hope not. I hope that underneath our radar, underneath the white noise of “earning a living”, or “paying the mortgage”, or “the pursuit of the material goods”, that our kids are doing the things that kids should do – and that they are having fun. That’s the way it should be.

And, because, kids are kids, whether it is 1976 or 2012 – I bet they are! And If I’m wrong, I am sure you will let me know.

Happy back to school, Everyone.

Later,

ASF

Oh oh….when is Father’s Day?

It will be Father’s Day this Sunday.  Or, for most dads, it will just be another Sunday. But do not fret; men are stoic, and strong, and stony, so whether our kids will remember Father’s Day or not will not matter to us. We know its Fathers’ Day, and having a day named after us is good enough.

It is funny how we all get weepy and maudlin over Mothers’ Day. Maybe it is because we know that moms spent hours heaving and groaning, sucking on ice chips, breathing like locomotives and finally screaming for an epidural, before We, as children, entered the world.  I guess that after someone goes through that much pain for you, you owe them – forever – because that is a lot of pain to pay back. And, yes, as always when it comes to mothers, there is always guilt.  Like, how I feel guilty that I did not  write an Ode to My Mother on my blog – or make a popsicle stick planter for her (again). But I did send a card, and it Is too late to write that blog now, so I will move on.

But, seriously, I will whine a little. With all that fuss and bother and concern about Moms, is it fair to just pay lip service to us Dads?  I mean, we can’t help it that we can’t share the physical pain of childbirth. It is an undeniable truth that every father would trade places if he could.  (Without a doubt, right lads?)  And do not underestimate the spiritual and emotional agony a father feels as he witnesses child-birth. He is an outsider and on top of that, his beloved is probably cussing him out with the vocabulary of a salty, sea-hardened buccaneer.  How do you respond to a statement like, “You are NEVER touching me again!!!!”  Really, if it wasn’t for daddy’s swimmers, mothers could not make that kind of sacrifice.  Shouldn’t fathers be showered with some kind of “collateral glory”?

Evidently not. Society does not hold that kind of reverence for Dads.  We have a love-hate thing for dads. We admire them, we mostly respect them, but we always mock them – though always with love.  I mean, my Dad has earned the nickname, “Chipsy.”  Why?  I can’t remember – I think it included a bag of Lays and his ability to always score the last ones.

And while we will all think of the stereotypical Mom as caring, and nurturing, and dependable, all the Dads I can remember from popular culture are all caricatures. Don’t buy it? Follow me…I will show you what I mean:

The lovable grumpy, bigoted, rude, blustery Dad – Archie Bunker or Fred Sanford. Now Archie and Fred are the salt-n-pepper of the 1970s hey-days of racial jokes and verbal abuse. Not an episode went by where the son or son-in-law was not yelled at or insulted.  “You dummy…”, or “Hey, Meathead…” were the usual refrains. Though constantly complaining and criticising, always inflexible and dogmatic, usually cutting and ribald, they still managed to find a soft spot. Unbelievable in hindsight, we sort of loved them, faults and all. I guess deep down, despite their flaws, they cared and did right.  Sort of like our Dads.

The Cartoon Buffoon Dad.  Now in early cartoons, the fathers were just honest, simple nincompoops: Fred Flintstone and George  Jetson come to mind easily, but I am sure there are more.  Honestly, I would throw Herman Munster into that mix, though – as someone will undoubtedly highlight –  he was not a cartoon. These dads were fun-loving, hen-pecked, but basically hard-working Joes. And we were content to giggle at their Water Buffalo Lodge hi-jinks or marital faux-pas. But then Matt Groening went and introduced Mr. H. Simpson to the world, changing everything.  All of a sudden, loafing, and gluttony, and ignorance and stupidity became fatherly attributes. He was a cartoon version of Al Bundy.  And if that was not enough, The Family Guy just bumped it up a few levels.  Peter Abbot moved fatherhood into a whole new zone as he took parental advice from a dog; and while some say that it is “rude, crude and deliciously wrong”, but I must admit that sometimes I just miss the point.  Maybe it is the Dad in me who shudders instead of seeing the satire – or maybe I am just getting old.

