Letters from London
Broken Hearted: What Do You Say?
By Shane Clarke
I’ve always tried to be a good dad. I’ve always been there for all my children, night and day. When it comes to them, I’m never too busy, nothing is too much trouble, and if they want the shirt off my back, they can have it.I’m not perfect, of course. I’ve made mistakes like every parent. I don’t always get things right, but I do my best, which I guess is all that can be expected of me.One thing I’ve always been – and I know there are millions of fathers all over the world who will know what I’m talking about – is a safety net. Whatever the problem, whatever trouble they’re in, whatever is troubling them, they can come to me and I will make it better. It’s the one aspect of parenting that I know I’m good at. I’d even go so far as to say I am the Manchester United of being there for my children. I realise that sounds big-headed, but it’s a simple reality: I’m a bloke, which means I’m genetically programmed to be stupid and immature, and there is nothing that makes children laugh like daddy being stupid and immature, which is exactly what they need when they feel like they have the weight of the world on their shoulders.But today, my powers failed me. They failed me abysmally. Today, I was rendered as useless as Arsenal Football Club’s trophy cabinet.My teenage daughter had her heart broken for the first time today. She and her boyfriend of over a year broke up and she was inconsolable.My daughter ran into my arms in tears. She was in pieces, and she needed daddy to put them back together again.But what do you say? Do you tell her there’s plenty of fish in the sea? Tell her she’s better off without him? That it’s his loss? Any other clichés?How do you convince your daughter that although it feels like the end of the world right now, it will get better and she will smile, laugh and love again?So I held my daughter in my arms and I wanted to cry for her. But I couldn’t; I’m the daddy, I have to be the strong one. My mind was raging with mixed emotions. There was pity for my daughter. There was anger – how dare this boy make her cry like this? I wanted revenge – I’ll go round that little turd’s house and put one on him. There was anger – if he ever comes knocking on my door again I’ll tell him right where to go.Of course, I had to set all of this aside. This wasn’t about me; it was about her. She was feeling like life wasn’t worth living anymore, and I had to convince her that it was, but – like an incompetent marathon runner – I didn’t know where to start.Okay, try to calm her down first: I patted her on the back, ‘There, there. It’s okay, darling. I know it hurts now, but it will get better.’Nothing. I might as well have told her the price of cheese.‘Come on, sweetie. I’ve been where you are and I can promise you that you’ll get through this.’If anything, she was getting worse. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. I felt like tapping her on the shoulder and saying, ‘Hello. Remember me? I’m daddy. I put my arms round you and say there there and everything’s better.’I must have lost my touch. Was this the end of my useful life as her dad? Was I just a prostate problem and a care home waiting to happen?No! I am Shane bloody Clarke. I am a good dad. I’m not a great dad. I’m like the MacDonald’s of dads – I’m good when you need a quick fix, but too much of me and you’re going to be sick. But I’m still the dad!Right, time to try another approach – laughter: ‘Come on, darling – how can you be upset when the new series of Misfits starts soon?’Not even a titter. Okay, that was a weak one. Let’s try again: ‘Hey, shall we call his mom and tell her he’s gay?’Okay, there’s something wrong here. That was a good one and it didn’t so much as get a giggle. Giggle, damn you! Laugh! Titter! Chuckle! At least crack a smile – I’m dying on my arse here!Right – what next? Shall I try bribery? I’ll give you a tenner if you stop crying? Nah, that would be stupid and insensitive. That’s okay for a wife, but not a daughter. (Yes, I know I’m going to pay for that one).How about a nice cup of tea?What year is this – 1975? No, you idiot!So, as I sat there, patting my daughter on the back – which must surely have been getting on her nerves by now – I racked my brains to try to come up with something to fix this. And then, it finally came to me.Eureka! I’ve got it, by jove!I picked up the phone and called her mother.‘She broke up with her boyfriend. She’s very upset. I think she needs her mother right now – do you want to come and get her?’Bosh! Back of the net! Oh, I am a genius!Okay, looking back, it wasn’t my finest or proudest moment. But I was desperate, okay? Nothing was working. I might as well have been Gordon Brown.Anyway, I accept that today wasn’t my best game. I faltered; bottled it, even. But I don’t think I failed completely. So, on the great league table of being a dad, I’m going to chalk this one up as a draw.
|A fahter and his daughter|
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Shane Clarke serves as London Correspondent for The Seoul Times. He has been involved in humanitarian work for numerous years. He’s also a freelance management consultant. Having completed an honors degree in Law at Wolverhampton University, he then moved on to an MBA at Warwick Business School. He’s heavily involved in the fight against international parental child abduction to Japan.