At Big Brothers Big Sisters, we believe every child should have the opportunity to reach his or her full potential – both as individuals and citizens. We believe that by changing the course of young lives we can in turn be changing the course of a community’s future.
Start Talking is a place where we want to raise awareness of key issues that face today’s youth. We will sometimes advocate, sometimes educate, sometimes inform, sometimes ask questions and always invite discussion about the pressing concerns that involve the younger generations of today.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Some Questions for Dad

A few days ago I was play wrestling with my three year old son on the floor when he very suddenly shoved his finger into my eye socket. He poked it really hard with a great big smile on his face. I had to leave the room and go and bite a pillow, and give myself a few seconds to cool down. I admit, I was pretty ticked. We were having fun, why did he have to go and stick his finger in my eye? I didn’t realize it at the time, but what he was really doing was looking for some answers.

What happens when I stick my finger in dad’s eye?
Does he get angry?
Do I get in trouble?
What exactly does an eyeball feel like anyway?

These are all great questions and I’m sure my son learned exactly what happens when you stick your finger in your dad’s eye that day. I’m glad I could teach you that valuable lesson son.

I’m a newish dad. I have two boys; my youngest is three and my eldest is almost six. They are exploring their world and learning more and more each day, and so am I.

About a week after being poked in the eye, it was my eldest son’s turn to blindside me. He wasn’t nearly as physical though. On the 7-minute drive from karate class, he hit me with a series of questions that left me scrambling. I tried to respond to each question with an honest and informative response, but each response led to a subsequent question, more complicated than the one before it. The questions went something like this:

“Dad, why do things explode?”
“What is the biggest bomb ever invented?”
“Why was it invented?”
“Why is there war?”
“What is religion?”
“Do you believe in heaven?”

I quickly found myself in a situation that I really should have studied for. In a matter of 7 minutes we covered physics and chemistry, history, politics, geography, cultural differences, war, philosophy, death, and finally faith and religion. I did my best to answer, but give me a break, these are some difficult questions! Regardless, I suppose I passed the little quiz. He seemed content with my weak physics, spotty history, questionable geography, and utterly confusing attempts to generalize philosophy and religion.

I knew well before my boys were born that I wanted to be a dad, but I really wanted to be good dad, a dad that doesn’t yell or get angry, a dad that is supportive and patient, a dad that is caring and loving, a dad that is a good role model and has answers to all kinds of questions. What surprised me, is how difficult this was…how difficult this is. I love my boys more than anything and I want them to grow up to be strong, confident, and caring men. I want to give them everything, but I worry that if I do that they are going to grow up to be selfish and greedy. I want to inform them, without scaring them. I want to nurture their imagination and creativity, but be well grounded and astute. I want to show them love and teach them respect.

In the end, I’m left with so many questions. How do you do all of this? How do be a great dad? I really have no idea. If you have it all figured out, please tell me. In the meantime, I’ll just do my best to answer their questions.

Thankfully I’m not doing it alone. I’m lucky to have a smart and caring partner in all of this to help keep me calm, sane and reassured. I’m also lucky to have a Dad of my own to ask. He doesn’t have all the answers either, and that is okay.

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there that are trying to figure this out, to those that have already been through it, and to those soon-to-be dads that have no idea what they are getting into.

Garner Beckett
Director of Development
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada


Karen Shaver said...

Thanks for sharing this, Garner. Here's another perspective. Yesterday, I visited an elementary school in Yellowknife. This school doesn't acknowledge or celebrate Father's macaroni cards, no tissue paper ties, no paper mache ashtrays (I guess they don't make those anymore anyway!). So many children don't have contact with their dads or don't know who their fathers are that it's too hard and painful for the students to talk about Father's Day. In one class, there are 8 boys, 6 of whom don't have dads in their lives. One young boy in our program is being raised by his grandparents because his parents are in the grips of addiction and unavailable to him. When he does see his parents, he just doesn't know how to feel or think. Not every man should become a father, but it takes far less perfection than one thinks to make a good dad. Happy Father's Day!

Anonymous said...

It sounds to me like you're doing a great job, Ernie. I don't have being a great mom all figured out, either. I think being honest - at a superficial level, when your child asks a question goes a long way.

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