It was Friday and it was the end of term. Jeremy, the joyful boy who often frequents my house to read the many illustrated story books I collect, returned home from school hurriedly. He had his end-of-term report card that his Father was eager to see.
Once home, Jeremy quietly entered his house and placed his report card tentatively on his bed. There were boxes filled with papers around his room, papers belonging to his Father. His Mother had asked him to tidy and sort the contents into piles: the throw awaypile and the keeppile. Any useless documentation he identified was to be used as toilet paper.
Whilst Jeremy opened the first box, his eyes spied an old report card he hadn’t seen before. It was dated Nineteen Seventy-Eight and carried the name Jacob, his Father. It held the following review from his then class teacher, Mr. Tandy
“Jacob is a stubborn thankless child,” Mr. Tandy wrote, “never a serious student in class and always recklessly fighting with other classmates.”
Much to Jeremy’s delight, the report was even worse than his own as his Father had scored terribly in both math and science. Once he had read it, he mindfully placed the report on the main table in the middle of the house for his Father to find when he returned. Meanwhile, Jacob was on his way back home from town at some speed, whistling as usual. He knew Jeremy’s report card awaited him and he was in a desperate rush to cross examine his son’s termly performance.
As Jacob entered the house, his eyes darted to the table. He clocked the familiar blue report card, which hadn’t changed since his school days, and believing it to be Jeremy’s, already began shaking his head in disappointment as if predicting its unpleasant content. His eyes scanned the page straight to the scores, skipping any personal assessments entirely.
“Jeremy, come here at once!” Jacob barked, demanding his immediate presence.
“I am coming, Father.”
“Today you will tell me why I waste my money to pay your substantial school fees!” fumed Jacob.
Jeremy looked on confused as his Father turned angrily green at the term results before him.
“You are lazy and bone idle, you will see me today, boy!! Let me go and fetch two good sticks to thrash some discipline into you!” he said sternly, slamming the report card back onto the table.
“But, Father…” reasoned Jeremy, “this is not my report card!”
“What? Then whose?” Jacob interjected.
“Why, it’s yours. I discovered it in one of the old boxes.”
Jeremy spoke with a knowing smile, which didn’t go unnoticed by Father. He promptly slapped his son clean across the face for being so disrespectful and for daring to trick him. So embarrassed was Jacob that one of his old report cards had been discovered in this way.
“Who gave you permission to check my things? Your Mother will tell me why she allows children to open documents they’ve no business opening!” roared the head of the family.
Later, at my home, as Jeremy recounted the story to me, such hypocrisy and ignorance of the father filled my ears. I was perturbed to watch the drama unfold of a foolish man frantic for the world to think him wise. Jeremy always assumed his slowness and personal difficulty in learning was a weakness he attributed to his Mother. As is tradition, the child’s wisdom is handed down by the Father and only the foolishness is received by the Mother.
This story is as old as the hills – Jacob and men of his ilk are a cultural phenomenon. The traditional Father, behind the veneer of “wisdom,” is actually observed as hypocritical, proud, and dishonest; and when challenged, he will exhibit anger, unhappiness, stress, frustration and unkindness under a pretext of “teaching the child.” In simple terms, this is laziness, irresponsibility and unGodliness. Jeremy’s Father, it appears, hasn’t learnt much in the intervening years.
This story is as old as the hills – Jacob and men of his ilk are a cultural phenomenon. The traditional Father, behind the veneer of “wisdom,” is actually observed as hypocritical, proud, and dishonest; and when challenged, he will exhibit anger, unhappiness, stress, frustration, and unkindness under a pretext of “teaching the child.” In simple terms, this is laziness, irresponsibility, and unGodliness. Jeremy’s Father, it appears, hasn’t learned much in the intervening years.
Good parents should listen to children; good children should listen to parents. There should be harmony in the home along with trust and love. Any teaching should be delivered through kind words and by lessons learned, interactions carried out in a way to feel connected, appreciated and happy. We need to encourage our youth, and we need to be responsible, more tolerant, mindful, and compassionate with each other. We need to take care of all of God’s creations now, so they are cared for long after we have lived.
With honesty and understanding and compassion, the Father would surely have left Jeremy with a lasting legacy, which in turn could be proudly passed down through generations to come.
Uncle Books is a village story reader and teller committed to growing emotionally and intellectually strong children who care and contribute.