My dad knows everything. I know I’m not supposed to think that anymore. I’m eighteen, I’m an adult, and now my father should be an archaic idiot who means well but doesn’t have a clue about the ‘modern’ world. It’s one of the basic stages of life; first dad is wise, then dad knows nothing. I’ve tried to embrace that stereotype, but it has proven difficult.
When I was about twelve, I sat myself down and decided it was time to prove that dad didn’t really know EVERYTHING. I researched what seemed like an incredibly large array of subjects (about 3) and smoothly integrated them into conversation.
“Charlotte do you want a salad?”
“Sure! Hey did you know the little ice age had an effect on violin sound?”
He would then launch into an hour-long lecture covering all of my research and reaching far beyond it.
Everyone believes dad know best when they are young. Children unconditionally, and regardless of circumstances, love their fathers and accept the information and attachment that is given in return as normal and accurate. We believe what our parents believe. Why else would be blindly accept that there is a giant bunny that hops around laying candy eggs or that leprechauns hide their gold at the end of the rainbow when a much more logical place is under their mattresses or in the bank? The stages of life can also be viewed as: first we believe in Santa Claus, then we don’t, then we are Santa Claus.
Fathers teach their children how relationships work and how to approach problems and disagreements, and therefore have a strong impact on their children’s lives. This impact is explored at length in many literary works.
The quintessential literary work addressing a father’s relationship with his daughters is undoubtedly King Lear. Lear is dividing up his kingdom, is deciding his daughter’s share based on flattery. Goneril and Regan, the oldest two, see no problem in satisfying their greed for power by flattering their father. The youngest daughter, Cordelia, refuses to lie because she really does love her father. In return, she is banished and ends up dead because this is Shakespeare and everyone cool always dies.
King Lear is supposed to address the different types of relationships between fathers and children, but it kind of ignores the grey areas (and therefore most real relationships that exist.) For example, if I knew I would get no inheritance and would never see my father again if I refused to say something nice to him, I might find it in me to exaggerate just a little. Although dividing up property based on love is silly anyways. My father would be much more likely to base our shares on GPA (in which case I would be queen of everything.)
There may be some children like Goneril and Regan who would gladly lie in order to get what they want from their parents, and then destroy their parent as soon as they can. Actually I know there are, I see them on ads for sweet 16 Reality TV shows all the time. But they are the exception, as are children like Cordelia. Most of us are somewhere in the middle.
I like to think that I’m the perfect daughter. I get good grades, I react to every comment my parents make, adjusting my actions accordingly. Being a good daughter is a lot more than being good, though. Cordelia is the “good daughter” who refuses to lie to her father. Because of her refusal to exaggerate just a little bit, she dies, her father goes mad and then dies, half the other characters are killed or commit suicide and whole country is pretty much in ruins. That’s less than ideal.
So, what should have happened? Would Cordelia have been a better daughter if she lied to her father but saved everyone all that trouble? Or was Lear just being a really crappy father when he banished his daughter for refusing to flatter him?
I’m definitely not Cordelia. I love my father, but I’m also smart enough to know how to get what I want. I have an end game in mind just like Goneril, but my end game is a lot less nefarious. Usually it involves food.
My dad is also a lot more reasonable than Lear. Unless it comes to making up math tests, and then all bets are off!
Shakespeare did his darndest to explore the relationships between fathers and their children, but he barely scratched the surface. There are as many classifications of relationships as there are fathers and children- a whole lot.