“The thing is”, whispered the father slowly, “that there is something wrong with me.”
I sat across the table from this large, strong, rough looking man, not quite sure about what it was that he had come to speak to me about.
His son, an active and highly alarmed little six year old, was having troubles in our school. He had come to our school full of fear, hesitating to settle down and seeming to struggle with understanding what was happening around him. His mom had told us two years ago that his father was out of the picture, and we hadn’t really asked anymore about it. That is, until recently when mom announced that she had lost her job, and that her ex-husband would be looking after the kids while she looked for employment.
Joey was struggling with staying at school for the whole day, some times becoming so alarmed that he would run into the forest. So the school started to call the parents at lunch time to pick Joey up and take him home. I am not sure if this was meant to be a punishment, or a break for Joey. One day, Joey’s dad appeared at the office ready to pick up his son. He was calm. He was gentle. He thanked the teacher for giving him some work for the afternoon and told Joey that they would be working on this once they got home. Joey cried. Joey screamed that he hated him. Joey ran off to the playground and sat on the bench looking away. And dad, he just walked over and told him that it was time to go home. And Joey followed him to the car and they drove off.
“I don’t know what is wrong with me, sometimes I can’t understand why I am not angry like other guys. They stalk their girlfriends, they beat them up – but I, I just feel so sad and I cry and then it is over and I don’t feel anything anymore.” I looked at him and asked him to tell me more. “Men don’t cry, that’s what is wrong. I am supposed to be angry, but I cry and then I don’t want to be angry any more, I just want to make it work for my kids.”
He talked about his kids, about the structures and routines at home. He talked about how important it was to him to follow through with what he promised. He talked about being with them. When I told him that his kids were lucky to have him as their dad, he teared up and told me about his conversation with Joey that day when he had picked him up. “The thing is”, he said to Joey, “that I am your dad and not your friend. And it is my job as your dad to make sure that you learn everything that you need to learn so that you can make it on your own when you grow up. And even if you don’t like what I tell you that you need to do, you are just going to have to trust me, because the thing is, I am your dad.”