Sunday, June 15, 2014

Funhouse Mirrors

Of all the roles I play in my life - worker, friend, brother, husband, citizen, et cetera - the one I am most preoccupied with is father.


It's not because this is a role I get any bonus points for in my personal scorecard, or because I am naturally talented at it or anything, it just feels like it's the most important, so I treat it as such.


Part of the reason for this is because of what's at stake. I don't think having more committed fathers in the world would solve all the world's ills, but it couldn't help but make it a better place. Look at the sentencing reports or background reporting for so many of the maladjusted individuals that visit such harm and havoc on the world, and just how many of them have suffered mistreatment at the hands of those who were supposed to protect and nurture them. I mean, that is obviously a pretty low place to set the bar for those of us in these roles to one degree or another, but I think it goes to show pretty comprehensively just how much damage can be caused by the wounded or unloved, and the ripples that spread from the point where they lash out.


The other reason is because children, like all people, are a work in progress, and you can the effects of the various ingredients in their life fairly quickly. Looking at my daughters, I can see my curiosity and appreciation of humor in they way they interact with the world, but I also see their caution and insecurity, and look for ways I can show them how to be brave.


It's hard! Years of adulthood have shown me that the world can be a fast-moving, chaotic, uncaring and often unforgiving place. On the other hand, a closer look shows me how any people there are working to make it better in spite of this, and how easy it can be to forget all the progress we have made.


In the end, you hope you have shared enough values and given enough tools to your offspring in order for them to feel confident in facing the world, secure in the knowledge you have their backs. You hope that they use love and faith as their primary means of experiencing both the world and the people in it, and the best way to ensure this is to give them as much of it as you possibly can during the comparatively brief time in their lives when they are wholly in your care.


It is likely that you will spend the majority of your life wondering if you have done the right things for your children, but every once in a while, if you are very lucky, you might see something in that twisted reflection that suggests they are on the correct path.


This morning, for instance, I was given the rare pleasure of sleeping in, and I woke up to the sound of the girls singing 'Happy Father's Day to you' as they carried a tray into the bedroom with scrambled eggs, fried tomatoes, and pumpernickel toast. Rather than get crumbs in the sheets, they allowed me to resituate myself to the living room recliner, turned on Switzerland v. Ecuador, and got me a coffee from the Tassimo with two cream and two sweetener.


With my feet up, and a plate full of food, and a jar of Islay single malt whisky marmalade (brilliant!), I have to tell you, it felt pretty good. Almost overwhelming in fact, and I was effusive in my thanks, to which Glory said "You're welcome Daddy. You've made us breakfasts lots of times, so it was nice to do it for you this time."


And she hugged me, and trotted off to get me some strawberries, and I thought to myself, well, how about that?


And after breakfast we headed out to Leduc so they could see me being a brother and a son and a dad and an uncle and a brother-in-law and probably a bunch of other things as well.


Glory modelled the Irish dancing dress she and Audrey had found at her most recent feis in Calgary, and I showed Mum the video of Fenya singing at her voice recital. Mum asked me more questions than usual about the iPad, and ended up having me order one for her so she can stay in better touch when she goes back to Osoyoos when the snow flies. I watched the second half of France v. Honduras with Jerry and Jason, and had a chance to be impressed by Jason's sharpness of wit and Jerry's easygoing nature.


In the end, this is what a loving family, by blood or by choice, does best: they reflect the parts of you that you most want shared, and show you, gently, where you might do even better.


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