"We all have mothers to thank for bringing us into the world and today celebrates the 88th birthday of my mother-in-law, Elizabeth, whom I have to thank for having given us all, Sheila. Thank you Mum; through your daughter, Sheila, your light will forever shine in the Chinese skies and our world shall remain a better place because of both your presence in it. A very happy birthday. We all love you, Mum Elizabeth xxxx
I once recall telling someone that I may have been able to get through my life without being a husband, but I do know that I always wanted to be a dad much more. Like many dads, I have had my memorable moments, my times of sadness and occasions which will stay within my lifetime's treasure chest. I have always tried to guide my children to have sound morals, to respect their elders and never to discriminate deliberately against young or old, women or men, able-bodied or disabled, rich or poor, black or white, Catholic, Protestant or any other religious persuasion. I can say today, hand on heart, that in over 40 years, I have never known one of them to fail to follow that guidance in every regard. That leads me to say, that in all the things I've ever done in my life, remaining a good father to my children will always be my greatest accomplishment.
So, while I willingly acknowledge there have been mistakes I've made along the way of their development, I have been positively influential and am partly responsible for the good individuals they all are today. Please note that I say 'partly responsible', as their mothers also played a vital role. However, it was themselves at the end of the day who did it; they who deserve the lion's share of the credit for the way they've turned out. I am proud of every one of the five, each for their own special qualities. It is not what you do for your children which determine how they end up, but what you have taught them to do for themselves that will make them happy, healthy, successful and wholesome individuals.
I have always believed that the best way we teach is not to tell or meticulously explain, but to show. I also believe that living and learning is best done by following good examples of another. Whenever good parenting is judged, it should not be determined by the child's behaviour, but by the behaviour of the parents! As a good parent, we do these things for our children through the setting of positive examples.
What about my biggest mistake as a parent, I hear you think? Were I to pick, but one, it would be the very same mistake that my father made, that I made, and which I believe that my children have probably made too; the mistake of putting dad up there on a pedestal!
I recall when I was growing up, I was so proud of my dad and how he had coped throughout his life in the face of adversity that one of my often spouted comments was, 'If I finish up half the man that my dad was, I will be a happy chap.' It was only when I'd got well into my thirties and had a wife and children of my own that I started to see some of my father's human flaws. While he was and would always remain 'a good man' in my eyes, I had to acknowledge that he was not 'a perfect man', nor was he a better man than I was. I removed dad from the pedestal I'd placed him on throughout my earlier life. The strange thing was, once I'd normalised dad, I discovered that I'd humanised him. He stopped being this aloof figure in my life; a man who could do anything he set his mind to, and instead became a man who did everything he ever undertook to the best of his ability.
When my son, William, visited me from Australia last year, there were a number of late nights we spent talking about all manner of things. One night the topic came around to fidelity within marriage. I told my son that whereas we all try to be faithful to our marriage partners, that sometimes circumstances and particular situations of temptation can even make a good person temporarily lose sight of the right thing to do, particularly when the wrong course is the easier and the more satisfying one to follow at the time. I spoke to my son about a time in my life when my marriage to his mother was at a low ebb. I told him it was during this period that I'd broken my marriage vows and had gone with another woman. I recall the look of shock on his face when I told him; not because he didn't realise such things are done sometimes by married people, but because it had been his father who had done so!
It was at that moment that I realised that, like myself in earlier life, my son William had also placed his dad on a pedestal and had grown up thinking me a better man than I actually was. I think he will view me more realistically in future. The real harm that holding an unreal image of one's father does to the child, is that it stops them becoming the man and woman they have the potential to be. It sets up expectations of perfection which none of us can ever hope to live up to and it prevents us from knowing that hard-to-accept truth of life 'that sometimes, good people do bad things, but it doesn't stop them being good people!' That is why it is always better to condemn the behaviour and not the person when they wrong.
My advice to my children is, 'Make your parents proud, your enemies jealous and yourselves happy. That way, you are sure, my children, to go farther than your old dad ever did, or his father, or his!'" William Forde: October 9th, 2016.