It’s Christmas week (as if you didn't know!) and, as I’ve already posted about the meaning of Christmas and a Shop Independent Gift Guide, this week I’m publishing another piece in our popular ‘Dad’s Corner’ series for a little light non-Christmas reading and something to think about as we end one year and start another.
My husband has been thinking more about what we teach our son, both with our words and our actions, so here’s a pretty heartfelt piece from him as the second in this series:
As a new Dad, I've had to make some changes in my thinking. My son, at this moment in time, is a little crook - he has a blocked nose and the early signs of man flu. It’s a killer! Ask any man you know and man flu has almost taken them to the pearly gates on numerous occasions. So he’s become a little needy and this is something that he has most definitely learned from me. It’s just one of many things he will automatically pick up from me over the years. So it got me thinking – how do I make sure I don’t pass on to him some of my bad traits that I picked up from my parents and their relationship?
Let me give that some context. My father left when he was two years older than I am now. I was 11. My sister was eight or nine. The instant loss that you feel doesn’t even come close to the endless pain and destruction that a broken marriage can bring over the course of life. But, to be clear, this is not a “woe is me” post.
You never really know what goes on in the mind of your parents, the in’s and out’s of their relationship, the blood sweat and tears that go into it. And ultimately, you’ll only get one side of the story when it happens and then a different one when the other parent gets a chance.
My Dad didn’t just give up on a marriage – he gave away something that I, as a Dad, could never ever give away. He gave up being a family and a father. I don’t know to this day what went on in their marriage, not a clue. But I do know that it continues to affect me.
All I know is my old man left. He walked away. That is the bottom line. I didn’t get to chat, play and enjoy life with my Dad from that day forward. There was one or two days a week we would see each other – just pick up and drop off, via a cinema or bowling alley. That is not being a Dad.
A Dad should be there 24/7. He may be travelling for work, or at the office – but, whenever the family calls, the Dad should be there. He is the leader in the house (or at least he thinks he is).
Anyway, this is not a sob story. What I’m trying to say is that his relationship with his father could be the single most important relationship of a young man’s life. A role model who shapes, encourages and teaches their son to be a man. All that our son knows at the moment is when his Mum or I walk into the room he is happy, and in turn we are too. When he cries in his bed, we go to him to show that when he needs us we will be there. And that is not exclusive to infancy. This is a contract that we signed up to for life.
Yes, situations differ, but when the decision to have children is a conscious one you are saying, “I’ll be there for you all, whenever you need me, unconditionally.”
My Dad cheated, so the trust in my best friend, hero and role model was gone – so how could I trust anyone? How could I believe someone wasn’t going to leave, or that they actually loved me when they said they did? Couple that with a mother who came out of that relationship badly, warning her children every time they had a new partner or friend to tread lightly, and make sure you know EXACTLY what you are getting into. And this is exactly how you FUCK IT UP. That’s on my Dad.
And this is exactly why I won’t pass my insecurities on to my son. My wife and I bicker, squabble, call it whatever you like. That’s the ins and outs of every relationship. You have to do those things. Being an individual means you have your unique idiosyncrasies that will clash from time to time. Especially when there is a newborn in the house – yes, I love him more than anything else in the world, but some days you just want to have a pause button where you can sit down on the couch and zone out to a dreadful movie, and then get on with it.
But we know it doesn’t work like that. Having a baby is bloody hard work, and it’s a situation that is unbelievably life altering. You do shit that you would find completely unacceptable in any other situation. You would literally do anything for an extra five minutes sleep, or a hot shower. And when real life gets in the way of those five minutes of heaven you have the capacity to blow your FUCKING TOP! I’ve repeatedly cracked the shits with my wife, and she has too with me, over the smallest of things. And the argument will become a bit irrational (“you said this” and “I said that”). But when it’s done it’s done, we are not teenagers anymore. There is no ‘makeup sex’ (see five minutes comment above). Instead, there’s a hi-five, a kiss and a knowing look of “sorry”.
But there is never a single second when walking away is an option. Not only because of the children, because even just being a husband makes you better. It does. No matter how much my parents managed to ‘fuck it up’ and give me idiosyncrasies so painful they make my wife laugh with pure rage, walking away is just not an option.
The grass isn’t greener on the other side of the fence. If your grass isn’t green, you water that shit, tend to it, talk to it, sing to it, give it space to breathe, but you don’t turn your back on it. That grass is your relationship, your family, and your marriage. That patch of grass is where your family will play, grow and learn.
My son is a sponge. He learns something new every day. Today he learned that if he reaches up and pulls the Christmas tree shiny things will fall off. Maybe tomorrow he will try that piece of rusk that fell under the couch one more time. He might do things that make me dumbfounded, but that he thinks are acceptable to do. But he will learn that those things are not acceptable, and change his behaviour. Just like he will learn that you should trust and you should listen to someone who says they love you. You should fall for someone. Yes, it might hurt sometimes, and yes that will sting for a while, but when you do meet that person you want to start a family with it will all be worth it.
I am learning how to not fuck it up. He is teaching me this, and so is my wife. You listen, love and trust. You be honest and open. And if you want to cry, do it, no matter who is around you. If you want to laugh when you are getting in 'trouble', laugh – it shows who you really are. And if you do have flaws like we all do, accept them, and try to make them better with a little watering each day.
So, to my little dude Harry, I promise I won’t fuck it up. Please promise me that, when your time comes, you will do the same.
PS. Harry, swearing is not big and not clever. Do not do it.