I’ve often wondered how parents teach their children to love.
The other day I found one way.
I was writing a screenplay with a former undercover Mountie, Sergeant Dalton Taggart. He, his wife and two teenage sons live in Victoria, and I had a wonderful time staying with them and working on the movie.
The two Taggart boys, both in their late teens, are ideal kids. I think the next lie either one of them tells will be their first. They’re good-looking, industrious and bright, and both have inherited the charm and humour of their parents. Swarms of teenage girls chase after them.
I remarked to Dalton that their younger boy, Steve, seemed to be exceptionally warm and loving toward his mother.
“When he was three, he broke his Mother’s heart,” said Dalton. “It was a bone-chilling Edmonton night. Outside, a blizzard raged. When I came home, my wife was crying. Steve had kept telling her that he didn’t love her.”
Since Dalton has spent most of his adult life facing down some of the most dangerous and lethal killers in the world, I wondered how a man like that would deal with such a small family member.
“Our boys were in their little beds,” said Dalton, “dressed in fluffy pajamas, the ones with sock feet. I said to Steve, ‘I understand you told your mother you didn’t love her.’ He nodded.”
“Not much fun to be in a house where you don’t love your Mother, is it? Steve said it wasn’t much fun. So I asked him, ‘I bet you don’t love your brother or me either, do you?’ Steve said he didn’t. His older brother started to cry. I did the only thing I could – I apologized to Steve.”
“Son, I’m sorry, we don’t want to keep you here if you don’t love us. He smiled and agreed totally, said he didn’t want to stay. I lifted him out of his bed and told him to say goodbye to his brother. His brother cried louder but I explained that we had to be brave, that it was unfair to keep Steve in a home where he didn’t love anyone. After all, there were lots of families out there who he could love.”
“I took Steve to the door; we shook hands. He said he would find a better family. I opened the door and the blizzard swirled in, but Steve was anxious to leave. ‘Don’t bother the neighbours,’ I said. ‘We wouldn’t want you to even think of living close to people you don’t love.’”
“The little guy eagerly agreed, then slogged out into the screaming snow. I gently closed the door.
“His brother ran up with Steve’s teddy bear. I told my older boy that it would be all right. I was watching Steve through the curtain to make sure he didn’t get lost as he marched into a new life. I switched off the porch light.”
“It took about seven seconds for Steve to stumble back through chest-high snow drifts to our porch and pound on our door.”
“I opened the door and there shivered Steve, his tears freezing to his cheek. ‘I love Mummy,’ he said. ‘I love all of you.’”
“‘Oh, you’ve just forgotten your teddy bear and you’re trying to make us feel better because we all love you,’ I said.”
“‘No,’ he said, ‘I really do love you. I don’t want to find another family. I love this one.'”
I’m sure there are many other reasons why the Taggarts have such a loving family. But I couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened if some of Canada’s most hardened criminals had learned a little bit about tough love when they were three.
For starters, Sergeant Taggart would have had a lot less work to do over the years.