One of the goals of Fatherhood Sucks is to interview fathers and hear about their successes and failures in their own words – I call it “The Father Side.” I am proud to present my first victim – my father-in-law:
NAME: John Beaudry
AGE: If I mentioned it, he might kill me
FATHER TO: Sandra (36), Stephanie (35)
GRANDFATHER TO: Justin (4), Xavier (2)
JOB: Retired, after a long career as a newspaper pressman
GOAL: to be a scratch golfer
IF YOU HAD TO DESCRIBE BEING A FATHER IN ONE WORD, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Joy. You can’t beat the joy of having kids. And it’s even sweeter now as a Papa to two boys. Sometimes I pick them up from school and they come running to you with big smiles and hugs – there’s nothing better than that.
WHAT WERE THE FIRST WORDS YOU SAID TO YOUR DAUGHTER, SANDRA?
I called her my “pretty, little princess.”
IF YOU HAD TO DECRIBE YOUR PARENTING STYLE IN ONE WORD, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Consistent. I tried to be fair to both my daughters. So maybe fairness.
WHAT’S ONE THING YOU ADOPTED FROM YOUR FATHER’S PARENTING STYLE?
My father was always there for the five of us. So I tried to be there for my kids as well.
WHAT’S ONE THING THAT’S DIFFERENT?
I think I was more open to communicating with my kids. I wanted to relate to my girls and let them know there was nothing they couldn’t come to me with. I tried to let them know that if they asked, they might receive.
WHAT’S THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A PARENT?
Having to say no to your kids. You never want to say no, but sometimes you do in order to teach them an important lesson. I also think that teaching your kids respect and discipline is very important. They have to respect their parents and their elders and if they don’t, the parents have to be prepared to jump all over them. Saying no is tough, and disciplining them is tough, but it has to be done.
NOW THAT YOU’RE A GRANDFATHER, HOW HAS IT MADE YOU RETHINK YOUR ROLE AS A FATHER?
I don’t think it has really changed. But it let me know that I did something right when I see my daughter, Sandra, adopting some of the same ideas I used with her own children.
WHAT’S ONE OF THE FUNNIEST MOMENTS YOU REMEMBER?
When Sandra was five or six, she was chasing a fire truck and smashed her hand right through the glass at the front door. It’s only funny now because nothing bad happened, but it could have been really bad just as well. One other thing – when we drove to Florida, I set up an air mattress in the back of the car for them to lay down and sleep, but they ended up getting stuck between the mattress and the chair. The girls like to complain about it now, and they may have bounced around a little in the car, but at the time they were very happy.
HOW OFTEN DID YOU AND JUDY DISAGREE ON PARENTING?
Not often. It’s really important for parents to be on the same page so the kids can’t pin one against the other and you can back each other up. But when we first moved up here (from Montreal), I felt bad for the kids so I tried to give them some leeway with things. One time, I let Sandra drive the car from our house to the end of the street. She was 12 years old at the time. Judy was not impressed.
WHAT’S A RITUAL THAT YOU HOPE YOUR DAUGHTERS TAKE ON WITH THEIR KIDS?
We always had family dinners – everyday at 6:00. We would have a discussion at the table based on what was going on in the world. I would ask them questions like who’s the Prime Minister or our Premier and they were always very keen with their answers. I think anything that creates a chance for a parent and child to talk to each other is very important. A child knowing that they can talk to you about those simple things will hopefully make it easier to talk to you when they’re in a difficult situation.
WHAT’S SOMETHING YOU DID THAT YOU HOPE YOUR KIDS WILL NOT HAVE TO DO AS PARENTS?
I hope that they don’t have to work as hard as I did so they can spend more time with their kids. I missed a lot of their activities – sports and concerts and stuff – because I was on shift work.
WHAT’S A DREAM YOU HAVE FOR YOUR GRANDKIDS?
I’d love to see them achieve something in sports, you know to make a living out of it. But whether they are good at it or not, sports will give them a reason to stay off the streets and not in front of the television.
WHEN WERE YOU MOST PROUD OF YOUR KIDS?
It has to be when the girls stepped on stage to receive their university degrees. Education has always been an important thing in this house; so to see them going further than Judy and I did means we did something right.
WHAT’S A SACRIFICE YOU HAD TO MAKE FOR YOUR KIDS?
My daughter Stephanie decided to go to university close to home (at MacMaster University) but she needed a car to get back and forth. So I agreed to continue to work nights on the press so that she could have the car during the day. She then changed her mind to follow her sister to Queen’s (University). It worked out great for her but it was bad for me – I was stuck on nights an extra three years because of it. But those are the kinds of choices you make for your kids.
DO PARENTS HAVE IT EASIER OR HARDER TODAY?
It’s much harder today to be parent. There are so many negative things that kids can be lured into. When Sandra and Stephanie was a kid, we’d let them play outside until the streetlights came on. But today, I wouldn’t let my grandkids play outside by themselves because there are so many dangers out there. And then in the house you have the internet and cell phones – so they’re not even that safe at home.
WHAT’S YOUR BEST ADVICE FOR A NEW FATHER?
You gotta love your kids and be there for them. Keep talking to them. Make sure they know the difference between right and wrong because the only way they will is for you to show them the way.