It’s been a little while since Dave has written a post for me but this is a big one and I won’t deny it made me cry the first time I read it . . .
Col has been pecking my head to write a new post for the blog for quite some time now. I shouldn’t complain. It’s nice to be wanted and I quite enjoy seeing what falls out of my head when I get on a topic where I’ve got something to say. Therein lies my problem. I’ve been struggling to find a topic that I don’t write meaningless waffle about.
Anyway this topic has some weight for me, so it’s been nagging at me that I could write something real about this, and as it came up in conversation recently with some friends I thought I’d try to put some of my thoughts down. Here goes…
I don’t know my Father.
I’ve met him. Just not nearly enough for a human who provided half the genetic material that is me. He and my Mum split up when I was very little, and although my Mum put in huge amounts of effort and made sure I saw his family loads during my childhood, he worked away and was very rarely there when I went to visit his side of the family. So I had a great relationship with his parents, my Nan and Granddad, all my uncles and cousins, but not him. I spoke to him on the phone occasionally and I saw him at scattered intervals but he has been absent throughout my life.
I’m not asking for sympathy and I’m definitely not suggesting I’m alone in this situation so please don’t get me wrong. I mainly want to talk about how much that abandonment can and does affect you because it might not be apparent. I’m pretty well adjusted, all things considered. However, I undoubtedly have “Daddy issues”. A phrase which makes me shudder to think about let alone type! I haven’t always realised that this was the case though. Throughout my teens, if you had asked me, I would have told you that I couldn’t have cared less about not seeing him. It didn’t make me feel any less worthwhile or affect me in any way. It wasn’t just empty bravado either. I really believed that at the time. It’s only looking back that I see it now. Hindsight having such ocular accuracy as it does.
I think what really nailed down that realisation for me was one Christmas when he rang me out of the blue because he “wanted to be a part of his grand kids’ lives”, not his son’s life I might add, his grand kids. I found myself screaming down the phone at him because he wasn’t listening to me. It didn’t help that I was half cut of course! The topic certainly didn’t put me in the right frame of mind. The point I’m trying to make is that at that point I was a fully grown adult who had his life together. A happy family life with not a care in the world by most measures. I wasn’t a child and I hadn’t been one for quite some time. I’d spent that evening getting pleasantly potted in the pub with the in-laws, all geared up for Christmas and within five minutes I was reduced to screaming at a practical stranger because he asked me a question! That is not my usual response to trouble and strife. I am better than that. Some scars run deep and never heal quite as much as you’d like.
It’s a well known phrase ‘You’ve got a face only a Mother could love’. Not the nicest phrase I know. I think this phrase is applicable for both your parents, even though it is usually reserved for the maternal side. The point of it is that your parents should love you no matter what you look like, what you are.
But what if they don’t? What does that say about you? Are you in some way unlovable? Not worth the effort? I’m afraid to say that these things cross your mind from time to time. If there’s anyone who can mess you up it’s your parents. I’d like to point out again that I’m fine and that what I am describing is in no way the worst thing a parent can inflict upon you, but it’s still not great.
If you look at statistics for children who show serious behavioural problems, then aside those who have a diagnosed condition to account for their behavioural issues, the vast majority have fractured home lives. That dynamic is so important to a child’s development. Physical development, mental development, emotional growth and stability all start with a happy home life. That’s not to say it’s the only the only place it can come from, but it helps. I think as parents that’s what you owe your kids. It doesn’t matter how much money you make, how many presents you give them or fancy places you take them. If your kids know they are loved and spend time with you then they’ll be alright because that’s what matters. Show them love and that they are worth your time.
When I was quite young my Mum met a bloke who would go on to be a major influence in my life. He was great to me. I really learned a lot from him, and the effort he put into getting to know me and putting up with the resentful sod I was, really shows the character of him. I’m ashamed to say that I did not repay that man with the respect and affection that he deserved. For a large part of my formative years I really didn’t like him because he had the audacity to not be my Dad! How dare he! Coming over here making my Mum happy and putting up with her stroppy kid! The cheek of it. He was around throughout my early life until he regretfully passed away far too young. I finally told him I loved him on his death bed and thanked him for everything he had done for me. I’m so glad that I got to do that but it shouldn’t have only been on that one occasion.
As I look back now I realise that even if my Father had made the effort I don’t think he’d have been a good Dad. I can’t see us playing football or him helping me my with my homework. I’ve spoken to him as an adult and I don’t see a great role model, but then again whenever I have spoken to him it has always been through a fog of alcohol at family funerals or weddings which is the only time our paths cross.
In a way the scariest thing for me is that I can see how this situation would arise. I’m pretty terrible at keeping in touch with friends and family. People I genuinely love and care about have drifted out of my life because I don’t pick up the phone. Because it’s easier to not ring or go and see them. Relationships are living things. If you don’t care for them they die. So I can see that it’d be easy to not ring tonight because you are tired, or you haven’t got anything to talk about. Then once you’ve done that a few times you feel like it’s been too long to just ring up for a chat. Once that happens then when/if you do eventually ring it’s awkward because you haven’t spoken in so long. It gets harder to ring or see them and easier to leave it till another time. That’s the very definition of a downward spiral. It’s harder to act and easier to leave until things are too far gone.
I knew from very early on that I wanted kids. I wanted to be a Dad. I also knew that I would never ever leave my kids. I am not ever going to be someone who only sees their kids on the weekend. That’s not enough. I need to be a part of my kids’ lives. If I’m going to mess them up it’s going to be from being around them and teaching them my bad habits rather than from being absent.
So the crux of the matter for me, and what I wanted to write this post for, is to say if you are in the horrible situation where you don’t live with your kids then make that effort. If you make plans, then turn up. Be there as much as you physically can. Call them. Send birthday cards. Do everything you can to let them know that they matter because that’s what counts. That they know they are loved and they have people who want to be part of their lives. Even if it’s hard work it’s worth the effort because they are a part of you and they deserve it. It matters more than you probably think. It might change their whole outlook. It might change their life.