Another Father's Day had come and gone and Jack mused to himself, again no wishes expressed. "Here's your presents" were the words from his grandson as he handed him a gift bag containing a couple of unwrapped shirts and a couple of packs of biscuits but from his daughter, son-in-law and other grandchildren the words Happy Fathers Day were not forthcoming. The same had happened at his previous birthday, in fact at all events in recent years where these sorts of expressions were regarded by Jack as normal.
He had become used to no display of feeling, such as a hug, from his daughter when she visited and of course the son-in-law took every opportunity possible not to turn up. He was only there when duty required it and then spent most of his time laying on the lounge or on the floor taking little or no part in whatever discussions or activities were going on.
Is there a cultural thing about his daughter and her family's lack of ability to wish him a happy day? Probably not. Jack felt that the way he had disciplined his kids as they were growing up was at the core of this behaviour. He had been a strong disciplinarian with his children because this was what he thought was the right thing to do and he did spank often and hard although never in a place that could seriously hurt them like the head. In retrospect with knowlege later attained he now believed he had spanked too often and wished he had known better techniques. However he was pleased that he had dramatically changed things from what he had gone through as a child. The use of fists and lumps of wood was something he had vowed not to do and he was pleased with himself that he had achieved that goal.
Jack thought about how when he was growing up, when he talked to other adults about how he was disciplined, they always told him "it would do him good" and that anyway he would eventually grow up and leave home and then any such matters would easily resolve themselves in this way. Jack had found this to be fairly true and he didn't feel any resentment towards his parents. They were only doing as good as they knew how to do at the time. However it appears that times have changed and now such things are considered in a different light and Jack has heard that if children ask about these sorts of things these days they are told they are victims and victims they actually become, with all the percieved helplessness of that state and part of that legacy being a resentment by children to their parents.
Jack saw that his daughter and her husband clearly had an issue about discipline and they thought that he was going to try and interfere in this with their kids, a preposterous thing as far as Jack was concerned. Jack had been happy to see his kids leave home, not because he didn't love them but because he no longer had the pressure of always being vigilant, a pressure which he now realised he hadn't had to impose on himself but which he believed may have contributed to his breakdown some years earlier. To suggest that he would want to take on this pressure again with his grandkids, to him verged on the bizarre.
However at his last birthday, Jack was talking to his grandkids and was leading the conversation towards talking to them about how things had changed and how they no longer had silly rules to comply with, which he had had to live with as a child but he never got that far. Son-in-law intervened with comments to the effect of such things are not in our family (wasn't that where Jack was going?). Jack let the matter lie there not wishing to make a scene in front of the kids. A couple of weeks later Jack got a "talking to" from his daughter (the son-in-law was absent again) about how he had raised his children and how he should just sit back and relax and leave the discipline to them. Again maybe foolishly, Jack didn't present her with another view but just changed the subject and let it slide. Even now he's not certain whether that was a correct decision but he feels it's not worth dragging it all up again. This is clearly an issue for them. Why else would the grandson have been able to tell Jack that he had been too severe with Mummy when she was growing up. Clearly one to get TV guru Dr. Phil upset in terms of trying to get children to handle adult issues.
Jack sat back in his chair thinking about these matters. He loved his kids, he loved his grandkids and he had respect for his son-in-law but for now just wanted to forget about it all and enjoy life to the fullest. Maybe he'll get wished Happy Birthday or Happy Fathers Day next year. Maybe it is all just an oversite. That's what Jack's wife thinks, although she has always been a very generous soul towards people's motivations. Maybe I'll write all this down one day, Jack thought to himself as he turned his attention to the next episode of The Bill as it started to come on the TV.
5 Sep 2006