I don’t think I am a bad dad. I realise that I have nothing rational to base this assessment upon. The fact that both of my kids survived to adulthood and have active, productive lives, and that they both still talk to me, is no proof. I know well enough not to conflate causation and correlation.
One of the problems with knowing just what to do as a parent is that there is no instruction manual for raising children, or there are a thousand different ones, which amounts to much the same thing in practice.
So at the end of the day, there are only a couple of rules that I hold to. Rules that I apply equally to both me and my kids. The first one is my Golden Rule. Do not be a hypocrite. Hypocrisy is the only true sin in this world. To this end I try to regularly remind myself of what I was doing and thinking, at each respective age, as my children grow through them. This provides the template for determining how we live in our house.
As a consequence of this, back when both were still young enough to be living at home, but old enough to be going out unsupervised, we had one unbreakable statute. It applied to all members of the household.
When you are about to leave one location to head for another, you text the address of your destination, and on arrival, you text confirm of success. That’s it. No details required. No reasons necessary. Just good, practical, first-aidable information.
As a rule this system worked pretty darn well, with practically no complaints from any party. I can honestly only remember a single incident…
It was two fifteen in the AM and I felt a tingling buzzing against the outside of my left knee. As my phone was currently residing inside the top of my close fitting, knee length, soft leather, Russian dance boot, this should not really have been unexpected.
However differentiating this new and somewhat specific tingle, from the delightfully universal buzz that resulted from a magic combination of good music, good company and half of a small pink tablet with a smiley face on it, took a little bit of an effort. This was during the noughties after all, and like everyone else, I am a creature of my times.
Soon enough I realised that I had received a text message, so I danced my way to the edge of the floor, leant against the bar, pulled out my phone and read my text.
Nothing untoward. My son was heading home, he would be there in about thirty minutes. Cool.
I shimmied back on to the dance floor crowded with outrageously and somewhat sexily dressed ghosts, witches and goblins, slid my phone back into my boot, and felt satisfied in a parenting job well done.
Bella and I were at one of the gay night clubs in Commercial road Prahran, with a group of theatre friends. Oh, and it was All Hallows’ Eve. Theatre people, professional dancers particularly, can be somewhat flamboyant given the right encouragement, and a predominantly gay crowd at a dance party on Halloween qualified as ‘the right encouragement’.
We all dressed for the occasion. As we were all somewhat competitive when it came to dressing up, none of us would have been out of place at the Sydney Mardi Gras. As a kid I use to read The Phantom comics. Kit Walker, the ghost who walks. So my Halloween character was a no brainer.
Along with the aforementioned ballet boots, I wore a matching black leather G-string, a broad elastic and leather belt with a pair of holstered 45 automatic vodka pistols and a close fitting, tailor made black mask, held invisibly to my face with stage glue. Instead of the traditional tights and cowl, I assume you are familiar with The Phantom’s costume, I had shaved my head and wore all over purple body paint. Not a bad rendition of Kit Walker, if I do say so myself.
We were having a good night, and in what seemed to be no time at all I realised that it was a goodly while since my son had texted me. Checking my phone I found it to be three thirty. No confirmation.
I texted my son.“Home yet?”
Ten minutes and no response.
So I phoned him, no answer.
I called the home phone, nothing.
At four o’clock the father in me over ruled the social butterfly in me, so getting a pass out stamp, Kit Walker, in full Phantom guise walked briskly to my car, luckily only thirty yards from the club entrance, and drove to our home, a mere ten minutes away. I did not get my jacket from the cloak room because I was too stingy to pay another five dollars to put it back in when I returned.
Our house is on a corner block with the garage entrance at the back of the long boundry, so from the garage you walk across the back garden and enter the house via two french doors into our sun room.
By the time I got home and parked the car, imagination being what it is, I had worked myself up into a mild panic. In my concern I had pretty much forgotten where I had been and what I was wearing, using that term in it’s broadest context.
As I approached the French doors I could see a flickering of light escape from beneath the blinds. I unlocked the doors and opened them wide to see my son sitting on the couch, a young lady sitting either side of him. All three drinking what I presume to be coffee, watching a DVD on the television.
The happy trio just sat there staring in silence, although now, it must be said, not at the television.
The Phantom, resplendent in purple body paint, mask, G-string and packing a pair of side arms, entered the sunroom, and ignoring the girls looked straight at my son and said:
“Next time you will remember to text. Won’t you?”
Without waiting for a reply I turned, walked back to my car and drove back to the dance floor that was awaiting me at Commercial road.
As I said before, that was the only time my son ever failed to text me.