Saturday, June 16, 2012

Happy Father's Day to ... Me

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
Edgar Degas

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
Camille Pissaro

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.


joanne said...

I can't imagine the sacrifice, the work, the worry, the..the...the...that goes into being a single parent. Some do it well and some fail miserably. I think your daughter would agree that you did a wonderful job of raising her in spite of many obstacles. You deserve a Happy Fathers Day too!

Jo said...

JoJo, thank you! Being a parent is a thankless job at the best of times, but we all do our best. ;-)

Leslie: said...

As usual, you've been able to express what has been in my heart, too, lately. My daughters always bemoan the death of their father and think to this day he was Christ reborn! However, I know differently. And his family - well, you know that story, and if I haven't told you, I will. Talk about stealing inheritances! I know of which you write and so I say to you - and to me - Have a great Father's Day! Oh yeah, and I'll just ignore the fact that I'm now an orphan and glad of it.

Jo said...

Leslie, you did a fabulous job raising your daughters, and you should be very proud...! Happy Father's day to you, my friend...!

SparkleFarkel said...

As I scrolled my "Welcome to the Reading List," I was elated to see an image of a mother & child painting and I couldn't wait to read what you had written, because, quite frankly, not every father deserves a Father's Day.

Here's to you and I, Jo, because we do. Happy Father's Day, my friend!

Pamela Kieffer said...

My father died in 1937 when I was 5 years old. I had 2 older brothers and a sister. How did my Mom manage? What an amazing woman.

Kathy's Klothesline said...

I was a single parent for just a short time. I was rescued by my husband who was never a perfect dad, but always a loving dad. We all do our best to give them what they need to be wonderful. Doesn't always work, though. My dear husband helped me raise five children, he adopted the two he didn't father and treated themnasn if they were his. They resented him and turned out to be non-productive adults. He has bailed them out too many times to count and even steeped up and paid for my son's burial expenses. I am thankful for the man I married and what a good father he is!

L. D. said...

Your choice of paintings were good ones. Thanks.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I was a father as well as a mother to my children, too. It wasn't easy, to say the least. They have all surpassed me in academic achievement and phenomenal success in their chosen fields and I am so very proud of them. I don't think they will realize all the sacrifices I was glad to make until they have their own children. Life is unfair in one way or another for most people. All we can do is try to make the best of it.

Jay said...

You have every right to be proud Jo. Happy Father's day to you.

Personally I never knew MY dad and the first stepfather was someone I wished I had never met. The second came along in time to walk me down the aisle and he was a fine man- third time lucky I suppose or my mom got smarter with age perhaps.

Carol E. said...

You definitely deserve a Happy Father's Day. After my dad died, I felt that we weren't idolizing him but rather the criticisms we might have had of him now seemed petty, and we could celebrate all that was great about him without bringing up his faults. I think that is one of the gifts of death.. knowing he wasn't perfect, but celebrating what was so good.

muthu said...

Belated happy father's day to you.

I think the joy of being a parent is not really in receiving but in giving. I remember once when I was a kid, my father got angry with something I did(forgot those details really) and made me stay out on the porch for the night. After I think about an hour, He came with a pillow and warm mattress and stayed with me outside.

I wish such parents (not just fathers) -- Thankyou. you guys are something that can never be replaced.

1sam21_1_12 said...

This Father's Day I am forced to be away from my children as I flee the actions of a billionaire that is trying to destroy my life because of what I know about him. As God would have it, I came to rest at a place that would restore my soul. At this place I was presented with an original repainting of "At the Beach" by Pothast. The giver was not sure of the original so I searched the internet and found your site! Whether in Canada, or the United States or anywhere else in the world - KNOW THIS: God will meet you in your place and in His time to bring restoration to your soul. My wife even betrayed me under the pressure. BUT - Forgiveness is the only way to heal the hurts in the family. Last: don't hide under the Gingerbread Man. Instead take his hand and run away with him. Then when he gets to the point where the fox wants to carry him across the river - you will be able to caution him - AND THUS SAVE BOTH YOUR LIVES. This is why God instituted MARRAIGE as the joining of one man and one woman.

JeannetteLS said...

I think often, children put non-custodial parents of divorce on the pedestal as well... and the less they do, the more they create an ideal. I've seen it with several of my friends, and heard others talk about it.

The one who is always there is the one they know they can vent on, can test. They are secure. But the one who is absent for whatever reason? I think they HAVE to cling to an idea so they will feel less deserted. Even if the parent died, I think this holds true.

Oh, Jo. You are such a strong person, with such talent and insight. I hope you had a good Father's Day. Beyond good.