How to be a good parent
1. Make break promises and follow through.
Remember when I was little and how I wanted to marry you when I grew up? I can’t remember if it was for my birthday or Christmas, but I remember getting this large ugly winter coat. It had a purple patchy pattern and a furry black hood. You said, “You look like your Slovakian grandmother.” The best part about that coat was the present inside one of the pockets.
I pull out a rosy pink ring box. You open it for me. Someone jokes, “Are you going to marry your dad, Ann?” You give me the little gold ring engraved with the first initial of my name. 
Someone says, “Be careful. Don’t lose it.” 

Don’t recognize the engagement ring you gave your ex-wife.
Don’t ask your twenty-six-year-old daughter why she wears it.

2. Be a parent forever until you don’t feel like it anymore.
Your oldest daughter is twenty-one. Send her an email on Christmas Eve.
Write, “Gone to the Czech Republic. Took the dog. Get your sister to grab her things from the apartment.” 
Send her an email three years later of you travelling in Europe. 
Attach a photo of yourself smiling in bed with a thumbs up as you showcase your leg in a cast from a motorcycle accident. 
Write, “This changed my life.” 

3. Teach your daughter to find a husband that is as honest secretive as you.
Preach to her the idea that she can tell you anything and expect the same in return.
Don’t ask her about her boyfriend, Andy. Don’t ask if he is honest like you. 

In the boiler room of the Health Centre you work at as a maintenance man, you say, “Humans are just like any other animal. It’s natural for people to check each other out. You know my boss, Susan? She’s good looking. I can say that because you know I wouldn’t do anything. But if I didn’t think she was good looking then there’s something wrong with me.” 

Tell her the same week she found out that Andy cheated on her, “I’m seeing a woman in the Czech Republic.”
Convince her that you are not cheating.

4. Teach your daughter to build self-respect compromise her integrity. 
Your oldest daughter is twenty-six. 
Send her a text message. Write, “Where are you?”
Don’t tell her why you are contacting her, so she knows that it is her job to keep holding the door open in case you want to pop back in. 

“What do you think, Ann?” You asked me during one of our daily conversations in the living room. 
“I don’t know,” I said when I didn’t agree with you. I knew that if I told you the truth you’d keep me there until you felt like I had seen your point of view and understood why you were right.
“What kind of answer is that? Are you stupid or something?” You said with a laugh like you knew that I knew that I wasn’t stupid. 
“I don’t know,” I said again. I knew that what was coming next was faster than verbally disagreeing with you. 
“What do you mean you don’t know? I don’t even know why I talk to you. You always end up crying. See, there you go.”

Train her to believe that her voice is only valid if it agrees with yours.

5. Teach her that guys only want one thing favours.
Your oldest daughter is seventeen. Take her out to her favourite Chinese restaurant. Sit at your usual table. 

The cushioned chairs welcome our familiar figures. Order a pitcher of iced tea and a side of their famous cho-cho beef.
“Can I borrow $5000 from you?” You ask me as you cross off on a yellow-sticky note the $2000 you owed me. I felt like an adult when you included me in the financial conversations of the house. “I want to buy a scope for my gun, and that snowmobile we looked at.” I thought about the two in our backyard. 
It doesn’t occur to me that it’s my money that is paying for this food. I don’t think about the $500 a month I started paying for rent because you said, “it’s your responsibility to help take care of the family.” 
A co-parent without children. An imitation of your Slovakian mother. 

6. Forgive, never forget.
“You’re the reason why we are in debt,” you said to me after I said that you cannot stay in the spare room of my apartment. “You wanted to be an actor and a singer remember? Remember? We spent all that money on you. Your brother and sister won’t get the same opportunity to do what they want because there’s no money left. You wouldn’t have any of this—this furniture, this place, your life—if I didn’t give up what I did, right? Right?”
You wouldn’t be free if you didn’t give up me. Right? 

7. Tell your daughter her wildness is a gift syndrome of Czechoslovakian-gypsy blood. 
Ask her, “Who in your life is number one?”

When mom doesn’t get her way with me, she says, “you’re just like your father.”
When you don’t get your way with me, you leave. 
When my boss doesn’t get her way with me, she says, “Settle down.”
When you asked me what I thought, I said, “Family?”
I roll the engagement ring you once gave mom around my finger and say out loud, “I am not my dad.”

Ann Marie Hak is a half Czech, half Filipino, first generation Canadian. She studies creative writing and film at the University of Victoria. Ann believes that life is like a red pen on writing, an opportunity to craft yourself. Follow her portfolio at where she posts broken photography, poetic paintings, and her best stories. 
© 2019 Ann Marie Hak. Published by LITTLE FICTION | BIG TRUTHS, August 2019. 
Images from The Noun Project (credits: TMD).


by Ann Marie Hak