There are certain pitfalls in the process of naming a thing. For a project with the mighty ambition of summing up the current state of the dadosphere, any junior linguist like myself might make the objection that dadoir lacks verve. But let’s just say dadoir is convenient for now (yes, manoir was considered, but disqualified after a shocking trip to the web).
Here’s my sobering truth: since my son arrived into the world ten years ago, I have not kept a respectable journal or any sort of regular record about what that journey has been like for me. I am not even in the pictures I took to record the passage of my child’s precious early years. This omission in my personal story is not because of laziness or a lack of taking time for myself. Really, it’s just a case of woefully bad judgment.
Here’s how I know. Last week, I watched an old super 8 film of my family strolling through the hills above the Santa Clara Valley. The amateur cameraman lacks a steady hand and is preoccupied with trying out action-packed camera moves, like crash zooms and swish pans (it was the 70s!), but occasionally he does land on a subject long enough to record a little scene. When I recognize my father through the haze of 30 years, it’s like a magic door has been opened. Look, there’s my sister on his back! And the camera pulls back to reveal a frisky figure running through the grass toward him. He scoops up this second child – me – and swings both kids around like a human carnival ride. He is young. He is still alive. He is the titan I remember striding above me.
To see that my father was once in his early thirties, playing with his children on a sun swept hillside in hip-hugging, red corduroys and shoulder-length hair is like glimpsing Atlantis. I had a hunch it existed, could even feel it with certainty sometimes, especially when I played with my own son. But here on celluloid is the hard evidence. This is why a dadoir is vital. As much as we feel compelled to pass on the memories of childhood to our children (or simply as keepsakes for us!), what kids want equally, perhaps even more, is a record of us, the dads. What did we look like during those hazy years, when we began our mystifying jouney onto the new continent of dad-o-tania. They need these documents as proof of what they may already begin to suspect – they will come to this time just like their fathers, with the same doubts and the same wonder. And that is something to remember.
Dan McKinney is a professor at the UBC School of Journalism and an award-winning documentary filmmaker.
He taught the first-ever Writing for Dads workshop in Vancouver this past June.