Happy Father’s Day
A huge shout out to all the dads on father’s day here in Australia and the other parts of the world who also celebrate this special day today.
Today is a day to celebrate the fathers and the roles they have played in our life. We have all had our own unique experience of this first and most crucial relationship we have with a man, and we all have our own memories and impressions of the ways in which this man helped create, influence and shape our life. And I’m sure we can all find ways to criticise their choices, behaviours and methods, just as we could our mothers too. But today is a day for celebration: Celebration of the memories, the lessons, the gifts, the challenges, the sacrifices, and the sheer joy of being given the opportunity to be alive.
My parents separated when I was 5 so my memories of family togetherness are sparse at best. As is the fashion in separated families, particularly in those days, I lived predominantly with my mother along with my older brother and sister, and we would go to dads on the weekends.
Because I was the youngest by 5 years, when my siblings were in their teens and had their own social lives to concentrate on I was very much like an only child. This meant that I got to spend quite a bit of 1 on 1 time with dad on those weekends.
When I reflect on my childhood memories of those times with dad, what stands out for me most fondly is the spirit of adventure. My dad has always been very active and finds it difficult to sit still, that is apart from his regular afternoon naps on the living room floor complete with roaring V8 style snoring! Now at 73, despite a couple of knee reconstructions, he still refuses to slow down with his regular ballroom dancing, golf games (I can still kick his arse), hiking, gardening and perpetual home decorating!
So my childhood weekends were always packed full with activity, and, whilst at the time I would often complain, particularly in the long cold English winters, these are some of my fondest memories of our time together: Hiking in all weathers, playing golf in the snow (insane!), playing squash, jogging through the moors, fishing trips, museum visits, and holidays abroad.
My dad has a deep love and appreciation for history, the natural world, and for physical fitness and is most happy when he can blend all three. He is also an artist and deeply appreciates the magnificent displays that nature unconditionally provides for us, and as such he is always in search of the perfect landscape. These are some of the qualities I love the most about my dad, and which, through grace, have managed to transmit and lodge their way deep into my own Soul. This is a fact that I am eternally grateful for and I hope I can also pass these qualities on to my own kid’s.
As a single father of 3 amazing girls, ages 11, 16 and 18, who I share care 50/50 with, I know and deeply appreciate the importance of the role I play as their dad. I am consistently floored and humbled at the honour, privilege and responsibility that comes with being their dad. To play a crucial role in the co-creation of another human being, not only physically but also emotionally, mentally, socially and spiritually is, I believe, the greatest miracle this life has to offer.
Though I have to admit it’s definitely not always easy: the mind of a teenage girl is a mystery I will probably never get close to understanding, the constant hair in the plug hole is something I could do without (I should collect it and make wigs!), and really? do you need to use that much toilet paper?!? But in all seriousness to pay witness to the evolution and individuation of a person you helped create is such a blessing, and here are a few things I love the most about being a dad to my girls:
- Being the go to guy. The guy that knows stuff about stuff (allegedly).
- Being the big brave spider catcher (while I’m secretly squirming inside)
- Helping with homework (except maths!).
- Seeing them overcome their own challenges (while resisting my need to fix).
- Watching their social interactions and seeing how much their friends love them.
- Learning to master a hair bun for dance competitions.
- Meeting the first boyfriend, and then the first girlfriend.
- Feeling the push back, seeing the rebel enforce their individuality (not always an easy one!).
- Being so in love with someone that I would die, and probably kill, for them.
I am very aware of how fortunate I am, not only to have had a mostly positive relationship with my own dad with some great memories, but also to be able to play a very hands on role in my own kids life.
For most fathers the commitments of work take up far too much of our time and energy leaving little left for our kids. And I see too many divorced men who don’t get to be much more than a child support payment and a weekend play mate for their kids, either through custody arrangements, parental conflict or through their own choices. And I also see way too many men who shirk the responsibility all together, and this is one of the biggest tragedies of our time, and which is having enormous negative impacts on our society.
As I’ve already mentioned, I believe that to be a father is the most important, enjoyable, enlightening, challenging, and rewarding roles a man can play in his life which will never fail to provide you with endless opportunities to have a good look at your own stuff.
So I’ll conclude with a few little nuggets that I’ve discovered along the way which I hope will help others:
- There is no one size fits all method of fathering, while your dad and other dads experiences, books and workshops can be really helpful, they didn’t father your kid.
- It is an ever evolving journey. Your kids grow and so do their needs. What worked when they were 6 will not work when they’re 16. It’s up to you to adjust to their growth.
- Their world is VERY different to your world. Generational differences have always provided for plenty of conflict, frustration and confusion between parent and child, but the gap is bigger now than ever. It is up to us to try our best to understand the world through their eyes.
- You cannot protect your kids from all of their crappy decisions. They will screw up and sometimes the best parenting is allowing them to feel the consequences and clean up their own mess, while offering love and support from a distance.
- Have as much 1 on 1 time as you can. Go out for their favourite dinner, find something you both enjoy. Spend time without the other siblings and the influence of those family dynamics.
- Learn to listen, really listen, not only to what is said but to the subtle communication in silence, gesture, and a slamming door.
- Learn to arrest your need to fix, correct, be right, and be comfortable.
- Your kids are often your best teachers.
- Your kids will reject you, it is an essential part of their own individuation. Be aware of your own feelings of rejection and your need to be needed, and how they come out in projection, guilt tripping etc.
- Make time to BE with your kids, turn the screens off, create together, share stories, laughs, dreams, tears and fears.
- Allow your kids to see, experience and learn from your own expression of emotion.
- Enjoy it! They really do grow up way too fast.