The Father’s Day Address I’d like to See

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Father’s Day is coming up. That means from pulpit to podium we’ll be receiving a steady diet of what dastardly scoundrels men are, when it comes to taking care of their children.

Barack Obama spent nearly all of his 2011 Father’s Day Address chastising bad dads and listeners couldn’t jump out of their seats fast enough to applaud him. As I write this, I’m sure there’s a pastor somewhere, sharpening his rhetoric like a samurai sword for the Father’s Day Sunday service. The brimstone-laden editorials and op-eds are incoming.

…making them the centre of attention on the day set aside for celebrating fatherhood isn’t much of a glass-is-half-full approach.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m in no way denying that there is a well-deserved rogue’s gallery of boys and men who have failed and even harmed their children. But making them the centre of attention on the day set aside for celebrating fatherhood isn’t much of a glass-is-half-full approach. Can you imagine any other group getting that treatment on their special day?

But I’ve got dads’ backs. Here’s the kind of Father’s Day Address I’d like to read.

 

Dear Dad,

Encountered an old acquaintance of yours in Tobago the other day. It’s always strange to meet up with people who knew you from childhood, since I know so little about your childhood. I don’t know much about you in general. He said you were a great footballer, and scored some fantastic goals back in your school-boy days. It reminded me of those brief one and two week visits I used to make by you in the States.

I remember you somehow managing to maintain your patience, while trying to teach bookish me how to trap, header and dribble a football.

Back then I remember thinking to myself “what the ass wrong with this man?” It was football, tennis, track and general exercise. I felt like I had been incarcerated in some hellish sports camp. If that wasn’t bad enough, you had me learning to cook, washing wares, cleaning car and even washing clothes. Two weeks in the US of A, and instead of maxing and relaxing I was on a tight, regimented schedule. I didn’t like you much.

Foolish me, I couldn’t see that it was both of us on a tight schedule, and you were trying to squeeze in as much proper parenting as you could in the couple weeks you had. It wasn’t much time, but some of it held.

You introduced me to the track, and I’ve been a runner now for decades. Running even got me a much-needed job, during some very desperate times in New York City. And even when the lessons didn’t hold, the genes did. As bookish as I am, I’m still naturally athletic. And mom will be the first to admit that I didn’t get my physique and stature from her side of the family.

The truth is discipline can be a type of affection in itself.

Still, I didn’t like you for many years. I never lived with you, and can count the total time we spent together in months – not years. You were always harsh, hard and scary. You were more focused on discipline than affection. At least that’s how I interpreted it.

The truth is discipline can be a type of affection in itself. Discipline, I’ve come to understand, is one of the most important gifts a parent can give his children. Trinidad has a whole host of wounded boys starving for the gift of a father’s discipline.

I’m not angry that I didn’t grow up in a “whole” family unit. Between you and mom, the crazy factor was very high. I’m surprised you got together in the first place. Edged weapons would have come out sooner or later.

And I’m not upset that you weren’t sending us money every month. Mom made the decision to leave, and she didn’t want or need you to subsidise her decision. We had some tough times, a Trini woman minding a child by herself in the States, but she handled it like a true champion.

And besides, you invited us to come live with you on several occasions. We both said no. Looking back on it, why did it take me so long to recognise what a hurtful thing that must have been to hear? It’s like I didn’t expect a big man to be able to feel hurt. Society would be a lot better, if we could recognise right off the bat that women can be heroes and men are human.

Society would be a lot better, if we could recognise right off the bat that women can be heroes and men are human.

I’ve reached that age now that even my most die-hard partners are hooking up and having kids, all the dreamers and bad boys. The conversation over drinks has gone from “bess” striker to “bess” obstetrician. Men who once would have drawn blood for the latest Nike are spending their entire NYC shopping trip (and shopping trip funds) in Babies R Us. Men who used to lime Tuesday to Saturday are reluctantly saying they can’t make because they have to babysit (but they have drinks home so come thru).

I’m not saying they are saints, but every last one of them, every friend of mine that has offspring, will provide for them, will do whatever they need to do to protect them, and will genuinely love them. They and all the good dad’s like them deserve more on Father’s Day than to have a politician or priest equate the phenomenon of unfit girls choosing unfit boys for procreation with what it means to be a father.

It’s a strange thing – we mercilessly mock dads in the media as bumbling clowns like Homer Simpson and Ray Romano. Our family court systems downplay their worth in favour of mothers. Yet we are outraged by their lack of dedication to the role. The truth is that fathers matter a lot. Statistically they are a determining factor in almost every area of a child’s well being – from physical health, to emotional health and even to rates of incarceration.

From personal experience, I can see how the lessons you were trying to impart in those two-week visits would have made a difference in my life, if I’d been able to receive them consistently. I suppose I got only a taste of having a father and like many things you taste when you are a child you can only appreciate them when you get older.

That’s the message of this message. For anyone who has experienced a great, good and even in-between dad, spend Father’s Day appreciating them, not focusing on the dance of unfit boys and girls. One day, they will be gone and all you’ll have is an aftertaste. So savour them now.

Joel Henry

Joel Henry is a fiction writer, essayist and critical thinker with roots in both T&T and the USA. He earns his livelihood in the advertising industry as a corporate writer and editor. His goal is to confront any and all orthodoxy through his writing - including his own.

1 Comment

  1. Laura Dowrich-Phillips

    June 15, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    Totally agree.

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