Toronto Star

Jun. 16, 02:00 EDT

The many faces of fatherhood

`I was overprotective to a fault'

Martin Patriquin
The Toronto Star

DAD'S FOOTSTEPS: Superintendent Keith Forde proudly stands with sons Ryan, left, and Roger.
Like many fathers, Keith Forde can't help but bring his work home with him.

As a 29-year veteran of the Toronto police force, Forde has seen the city at its best and worst. As a father, he wanted his kids to grow up in the city he loves, while shielding them from the misery he saw there every day.

Now the highest-ranking black officer on the force, with two grown boys and a teenage daughter, Superintendent Keith Forde has the luxury of introspection.

"I think police make the worst parents," says Forde, 53. "I was overprotective to a fault."

Childhood for his two oldest kids Ryan is 25, Roger 24 was a regimen of early curfews and strict rules, accompanied by an obsessive unease from their father.

"My boys couldn't even take the public transit system. We drove them everywhere," Forde says.

Both Ryan and Roger are now Toronto police officers, too.

Fatherhood wasn't easy for Forde, in large part because the long hours as a police officer kept him away from the kids. He often experienced the milestones of their childhood soccer games, cub scouts, air cadets second-hand, through his wife, Joycelyn.

"Shift work takes you away from the home during crucial times in child-rearing," he says.

Nevertheless, Forde made every moment count. He held weekly review sessions with his boys, Roger recalls, "to make sure we behaved, make sure we were on track."

The most important thing Forde gave his kids was his infallible belief in the role and importance of police in society something that helped, he says, during the boys' teenage years and inevitable rebellion.

"They are young black males and they are driving their daddy's car, and they've been stopped," he says. "What I taught them was a still tongue prevents wrath. When the police stop you, they have a point and if you the police say you did something you didn't do, then you take it to court. This is basic common sense I learned as a youngster."

Forde, the seventh of 11 children, grew up in Barbados, the son of a house painter and a mother who had her hands full. He was raised not only by his parents, but by the village he lived in.

He learned early that free time was an opportunity for trouble. "I have a philosophy: If I kept my kids busy, they couldn't get into trouble."

Here's another bit of advice Keith still relays to his kids: Remember to thank God. (Both sons still have to go to church at least once a month.)

But the disciplinarian has mellowed with experience. He readily admits he was too harsh with his boys and, according to son Roger, now explains the motives behind his rules to daughter Rhealyn, 14.

"I am not perfect," Forde says. "I get up, dust myself off and go back."

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