It’s Father’s Day here in Oz, so I wish all fathers who may read this a very happy day. Father’s (and Mother’s) Day brings mixed feelings. Both my parents are dead now, so I’m sad they’re no longer with us. I find myself looking a little wistfully at those who still have their father, or at images of happy dads playing, talking with or hugging their children. My dad was a funny old fella in lots of ways. He had an awful childhood, a difficult teens and a tough adult life. He was illegitimate in an era that didn’t forgive such things. He was deaf (due to a nasty bout of measles when he was a little tacker) and didn’t receive a hearing aid until he was a married man with children. He wasn’t allowed to fight in the war and received white feathers from strangers as well as scorn from those who knew him. Yet, in spite of his disability and his dysfunctional up-bringing, he loved his family and did his best to provide for us. He taught me his love of literature, music, fine wines and silly jokes.
Some people have awful memories of an abusive, manipulative, alcoholic or absent father. I know people who can only describe their fathers as (and I’m being kind here) complete dropkicks. I know people, just like it was for my dad, who have no idea who their father is. Yes, for some people, Father’s Day is at best just a day like any other, and at worst a day to be endured with gritted teeth and maybe a little drinky-poo to help them forget.
We need more good dads. We need men who’ll be there for their children, whether they live with the mother or not. Men who’ll give their attention to their offspring. Men who will listen to them, validate them as people, show them affection but not be afraid to say, “no”, when they need to. Men who will provide for them as best they can, and consider their children’s needs before their own. Men who will be good role models for the next generation.
On that note, I’ve thought about fathers in literature and tried to think of some examples of a good dad in books I’ve read. I’m shocked to find I can’t think of many. There’s Mr Ingalls in Little House on the Prairie. There’s Captain Sam Vimes in Pratchett’s Disc World. There’s the highly organised dad in Cheaper by the Dozen. And the step-dad in The Book Thief is okay. Now I’m starting to struggle. Any suggestions, people? I’m sad to think that in the books I read many of the fathers are either tyrants; or physically or sexually abusive; or emotionally or physically absent. I guess it’s not fashionable (or entertaining) to write about men who love their families, have a job and are decent citizens. Hmmm. Is it art reflecting life, or life reflecting art? My head hurts.
Happy Father’s Day to my father-in-law; a thoroughly decent gentleman who did a pretty good job raising his son. And, happy Father’s Day to the Old Boy; I couldn’t have asked for a better father for my children.