Mike, you know better than many what an unhappy home is and what it can do to others. Now you have a chance to make it come out the way it should.
P.S. You’ll never get in trouble if you say “I love you” at least once a day.”
Happy Father’s day.
Bear with me while I speak specifically on fathers & sons.
If anyone asks, I am honest and will say I had a shitty relationship with my father <but I had a relationship with my grandfather who I still call the greatest man I have ever known>.
I own my 50% of the shittiness.
I have to assume if my father were still alive he would most likely own his 50%.
I would have been a difficult son for any parent, any father, but particularly difficult for this particular father.
Let me state the obvious … parenting, in general, is messy. Nothing appears in a nice straight line of a cohesive ‘cause & affect’ and while the playbook may appear effective for one child it is a disaster for another.
I imagine the problem is that it is never quite possible to always get it right with your kid.
And, maybe worse, you may actually be getting it right but you may not know until decades later.
And … combine that with the grind of managing the daily mundane, but essential, responsibility aspects and weighted with everyday hopeful expectations … and you have a parenting recipe that is dubious at best.
Suffice it to say … assuming you know what you are doing is right or working is … well … if there was ever a topic to embody the phrase “assume makes an ass out of you & me” … well … parenting is it.
Every time you assume something it will get challenged.
That is why talking is important.
With trial & error <which is basically what parenting is> a consistent feedback loop is kind of essential.
And this is where I think fathers may have an inherent challenge.
In single Life that doesn’t really have any dire consequences <just maybe some unfortunate consequences>.
As a father … well … lack of communication and actual talking with a son can have some dire consequences.
I while I am sure there are a shitload of real research driven factoids to back up my perception that guys aren’t particularly good at talking I kinda think that is irrelevant.
Whether we men suck at talking or not … it is one of the responsibilities of being a dad.
You gotta listen and talk with your son.
Because that is what they need.
There is nothing … and I mean nothing … more important to a young person than knowing their dad is listening. And to show that you … well … unfortunately … have to talk.
It shows you are trying.
It shows you care.
It shows you may not know everything, you may not understand everything but you want to.
It shows … well … it shows your discomfort which, in an odd way, shows you are willing to do the hard things to do the right thing.
And the dad talking … and for some reason I am going to suggest that sometimes it does matter if it is the man talking … provides something just a little different.
Any parent provides some wisdom, some empathy, some reality … and harsh truth. A mother’s perspective on all those aspects is a little different than a father’s perspective … and each perspective is further driven by the personality and character of the individual <regardless of the father or mother perspective>.
As a guy myself I will admit … the desire to know your father actually listens and actually hears what you have to say and think is … well … it kinda matters.
In fact … it REALLY matters.
Without it you end up anchored to nothing. Or maybe better said you seek an anchor elsewhere.
And even if you do find an anchor it is … and will always be … less than the anchor your father could provide.
All children seek this anchor … particularly in their teens.
Most are not seeking to be saved or to find all the answers … they just seek some foundation and something solid during the years where little seems solid.
Dads do not have to be perfect <although the moment you realize your father is not a superhero kinda sucks> but in their imperfect way they have to find some connection.
Dads just have to assume the sense of “Life guide” responsibility.
And you know what? This is actually harder than you would think.
I mean … how many people truly love what they do and have no regrets with regard to “where do I want to go and be?”
And, yet, a son doesn’t want a dad unsure of who & what he is … they want a lighthouse for Life.
And that is what pretty much every father WANTS to provide.
Simplistically raising a boy permits fathers the opportunity to be a total man … strong, powerful and caring all the while balanced by a desire that “they get it right maybe better than I did.”
More complicated is the fact that being a total man is not the easiest thing to be without taking into account a son … let alone when you have a son watching you and listening to you.
Here is the good news for dads <some research>.
Sons also seem to push fathers to be more productive.
Studies of Americans and Germans born after 1950 found that having a child of either sex spurred fathers to bring home more bacon, but the difference between a son and a daughter was considerable: nearly 110 hours a year for Germans and around 70 hours for Americans. Lundberg, who has spent years trying to untangle the economics of child gender and parental behaviour, suggests this gap was a sign that fathers were keener to provide for families with sons. Parents of sons seem not just to earn more but also to spend more. An analysis of American consumer expenditure data from the 1990s found that married couples with one son aged 18 or younger spent 4-7% more on housing than those with a daughter, and consumed more of everything from plane tickets to meals in restaurants.
I am not sure most father’s feel any inordinate additional pressure as a parent when they have a son … but I would imagine they assume a certain male responsibility aspect <which is hard for me to put a specific finger on>.
The research kind of helps me make that point in possibly a roundabout way.
Sons push fathers a little differently than daughters do.
And within that aspect is created the dynamic in which fathers and sons flourish or fail.
On fathers day … a father is a father to all his children. But today … as a man myself … I reflected upon fathers and sons.
Here is about the only thing I know for sure with regard to fathers & sons.
Talking is good.
Lack of talking is bad.
So maybe my point this father’s day is sons pick up the phone and talk with your father … and fathers maybe pick up the phone and talk with your son.
Just ask how things are going.
That’s how talking begins. That’s where father & son relationships begin.
Happy father’s day to all my father friends. I am fortunate enough to know, and be friends with, some of the best fathers in the world. Many have shown me the father I wish I would have been.