Jack Knox: Dad is not quite Tom Hanks nor Peter the Great

The good news, dads, is you are not the worst father ever.

You are not the Kentucky man who was sprung from prison to donate a kidney to his ailing son, but took off to Mexico instead.

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You are not Marvin Gaye’s father, who killed his son with the gun the singer had given him as a present.

You are not the Victoria man who tried to persuade his 12-year-old daughter to torch his run-down up-Island hotel for the insurance money.

But neither are you worthy of the coffee cup/barbecue apron/T-shirt you just got for Father’s Day, the one declaring you to be the World’s Best Dad!

The latter is a nice sentiment, but with 7.8 billion people on Earth both you and the child understand it to be not just a statistical improbability but a flat-out fib. You might be top 50, maybe even top 10, trailing only Barack Obama, Tom Hanks, Chris Hadfield and a handful of others, but number one? Forget it.

If you were the World’s Best Dad, would you have been caught watching the game on your phone when the child was born? Would you have used Glad Kitchen Catchers and electrical tape instead of Pampers? Would you have fallen asleep, snoring loudly, during the child’s solo at the school concert? No, no you would not.

Nor would you have looted the child’s Halloween candy, worn spandex in front of the child’s friends, or been known to break wind and then glare accusingly at your offspring. If you were the World’s Best Dad, the child would not enjoy a closer relationship with the dogs on Paw Patrol than with his or her own father (or, as your child refers to you, “that man who drives the car sometimes.”) You would not have forgotten the child’s birthday/graduation day/wedding day/sentencing date yet somehow remembered when the latest season of Fargo was debuting on Netflix.

Your child would not have learned the S word while you watched the Seahawks, the F word as you struggled to strap the child into a car seat, or the M, C, A, D (not to mention the previously undiscovered X and Q) words as you put together the EZ2-Assemble swing set in the backyard.

What retailers need to come up with is a line of gifts for mediocre fathers, the ones who aren’t as awful as Agamemnon of Ancient Greece (who sacrificed his daughter to appease the god Artemis) or the appropriately named Ivan the Terrible (who beat his pregnant daughter for wearing immodest clothing and murdered his son) or the more dubiously titled Peter the Great (who had his son tortured to death) but aren’t exactly 1970s Waltons/Happy Days/Little House On The Prairie TV dads either. (BTW, note the much more accurate portrayal of fatherhood by subsequent on-screen characters: Phil Dunphy, Homer Simpson, Darth Vader.)

These gifts would honour the so-so dads, the ones who show up for school awards day, but only if the teacher is good-looking, or who will pack the child a lunch, but only with beef jerky and what turn out to be Jell-O shots.

For those fathers, you should be able to buy a coffee cup that reads 40th Percentile Dad! or Not Perfect, But Perfectly Adequate. Maybe a T-shirt that says Usually Got Them To Soccer Practice On Time.

Don’t worry about offending these fathers’ feelings. They are, for the most part, not blind to their parental shortcomings. They are painfully aware of the times when they tried their best, but their best wasn’t good enough — a swing and a miss, to use a sports metaphor, which dads like to do. These fathers know that life is occasionally punctuated by disappointment, sorrow and crushing failure, but they don’t know how to shield their children from any of them. Can’t protect kids from broken bones. Can’t protect them from broken hearts.

Even those of us who did in fact have the World’s Best Dad can look back and see them trying to figure out the right thing to do.

jknox@timescolonist.com

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