November 27, 2003
The real emes of what boys want from their fathers

This is a good article, I think. Like a lot of the stuff I'm reading at the moment, I got to it via Arts & Letters Daily.

Here are two paragraphs from it which I particularly liked:

What do boys and young men want from their fathers? For the most part I think we want precisely what they cannot give us – a painless transfusion of wisdom, a key to life’s mysteries, the secret to happiness, assurance that one’s daily struggles and aggravations amount to something more than some stupid cosmic joke with no punch line. Oh, Dad, you have been here longer than I, you have been in the trenches, up and over the hill, quick, before you exit, fill me in: does it all add up, cohere, make any sense at all, what’s the true story, the real emes, tell me, please, Dad? By the time my father reached sixty, I knew he could not deliver any of this.

But for someone who "could not deliver any of this", this isn't too bad:

In my middle thirties I was offered a job teaching at a nearby university. In balancing the debits and credits of the offer, I suggested to my father that the job would allow me to spend more time with my two sons. "I don’t mean to butt in," he said, before proceeding to deliver the longest speech of his paternal career, "but that sounds to me like a load of crap. If you’re going to take a teaching job, take it because you want to teach, or because you can use the extra time for other work, not because of your kids. Con yourself into thinking you make decisions because of your children and you’ll end up one of those pathetic old guys whining about his children’s ingratitude. Your responsibilities to your sons include feeding them and seeing they have a decent place to live and helping them get the best schooling they're capable of and teaching them right from wrong and making it clear they can come to you if they're in trouble and setting them an example of how a man should live. That's how I looked upon my responsibility to you and your brother. But for a man, work comes first."

"Emes" is obviously some Jewish thing. What is it? I have the feeling that this second paragraph is a real slice of it, in some way or another. As far as I can judge from this (which I got to by typing "What does "emes" mean?" into Google), it means something along the lines of "the complete truth", rather than just a casual approximation. Hitting the nail hard on the head, rather than merely striking it a weak, glancing blow.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 01:11 PM
Category: Parents and children