Everything I’ve ever learned about fatherhood has been taught to me over six months by a laughing seventeen-pound baby boy named Victor.
It’s been a crash course. He’s doing his best to keep me from hurting myself, but I think mostly I just test his patience. I’m trying, sensai, I’m trying.
Fatherhood is not something I have a lot of experience with. Mostly the personal experience I have as to what makes a good father are from the experiences I wanted, rather than received.
The question was recently put to me, “what’s a fathers role in raising a child?”, and I wasn’t sure what the answer was. But now I think the roll of the father is to relax some of the limits, to let the kid know it’s okay to pick up a bug. To let the kid jump from the fifth step into your arms.
…I was going to say “to be the lenient principal to moms disciplinarian vice-principal”, but I think I’ll try to find a slightly less sexist way of describing the relationship. Like I said, I’m only six months into this thing and I don’t think there’s any serious evaluation process other than the fact my girlfriend still lets me hold Victor on my own, so that’s got to mean something.
I’m not sure where “fatherhood” comes from if we grow up without the experiences which come from having one. There’s obviously an innate need to make sure my son knows not to stick a fork into a light socket… unless he’s holding onto someone. But the rest of it just seems like guesswork and acting.
Like, when I was in the Royal Canadian Army Cadets… sure, I could wear the uniform, but my hair was always touching my shoulders. Sure, I could put polish on my boots, but I could never make them shine. When I was at CFB Petawawa or CFB Ipperwash (Ippernam) I could make my bed at 5am, but the quarter never bounced.
I looked the part, is what I’m saying. But I never really did the job because I had no idea what “the job” actually was, or the amount of effort needed to get the job done. There was no one around to tell me if I was supposed to just lean against the wall, or am I supposed to be pushing it down.
There are things in our lives which we are taught either through the actions of the people around us, or by the inactions. If, early in the lessons, those people abandon us, those lessons are left to be taught by people who may already have their hands full teaching other lessons.
Like, for example, how my own father abandoned me twenty minutes after I was born, and how we had to escape him eight years later.
The Jesuits have a saying, “give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man”, but maybe it should also include “…and I will show you how that man will treat his son as well.”.
So a big chunk of what I’m bringing into Victor’s life, as a father, is stuff I picked up watching late-1980’s sitcoms like The Cosby Show, Roseanne and Married With Children.
I can also remember walking home from VCI — we were living on Union Street, so it might have been 1986 — and seeing a father and his two young children out in their yard building a playhouse. And I stopped and watched, and I can remember thinking “that’s what a father does”.
Fast forward a few years and he married my mother.
I don’t know… who we are is the collection of experiences we gather, and I do have a lot of experiences to draw from. So maybe that’s enough.
It’s still an interesting question, though… “what’s the role of ‘father’ in raising a child?”. Six months into this unique life that is Victor and I’m not exactly sure.
But I know Victor’s going to teach me… if nothing else at least I know Al Bundy managed to raise three kids who never killed anyone.