We all like time off but I'm not overly ecstatic over Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty instituting Family Day back in 2007. This contrived, way too right wing initiative is proof that not only Tory politicians try to brain wash up with nuclear family dogma. My family is my mother and I, a twosome which the likes of McGuinty, Harper and other single-mother haters would not consider to be a real family.
From a western democratic state point-of-view, the nuclear family is a great thing to promote. Nuclear families surely cost less to the state. Parents shoulder all the care and cost of children and, hopefully, grandparents. The financial cost is disproportionately shouldered by the father and the care by the mother although the workplace and economics are changing fast and soon married women will be bearing all of conceivable facets of family burdens.
If the politicians cared about families, they would force employers to support their employees when they need to take care of ageing parents, for one. How about a minimum wage that's also a living wage? And when are we going to have that thirty-five hour work week?
Well, despite the odds, some people do seem to thrive and some of them happen to be members of a nuclear family.
Canadians are in love with the Bilodeau family today, the day after twenty-two year-old Alexandre Bilodeau won the gold medal for mogul skiing at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. How could not we love them? It's true, Serge Bilodeau is a surgeon and the family is spared the economic hardship many endure. But it couldn't have been easy for the Bilodeaus when their first born, Frederic, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Several years later, the Bilodeaus had Alexandre and Béatrice, the latter is a future moguls champion hopeful. As the family grew up, the Bilodeaus would wait eating junk food in the hockey arena cafeteria where Alexandre played. One day, Sylvie Bilodeau told her son the family should take up a sport they could all do together. Frederic couldn't play hockey but he could ski (although the Bilodeaus had been told Frederic wouldn't be able to walk passed the age of ten, the twenty-nine year-old man can still walk and ski).
We've seen the Alexandre and Frederic branding. Alex and Frederic playing chess. Alex and Frederic sharing a laugh. Alexandre flaunts Frederic everywhere he goes. What's most extraordinary is how camera lens seem unable to cast an exploitative eye on the brothers. Both possess that quintessential Quebecois lack of self-consciousness. The ease and authenticity of every moment they share in the spotlight is moving and, at the same time, natural.
Think about it, it could be disastrous. It could have the whiff of an Oscar-friendly performance from a very bad film. But there's none of that here.
And last night, there was also a funny moment. The entire family was on CTV when some guy (no one bothered telling us he was) showed up with a bottle of champagne a glass for Frederic. "The first glass should go to your inspiration, Alexandre". Alexandre mentioned Frederic wasn't allowed alcohol but Frederic couldn't believe his luck. The smile on him as he gazed down the glass was priceless. A genuinely concerned Brian Williams tried to put a stop to this potentially dangerous development mentioning something to the effect that giving booze to a severely physically-challenged person who was barred from drinking alcohol might not be a good idea. Being no fool, Frederic was already downing his Moet & Chandon. (N.B.: Alexandre was back on CTV this morning and his brother's fine.)
Now, I don't understand this newfangled folly of having victory celebrations every night instead of a small medal ceremony after each competition but Alexandre is getting his medal this evening (more than twenty-four hours after his win). He hopes security will allow him to bring his brother to the podium — something he does every time he wins a competition his brother is able to attend.
I'm a cynic and I'd be able to see true the gloss of the Bilodeau family brand. What I see in Alexandre is pride but also the humility and attention Alex gives in every moment of his interviews. He treats every interviewer and person mentioned in an interview with respect. When another CTV journalist thanked him for saving Canada from a Dale Begg-Smith victory, instead of bashing the man or being overly diplomatic, Alexandre said: "Yes, the first Canadian winning a gold medal on Canadian soil but for the Australia. That would have been weird." The gold medallist, embraces his victory whilst stating how Canada's second gold medal will be just as sweet as the first. He has also said how there would have been no hope for a gold medal for him, had the competition taken later than in the first couple of days of the Games. He would have been too busy partying and cheering on other athletes. Bilodeau's focus doesn't seem to cast an oppressive pall on his life. He's twenty-two and will express his right to party for the next two weeks.
(what's that right to party song again?)
Not every nuclear family creates an Alexandre Bilodeau and we should also take this day to celebrate those who have succeeded in spite of their family situation, First Nations Olympic snowboarder, who stayed out as late as possible at night for fear she would find her intoxicated father had beaten up her mother again. We all deserve a happy and nourishing family environment from the cradle.