The Good Father
By Doug McVadon / Dorrier Underwood
I didn’t know my moment was at hand.
She walked toward me with a grim look, and said
“Daddy I need to tell you something”. She
motioned me behind a screen that created a
private space in the greasy, fluorescent-lit
dining room of the small restaurant in Yangshuo,
where our 17-member family group was on its
seventh day of a grand tour of China.
don’t want them to see me cry.”
What is it?
Looking up at me, she fought back tears long
enough to say, “I broke it!”
“Your camera!” she said, bursting into tears.
I looked at it, not yet quite believing, and
Meredith told me the story: They were goofing
around taking pictures of the live crawfish in a
bucket in front of the restaurant, when Elena,
her 11-year old cousin, surprised her by trying
to hand her my camera, and she reacted by
blocking it, rather than catching it. My trusty
little Nikon, a 50th birthday gift from my
family, went skittering across the concrete.
And indeed, it was broken.
I have blown
my stack before over lesser mishaps - a spill on
the carpet, a forgotten promise - and I had
promised not to do that on this trip. Little
did I know the test would come here, in the
scenic town at the end of the famous Li River
cruise, on the Friday night marking the end of
our first week in China. But then we never know
in advance when we will be tested, or it
wouldn’t really be a test.
I saw her
crestfallen look, the mix of fear and upset, and
all I wanted to do was hold her.
not have the angry reaction she undoubtedly
I would like to say I curbed my
anger, controlled my upset. But the truth is, I
reacted exactly as I felt, with compassion and
sympathy. I’ve blown it before,
something valuable, wrecked my new car; I know
the utter despair that sweeps over one, the
feeling of doom and helplessness.
her close to me, feeling her sobs wrack her
young body, and whispered, “I know you didn’t
mean to, and I forgive you. It’s only a camera,
and I care more about you than about a camera.
We’ll deal with it, you’re okay, and I love
you. And thank you for coming to me directly
and telling me yourself. That was the right
thing to do, and I appreciate it.”
said Uncle Jim had told her to go tell her dad
right away, and I told her he was right, and
thank you for listening to him.
back out to find her mom Moments later my wife
walked up to me, and in front of everyone gave
me a big, long kiss on the lips. “Thank you”
And that’s how I became
the Good Father; the one who understands, who
takes the long view. It has taken many mistakes
along the way, but now I am being a parent, when
parenting is called for, and not just another
man who loses his temper when he decides other
people are to blame for what doesn’t work for
him. I’m saying goodbye to that guy