Here, with a typically British bluntness, is one father's reproach to his children. Last year, after what must have been a doozy of a family weekend, a retired Royal Navy officer sent the following email to his children. From The Telegraph:
Dear All Three
With last evening's crop of whinges and tidings of more rotten news for which you seem to treat your mother like a cess-pit, I feel it is time to come off my perch.
It is obvious that none of you has the faintest notion of the bitter disappointment each of you has in your own way dished out to us. We are seeing the miserable death throes of the fourth of your collective marriages at the same time we see the advent of a fifth.
We are constantly regaled with chapter and verse of the happy, successful lives of the families of our friends and relatives and being asked of news of our own children and grandchildren. I wonder if you realise how we feel — we have nothing to say which reflects any credit on you or us. We don't ask for your sympathy or understanding — Mum and I have been used to taking our own misfortunes on the chin, and making our own effort to bash our little paths through life without being a burden to others. Having done our best — probably misguidedly — to provide for our children, we naturally hoped to see them in turn take up their own banners and provide happy and stable homes for their own children.
Fulfilling careers based on your educations would have helped — but as yet none of you is what I would confidently term properly self-supporting. Which of you, with or without a spouse, can support your families, finance your home and provide a pension for your old age? Each of you is well able to earn a comfortable living and provide for your children, yet each of you has contrived to avoid even moderate achievement. Far from your children being able to rely on your provision, they are faced with needing to survive their introduction to life with you as parents.
Wow. It winds up:
I can now tell you that I for one, and I sense Mum feels the same, have had enough of being forced to live through the never-ending bad dream of our children's underachievement and domestic ineptitudes. I want to hear no more from any of you until, if you feel inclined, you have a success or an achievement or a REALISTIC plan for the support and happiness of your children to tell me about. I don't want to see your mother burdened any more with your miserable woes — it's not as if any of the advice she strives to give you has ever been listened to with good grace — far less acted upon. So I ask you to spare her further unhappiness. If you think I have been unfair in what I have said, by all means try to persuade me to change my mind. But you won't do it by simply whingeing and saying you don't like it. You'll have to come up with meaty reasons to demolish my points and build a case for yourself. If that isn't possible, or you simply can't be bothered, then I rest my case.
I am bitterly, bitterly disappointed.
Is this guy a monster? Or is he Father of the Year? His daughter has a thought, also from The Telegraph
Yesterday one of his daughters admitted that she had needed a “kick up the backside”. Emily Crews-Montes, 40, said: “He wouldn’t retract what he said, and nor should he. In no way would I ask him to apologise. Fundamentally, I couldn’t have a great quarrel with what he wrote. I accept it was too harsh..."
She said her father’s email did not upset her because she had already begun to turn her life around when she received it in February. She had set up a business and had started translating a French self-help book into English.
“I had already done what he told me to do. I had already given myself a kick up the backside.” She admitted spending “many years underperforming”, partly because her father’s uncompromising stance left her with little self-confidence.
His daughter, in fact, was the one who published the email, with her father's permission, last weekend.
You've all probably seen the YouTube mash-ups of the famous scene from the film Downfall, which chronicles the last days of Hitler's Reich. In that scene, a berserk Hitler reacts to bad news from the front.
So, I'm thinking: what if we replaced the address of that email -- the "All Three" children of the disappointed retired Royal Navy officer Nick Crews -- with, say, some other groups who need a good stiff dressing down. Obama voters, maybe? The Romney campaign advisors? Anyone else come to mind?
Because the end of the story is a kind of good news, isn't it? "I had already done what he told me to do," his daughter says. "I had already given myself a kick up the backside."
Thought experiment: what if our next presidential candidate delivered a touch of Captain Crews to an electorate which richly deserves it?
He'd probably lose, of course. But it would be satisfying.