Musings on How Fathers Influence Their Children

Jun 10, 2013

Last year, my mom began what's becoming a strange rite for her generation - the slow digitization of childhood photos to share with the rest of the family. It began as black and white pictures of her early years in Manila, but, dozens of emails later, made its way to Canada and Instagram-esque colour shots of my parents' marriage, buying a home, hanging out and having first-born me.

We rarely think of our parents as actual people, so seeing these photos of my mom and dad was almost as unnerving as it was comforting. Between the familiar body language and the facial expressions, my smirking dad could be me, 20 years from now. (Major difference? I've accepted my fate and shaved my head, while he still waits for genetics to claim the last of his comb-over.)

There are times I'm proud when someone tells me I'm just like my father. In other instances, I break out in a cold sweat. Regardless, I've been thinking about how my relationship with my three-year-old daughter, L, is similar to the one I remember having with him, and how it differs. (All three of us, it should be noted, stick out our tongues when we're concentrating on something, whether it's cookie-decorating or writing a blog.)

With my daughter, I've tried to get her into the music and comics I love. Not only do I think she'll enjoy them, but, more selfishly, I want another person with whom I can share my interests. I don't think my dad ever really did the same thing with me, though.

When I was little, he would excitedly tell me stories about Superman and Flash and Green Arrow - he was the one who first got me into superheroes, and my love of comics as an art form descends from this. But here's the thing: by the time I was born, my dad didn't read comics anymore. His stories were all from semi-distant memory.When I think about some of his interests, they're all things he never really tried to get me into - science-fiction novels, television from the 50s, movie stars from the 60s and, um, celebrity gravesites. And then there's his big obsession: Italian soccer.

He passionately loves, and violently hates, the Beautiful Game. Growing up, my siblings and I were enrolled in T-ball, skating, tennis and swimming - anything but soccer. This was a move engineered by our mother to ensure both our sanity and his. We didn't watch matches with him, but we could hear his screams of anguish or ecstasy coming from the basement, as well as Dad making deals with the devil or god, whoever was more likely to save his beloved team, Udinese, from relegation.When I was three, I swear I remember his reaction to Italy winning the World Cup in 1982. I also remember his home country crashing out in several subsequent Cups, and the day the neighbours left a large funeral wreath, wrapped in an Italian flag, on our porch. My dad was ... unhappy about this.

My sister and I wanted nothing to do with soccer until we were adults. Then, we both became obsessed and made up for lost time by reading books, bookmarking blogs, downloading podcasts, PVRing games, and live-streaming, semi-legally, grainy matches online before the sun rose. (She takes it much further, flying to Europe for games, owning season's tickets for Toronto FC and writing for international newspaper websites.) In the way others inherit a genetic malady from their parents, we inherited unconditional loyalty to a team inextricably linked with euphoric mania and frustrated depression.

My brother, who doesn't know his European football from his NFL, occasionally questions whether I actually love soccer, suggesting this is some sort of subconscious way to find new common ground with my dad, another thing for us to discuss beyond the weather, my lack of home-repair know-how and the awesomeness of his granddaughter.My daughter doesn't watch soccer with me, either. She knows her daddy likes it, she knows her Mario Balotelli national shirt is a pretty cool thing to wear, and she likes kicking a ball around. But I'd rather she not spend two hours in front of a screen subjected to loud Italian commentary and gamesmanship that can be as ugly as beautiful.

For now, L humours me when I sneak some White Stripes into her music mixes or read her a Silly Lilly comic before bed. But I wonder if she'll eventually reject my attempted pushes into comics fandom and good-music snobbery when she's a bit older. Maybe she'll rediscover it for herself years from now. In 2038, maybe L will hear about a Yeah Yeah Yeahs reunion concert or download Mike Mignola's Hellboy and find not only does she like it on her own terms, but she also can talk to her dad about it when I drop by to hang out with her kids.


Erik Missio used to live in Toronto, have longish hair and write about rock 'n' roll. He now lives in the suburbs, has no-ish hair and edits technical articles. He and his wife are collaborating on a three-year-old girl who may already be smarter than both of them. He received his MA in Journalism from the University of Western Ontario. Related articles by this writer: 

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