I was raised with the importance of manners, proper public etiquette and discipline.  It was only much later in my teen years that I was told by my parents what it took for us to get to Canada.  My aunt, who worked for a Portuguese airline had to kidnap us, (my brother, sister and I), out of the country of Angola because of war.  The reason why is because the threat of someone taking us away from my parents was a very real possibility.  My parents lost all possessions and had to find a way out of the country on their own. At the border, the chance they may not live to see their children again was also a real possibility.

In Canada, we found our future and my siblings and I were raised with 2 working parents and we always had to keep ourselves entertained.  There were no computers, cellphones and TV was limited.  Saturday morning cartoons were the best part of the week for me.  Unintentionally, my parents forgot to laugh.  The stress of living in a new country and also worrying about their children’s future consumed them to exhaustion.  One of my first memories I have of being in Canada is when we first arrived here after my parents had already been here for a month or so and we, the five of us lived in a one-bedroom apartment on the corner of Dundas and Dovercourt in Toronto.  My father had a job working at Pearson International Airport and my siblings and I had to sleep together on a sofa bed.  My father would wake up around 4am to get ready for work and the kitchen and living area was all one room.  My father put on the kitchen light and I remember waking up, looking up over the couch and seeing him making his coffee.  Being in a new country and having spent the longest time I had ever experienced away from my parents while they set up shop in Toronto, all I felt was happiness at the appearance of my Dad making coffee.  Three weeks later my parents moved us all into a first-floor apartment of a house just down the same street. We finally got a room to sleep in. I have been back to that street and I can still point out the house and recall going to the store and the school which were all within walking distance of the apartment. I only have moments in my memory where we had laughter as a family.  Those moments were short lived.  I watched as my brother and sister excelled in school and I being the day dreamer would endure brutal bullying and at one point beaten so badly I was left on the ground bleeding.  I wouldn’t laugh for over a decade.

Jump into the future and I here I am, thrown into fatherhood.  The first two children were definitely an adjustment.  With little or no maturity, I had to guide these 2 human beings to show them the importance of manners and proper etiquette.  There were moments when I just wanted to say,

“Screw it, let’s just eat ice cream for dinner and then again for breakfast.”

That couldn’t happen.  I spent time with my oldest son, Shadow, in the park and took him to movies and played with him at home but I felt that I had to show him a proper home.

Then came my daughter, Brodie, and oh gees, was I in trouble.  From day one, she looked at me with the expectation that I had to protect her.

I failed horribly.

My first 2 children endured massive mistakes I made as a father because I didn’t take the time to remember the lessons my parents instilled in me.  To this day, I am so very proud of who they are and who they have become, in spite of their father’s mistakes.

Then came Nathaniel.

The first 2 months of Nathaniel’s life, I lived in fear and uncertainty.  People would talk to me, trying to advise me on how to stay positive and I couldn’t process their words.  To this day I cannot remember one single bit of advice I received from anyone.

It was middle of October and Nathaniel had his first open heart surgery.  It was a huge success!  His vitals were normal and the surgeons were very pleased with the results.  His Aorta and Ventricular wall were repaired and showed positive results with post-surgery tests.

Two days after the surgery, it happened.

Nathaniel woke up early in the morning and showed positive signs with the nurse who was always at his bedside.  Nathaniel decided to remove his intubation tube and almost immediately he crashed. Within seconds he was clinically dead.  I was woken up by another nurse with a loud knock at my room, which the hospital allowed me to sleep in. These rooms are given to parents inside the Critical Care Unit, whose children may not live past 24 hrs.

“Nathaniel has crashed.  We are working to revive him but he has stopped breathing for 2 minutes now.”

The nurse said in a quick, clear tone, to make sure there was no misunderstanding.

I went into shock. To this day I do not remember a single thought I had or what was said next.  I sat in the room and before I knew it, the nurse left and then returned a few minutes later to let me know that Nathaniel was breathing again and stable.

That was the day I decided to laugh again.  That is the day I promised myself that I would laugh with all my children again.

I started by telling sarcastic stories and over react to things so absurdly that there was no way my children could take me seriously. For example.

My daughter must have been 8 or 9 and she was telling me about her day and what she was doing and with a matter of fact tone said,

“I am going to play with (insert boys name).”  And I said.

“Baby girl,” She stopped and looked at me. “Does this boy know that your Daddy has a shotgun?” I said with a way too intense look.

“Daddy, don’t be silly.”  And she walked off.  My children were raised by me to know that nothing is serious.

“Dad, what’s for dinner?”

“Oh, the best dinner EVER!  First we will start with puke sandwiches and have booger soda….”

They would either make disgusted faces or giggle.  It got to the point where my children would first ask me,

“Ok Dad, I need you to be serious, don’t joke around.”  Yes, you guessed it, I would still joke around.

I made a lot of mistakes as a father.  Choosing to raise my children with laughter is definitely not one of them.  I taught Shadow dirty jokes (no swearing).  It was a knock-knock joke.

Knock-knock?

Who’s there?

Penis.

Penis who?

Penis colada.

All you new age parents must be dialing CAS right now because you think you are so highly evolved as parents.  Please get over yourselves.  I won’t tell you how to raise your brats if you stay out of my way, ok?

Deal.

Still to this day my family still roles their eyes at me when that story comes up.

I hear some people saying that boys should learn to cry and it will let them be more in touch with their emotions. I agree to a certain point.  I think children should also be told they should laugh more. A sense of humour really goes a long way.

Nathaniel’s first 8 years was filled with enormous amounts of pain.  Pain that you and I and really most of us can only have nightmares about. In the hospital he would plead and beg for me to tell the doctors and nurses to stop what they were doing.  I had to ignore him, to save his life.  That pain is on me, every second of every day.  Away from the hospital, we laughed.  Then laughed some more.  The only rule was, we were never allowed to make fun of anyone.

What I wish for my kids is, that they never forget to laugh. Especially at themselves.