Call me sentimental but it seems appropriate on Fathers Day to have just packed the old man and our son off for a week’s ‘bonding’ on the slopes.
It was certainly appropriate for me.
I hugged the old man with a mix of gratitude and condolence as he bravely faced his bonding mission. To be honest, I needed some space to top up my refereeing skills too; the rollercoaster teenage years being what they are.
I did have some qualms concerning the proximity of sheer mountain drops, rocky crevices and ‘off piste’ areas in regards to concealment of evidence, (should bonding prove untenable), but I managed to shrug them off with the thought of back to back chick flicks and repossession of the remote control.
My boys’ ‘bond’ is an evolving one, one which I can only describe as ‘feisty’ on a good day, ‘virtual’ on others – we all know that not every child and parent automatically bonds straight from the womb. While for some, Fathers Day signifies the celebration of a working paternal relationship, for others the journey is not quite as textbook as the commercialism of the day leads us to believe.
Most parents realize soon after the birth of their child that being a ‘good’ parent is not a given. Bryce Corbett spoke of the ‘global conspiracy of silence surrounding parenthood’ in the Sunday Telegraph today, and he is not exaggerating. Parenting is a challenging game with no ‘get out of jail free’ card.
My boys have compromised (a first!) in their choice of Thredbo for their bonding purposes. It’s not quite as neutral as Switzerland, but with the old man being a sportophile, and the ADHDer loving anything ‘extreme’, (preferably with the potential of death, although not of his father, one hopes), the choice of destination seemed to make sense. I’m hoping (while elongated on the sofa, with wine, remote and chocolate at arm’s length), that this could be the making of something beautiful.
You see, for many parents, the (fanciful) dreams that are ignited upon first sight of that tiny blinking heartbeat on the scan, do unfurl naturally, (mostly), but some areas need a little more scaffolding. I would rest more easily if the ‘feel good’ magazines would stop indoctrinating us to believe that unless your dad is managing your sports team or cooking dinner every night (on top of a 60 hour week), he’s not living up to expectation. ‘Doing your best’ is often deemed not good enough.
So we spent this particular Fathers Eve walking on even larger eggshells than normal, as the boys prepared for their groundbreaking trip. ‘Change’ is anathema to both of them, and rockstar son has difficulty in adapting to anything new, and was true to form a venomous catalyst in even the most trivial aspects of the holiday arrangements.
Which made me question several times, (as I spied all those other seemingly happy, perfect families frantically searching the mall for the perfect Father’s Day gift), if very deep down other peoples’ family life is as cushy as it appears to the outside world, to those families who sometimes struggle to maintain harmony in the home, and feel inadequate.
We know that kids spend most of their lives blaming their parents for just about EVERYTHING. And there’s no denying that nurture has a huge responsibility in development; but so does nature. As parents we can’t manipulate or f*ck up what’s already there in the DNA.
I am far and away the worst parent I know. It’s not that I don’t try and it’s certainly not because I don’t love my kids, but parenting is simply not a natural fit. I could hold nurture responsible, but I could equally blame a disappointing gene pool, (I’d have been happy with just ONE talent, honest). But what’s the point?
Who really knows what defines us?
When God (?) sealed the stamp on my ill-assorted genes, he was a bit tight with the squishy, let’s make cookies together, tell-me-about-your-problems-on-my-lap genes that many of my ‘natural mum’ friends inherited. I don’t do fluffiness, I say it how it is, and much to my kids disapproval, I am a bit old-school in my fervent belief in toughening them up, rather than ill-equipping them for life’s curve balls.
Yet in spite of my amateur parenting skills, God (?) decided to bequest us a child to truly test our
endurance skills as parents, with a child possessing often challenging, sociopathic behaviours, the sort of behaviours that can tear a family apart. We have a child that is loved and who is special in so many ways, but who consistently challenges convention and morality and the very foundations that we as a couple agreed on when we decided to share our lives.
And parenting those types of children can test the very fabric of your inner strength; it’s something you certainly weren’t prepared for when you signed up. Which goes to prove the whole conspiracy theory. And which is why sometimes, Dads like Mums, aren’t perfect, in spite of their best intentions.
Which is what ‘unconditional love’ is all about.
Because even though,
often sometimes, we don’t handle things as well as we’d like, (in the way that the rock throwers and magazines tell us we should), and we feel like we’ve failed, we know, fundamentally, that we are ‘doing our best’.
The concept of Father’s Day is a positive one, but for some, that precious bond is more of a work in progress.
There are, after all, different ways of demonstrating real love.
‘The path of true love never runs smoothly.’