The Tragic But Heroic Figure of a Dad.  Now we have to go a little ways back for this, back to the responsible days of the late 60s, and early 70s – before the Love Generation, back when men wore ties to a weeknight family dinner. Who did not want Eddie to find his widowed father Tom a new wife in the “Courtship of Eddie’s Father”.  And, carrying on with the single father theme, I will add, “Whatcha talking about Willis?”  In Different Strokes, a rich widower adopts orphaned black kids. What noble patriarchal sacrifice.  And lastly, what about Fred McMurray, as the hapless Dad who was busy raising three boys on his own.  Wait a minute.  What an outstanding great segue to the next category…

The Calm – sometimes fashionable – Sensible and Reliable Dad. Mike Brady – period.  Whether it was Greg or Marcia or Peter or Jan or Bobby or Cindy, Mike was always there in his fashionable jacket and tie, or bell bottoms and sideburns, to dispense wise words and sage advice as he cleaned up the family crisis in the mandated 23 minutes (7 minutes for commercials). And following in his footsteps were Steven Keaton, doling out loving left-wing values to his money-driven son played by a young, young, young Michael J Fox, and the mugging, sweater-wearing, jello-pudding eating Cliff Huxtable. There were very few houses that did not tune into the weekly antics of the Huxtables…I think it was really Lisa Bonet who drew the crowds (before she went all Bohemian in that crazy movie with Mickey Rourke).  And again, in the honoured “calm-sometimes-fashionable-sensible- and-reliable-Dad” template, a fable of Aesopic magnitude would emerge from the 23 minute dilemma, and a heart-warming and amusing ending would leave all chuckling and hugging each other. Just like life – right?

The Multiple Dads.  Recently there has been the emergence of the two Dads.  Originally the concept was the cinematic by-product of the women who ”loved” two men (with exact opposite peronalities and lifestyles), had a baby, and never divulged the identity of the real father to anyone.  The theme has now morphed in the 21st century with homosexual fathers doing admirable jobs in raising well-adjusted normal kids.  Just look at Glee and Modern Families.

So many role models to guide us – some good, some bad. And I am sure you will ask, with all the examples to follow, which kind of Dad did I become?  All I can say is, “Hopefully a good one.” One who found the right blend of authoritarian and mentor and provider and playmate and teacher and coach and comedian and the million other things that a Dad should be.

I hope that is what I did, because I had a great “real-life” role model – my Dad.

Just thinking about his life experiences and challenges have always provided me inspiration when I needed it. As a boy, he lost his father, and raised his younger brother. As a young man in India, he worked as a farmer, then a policeman, then a teacher, before packing up and moving to the UK to start a family – one that he supported through a variety of blue-collar jobs. He then decided to seek a better life by packing up again and going to Canada – on his own for three years – working and scrimping to save enough money to give his children a better future.  He raised a family in Toronto as he upgraded his education, part-time over 7 years.  He finally earned a Commerce Degree from University, concurrently working a series jobs as a lathe operator, a cab-driver, a financial clerk, and finally as an accountant. And it all paid off as he ended his career as a senior financial officer for the Government of Ontario several years ago.

And in between, he took the time to teach me to skate, to dribble a soccer ball, to toboggan, to hammer a nail, and to grow tomatoes; he taught me the value of fruit and fibre and daily walks. He taught me to study hard and to write effectively and to be confident when speaking to groups. He taught me to be respectful, and hard-working, and caring.  He taught me how to play games and forced me to lose gracefully and patiently – the latter as he sang his ridiculous victory song after a game of chess or Monopoly or Risk…”Loser the Packer, Loser the Packer…”.  He even gave me a sense of humour – the finest gift ever.

And he has given me so many memories…stupid hats at birthday parties, fantastic days at Sandbanks Beach as we swam and barbecued and played, impromptu ukulele songs (he does not know how to play the ukulele), our walks together, our constant debates over homeopathy and the healing power of garlic and ginger; and when I was a teenager, his amusing, but constant surveillance for the evil after-effects of Chinese herbs and drink. (Chinese herbs were his euphemism for marijuana – it took me a little while to figure that one out).

But it was not all happiness and glee….

When I was little, I can remember quivering when hearing the refrain, “wait until your Father comes home.” I can also recall the many times that I sat in my room during my teens – furious, frustrated, and stymied.  At those times, I thought to myself, “How can a grown man know so little about the world?” Ironically, it was only a mere four or five years later, after I graduated from university – no longer a boy but a young man – that I remember thinking, “Wow, has my Dad ever learned a lot in 5 years.”  Perspective is a funny thing, eh?  It is remarkable, in retrospect, just how much Dads know.  I wish I had realised that earlier. It would have saved a lot of painful “trial and error”.

So as I think of my Dad, and reflect on my Dad-ness, I will also think of all the fathers out there.  I wish you all a very happy Father’s Day: one full of children’s love and care, and a BBQ and a beer or two, a tie or a bottle or Old Spice or whatever else floats your father’s day boat.  I hope you enjoy the short 24 hours of parental royalty. Relish it; revel in it.

Because on 18 July, Mom ascends back onto the throne for the next 365 days – unless you can learn how to give birth.

Happy Father’s Day.

Later,

ASF