We had an interesting story come out of the Remembrance Day media coverage last month in Ottawa. It turns out that one of the soldiers interviewed by CBC television about the importance of the day, is not actually a soldier. In fact he has never been in the Canadian military, and yet he was dressed in a uniform. A review of his Facebook page showed that he has been playing this role for a while since he apparently got married in uniform.
Police have investigated the case and have now laid charges against him for impersonating a member of the military.
This case got me thinking about the masks and uniforms we all wear.
We all have different sides to our personalities and often we show different faces to different people in different circumstances. I’m not sure what motivates someone to put on a uniform and masquerade as someone they are not. I do, however understand the desire to wear specific masks to achieve particular ends. The face I present at work is not quite the same face that I present in the school yard to another parent. The face a teenager presents to a parent is quite different from the one they show to their friends.
As individuals, parents and families we all try to present our best faces to the world – lest anyone think we are a house full of crazy people, or that we live in a palace of filth. We strive to present perfection – whatever that means to each of us. We present a facade the suggests we can do and have it all. This is the myth of the supermum.
We dads don’t need to worry about presenting a face of perfection to the world, because no one thinks we can do it all. We are expected to be slightly incompetent when it comes to home life. Frankly you are lucky if we remember to shave in the morning.
Of course I would not want to disabuse anyone of that expectation since it makes me look pretty great when I manage to get to school on time and remember to bring my two kids who actually attend school. I’m pretty sure I get bonus points if they are clothed and their hair looks like it has been brushed in the last 24 hours.
My perfect face for the world is only visible three times a week for about four hours after I shave. I try to match those days up with the ones where I get my kids to school early e.g. not five minutes after the bell has rung. I don’t have the energy to demonstrate perfection. That said I do put more effort into cleaning up the house when people are coming over. Partly because I can suddenly see the house through other people’s eyes and I realize it is time to carry that pile of stuff up the stairs instead of just leaving it on the stairs where it has been growing since the last time we had visitors.
Life is a challenge and a struggle and everyone is dealing with something or another. I am granted many privileges in my life as compared to a great many other people in the world. My daily struggles are nothing compared to a parent living in poverty, or a new immigrant adjusting to a completely different life and trying to find work, let alone a kid who has been orphaned by Ebola or whose parents have been taken away as political prisoners or killed in war. I am a white male, living in North America and I have a job, a beautiful wife and three great kids so I have it pretty good.
That said, we struggle too – this is not a woe-is-me plea. It is more a recognition that in spite of outward appearances everyone faces challenges. For the most part we all try to hide the majority of what we are all going through as individuals. We hide it because we don’t want others to see us as failures. We hide it because we don’t want others to talk about how messed up we are. We hide because it is tiring to think about our challenges and struggles all the time. If we don’t try to find the good in our lives and the world around us, we will drown under our own weight.
Everyday we put on our uniforms and our masks and head out to face the world.