At The Beach
Edward Henry Potthast
The other day my daughter was lamenting the fact that her father died when she was four years-old, and she grew up without a father. And yes, that was an awful thing. It was unfortunate for her, because in a perfect world every child should have both a father and a mother. But it's not always a perfect world. Unforeseeable things happen. To be honest, when I was younger, I had not signed on to be a single parent, either. And here I was at the age of 24, and my mother-in-law, bless her heart, stole the insurance money that would have provided a better life for my daughter while she was growing up. I had to land on my feet very quickly, and that was not easy to do, in a world that was not kind to single mothers.
Dancers in Pink
When my daughter was growing up, I made sure she had all the things I did not have when I was growing up -- ballet lessons, piano lessons, horseback riding lessons. I made sure she went to the best schools, and had the best academic foundation. She ultimately did go to university and earned a Master's degree. My daughter also lamented that she did not have a father to teach her how to ride a bike. I taught her how to ice skate, roller skate, and yes how to ride a bike. The first time she ever rode a bike, she rode completely around the Stanley Park Seawall without once falling off the bicycle. I also stressed the importance of an academic education along with knowledge of the arts, literature, culture - we went to all the children's concerts at the Orpheum Theatre, and she always received good books as gifts. I was the person who helped her with her homework at night, and met with the teachers on parents' night at school. I was the person who made sure she had good medical care and dental care. I was born with a slight scoliosis of the spine, and every year I took my daughter to the scoliosis clinic at Vancouver General Hospital to make sure she wasn't developing it as well. I was the person who stayed home from work when she was too ill with measles or mumps to go to school. And I was the person who stayed up late at night and worried when she first started dating as a teenager.
Young Woman and Child at the Well
It's always easy to put someone on a pedestal when they're dead. People do it all the time. The dead become larger than life heroic figures that they were not really when they were alive. When my daughter was born, I said to my husband, "Let's start an education fund so she can go to university." His reply to me was, "What for? I never went to university, and she doesn't have to go to university either." I still feel angry when I think of it. Years later, when my daughter was married and had her own children, she did inherit some money from her paternal grandmother, and her uncle proceeded to steal that from her as well, but I went to a lawyer and got it back for her. Sometimes the apple doesn't fall very far from the tree.
As parents, we all do our best, whether we are single or married, wealthy or poor, we want the best for our children. We want their lives to be upwardly mobile from ours, and we do everything we possibly can to make that happen. We make sacrifices so our children will have the ability to build a better foundation for themselves and for their children. But that's all we can do. We cannot wave a magic wand and change things. "It is what it is" -- as they say... If our children want to go through life bemoaning their circumstances, we have to just let it go. Life was difficult for single parents and the children of single parents at one time. Laws have changed now, and landlords and employers cannot treat single families unfairly anymore. As of 2012, in Canada almost 33% of families are single parent families, and 20% of those are headed by men. That is significant. And like all parents, they love their children and do the best they can for them.
To all the Dads out there, whether you are in single-parent families, or two-parent families, I wish you a Happy Father's Day.
And Happy Father's Day to me.