Father’s Day. That time of the year that many of us dread but cannot bring ourselves to talk about. Whilst radio stations play requests for ‘great dads’, Facebook boasts of ‘the best dad in the world’ and every card says ‘number one dad’, some of us reflect on our disfunctional families. If you have a wonderful dad, I’m happy for you. I really am. But this post isn’t for you. This is for those of us with absent fathers, dads with addictions, dads who are just about adequate or totally inadequate.
My dad would be horrified if he knew I’d written this. You see, my dad isn’t a bad father but he is a dinosaur. He doesn’t talk about feelings, he doesn’t hug or cry and he doesn’t understand why I’m ‘soft’ on my children. He’s a man of his time, and therefore out of place in today’s society. Our relationship is strained to say the least.
You see, since becoming a parent, I’ve thought about my own childhood a lot. It’s funny how having children makes you think so much. We are all products of our upbringing; it shapes us into who we are. I’m shy and anxious and I recently learned (from the APUK positive discipline course) that this is common for women who were raised with authoritarian parents. Males tend to become hostile and anxious under this style of parenting.
I like to think that in this day and age where most of us have instant access to masses of information at our finger tips, parenting is one of the great success stories of the Internet. We no longer have to parent our children in the same way as our parents because we don’t know any different. We have a wealth of resources to access to help us learn the best ways to raise kids. Wikipedia can explain attachment theory in minutes, YouTube has videos on mindsets and education by various psychologists and Amazon sells parenting books by the bucketload! There are some conflicts between so called experts but all the research points towards authoritative parenting as the best way forward. Attachment parenting is basically authoritative parenting with responsiveness, empathy and respect at its core. Even if you don’t follow attachment parenting’s 7 b’s of breastfeeding, baby wearing, and… (I can’t even remover the rest) the key thing to remember is attachment. This is proven in science! Being emotionally attached to your child is necessary for them to grow into a well rounded human being.
The dinosaur doesn’t understand this. Apparently, by me raising my children with respect and empathy, without physical punishment and threats, is like me saying to him that he raised me wrong. I wouldn’t ever say that, but every time I reason or compromise with my son, he’s there snarling about me giving in or backing down. Don’t get me wrong, my kids can be little crap bags just like everyone else’s, especially when they’re tired but I try to address the cause of their behaviour rather than crush their spirit until they’re obedient!
Last week he threatened to hit my eldest child. That’s not ok. That’s never ok, especially when I know that my child’s disobedience was a trigger for my dads anger rather than the cause.
I know I am not alone in struggling with my father. Many people of a similar age don’t have issues too. I read that most adults over 30 were raised in an authoritarian manner. That probably explains why so many of my generation suffer from insomnia, feelings of imposter syndrome and depression.
My father will never apologise for last week. He will never apologise for anything. I find it hard to apologise too but I feel it is essential for me to say sorry to my children if I loose my temper. Children learn best by example. If I want them to learn that it’s not acceptable to shout, then I need to show them, not tell them.
My dad’s generation believed that ‘children should be seen but not heard’. He told me to ‘do as I say not as I do’ and the delightful ‘stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about’ which, incidentally, always made me cry more.
After last weeks clash and subsequent sleepless night, I debated never seeing my dad again. If it was anyone else, I would break contact. I don’t want people like that in my life. But this is my dad. My only dad. So, once a fortnight, I put on a brave face, see him and make pleasant conversation about the weather and house prices. I can’t confront him. He wouldn’t understand. He is my dad and I love him. In his own hardened way, I know he loves me too.
For anyone reading this who has a dad they don’t get in with, a dad who’s abusive or completely absent; I’m sorry. I’m sorry you have to feel shit today. But please remember, you’re not alone. And bear in mind that by reading this, by reading anything about parenting styles, attachment parenting and positive discipline, that you can break the cycle. Our children do not have to grow up feeling inadequate and unworthy. By showering our children with unconditional love, respect, and setting boundaries with empathy, they will never have to feel like we do on days when parents should be celebrated.
Written by Anita Hazlewood