N.B. This post is quite long. Apologies for the length (I can assure you that’s the first time I’ve said that).
Since becoming a dad, I often find myself reflecting on things that haven’t ever really crossed my mind before. One of these recent contemplations has been around how my parenting style has, and will be, influenced by that of my own dad.
I’ve always had a really good relationship with both my parents, albeit I’ll admit I was a bit of a twat (not on purpose) during my late teens / early twenties. However, I’ve always felt that both my mum and dad were there for me no matter what and that I could go to them for help or advice, no matter the size of the problem. We’ve always been very open and honest about everything, which the missus does find a bit weird when we’ll joke about things like dogging over the dinner table!
Growing up, as was more traditional back then, my mum was the main bringer upperer of the kids as she looked after Andy and I as well as did everything around the house. My dad brought in the money and had a job which often meant he was away for a few nights a week. We were always active and doing stuff as a family, be it day trips on the weekend, going on holiday in the caravan or visiting relatives. When I look back, they were always putting Andy and I first and it always felt that everything was being done for our development and entertainment.
I’ve got so many happy memories from my childhood, which ultimately comes from the great job my parents did at raising both me and the bro. Yes, there are some things that I look back on and aren’t so happy with, such as feeling forced to learn a musical instrument and then be a band geek or go to Cubs when I didn’t want to, but these things are few and far between.
I’ve always had a very good relationship with my dad and feel he has always been around, despite the fact he did have to work away quite a bit. We are pretty similar when it comes to personality and humour which always helps when building a bond. I’ve obviously always viewed him as a dad, but as mum was the main parenting figure in our household, I guess he’s felt a bit more like an older version of me and a role model in that regards rather than the more traditional “wait until your father gets home” type of dad. Although mum did try to use that line on me and Andy!
On reflecting about my dad and our relationship, obviously there is a hell of a lot that I’ve learned which I want to build into how I father Baby L as she grows. On the flip side though, there are some things which I’ll be looking to do differently because of our family setup or due to the changing times. Below are a couple of these points.
The Value Of Money
I remember getting my first job delivering papers when I was 12-years old. I still remember the nervousness and disdain at being made to get out of the car at the local shop and go inside to ask if they are looking for a new paperboy. Because they didn’t have much money growing up and as newbie parents, I think my mum and dad appreciated every penny they had. So although the bro and I were never left wanting when it came to having stuff to play with, we were very aware that money didn’t grow on trees. As such, I’ve always had a saver mentality which meant that the majority of what I earned from the age of 12 through to now, has always gone into the bank.
Luckily the missus and I are in a better financial position than my parents were when they had me as a baby, but that doesn’t mean that we want them to grow up spoilt. We want them to have the same understanding of finances and appreciate everything they have. One of the best things that my dad did (as he was the driver behind this), was making my brother and I pay for everything when we went to University. Accommodation, fees and day-to-day costs all came out of my bank account, my salary during holidays and from my student loan, with my dad giving me a token amount each month to put towards living costs. This meant that I had to ensure everything was budgeted and paid for myself, rather than rely on my parents to just pay everything off as a lump sum, which most other peoples’ parents did.
This may sound a bit harsh, but it really taught me how best to deal with money and get the most from it, e.g. savings accounts, ISA’s etc. I also remember as a teenager that my parents decided (again on my dad’s recommendation) that the money they got in child benefit would go directly to me and my bro. This meant that we were responsible for the money, and if we wanted something like a CD or computer game, we bought it with money from our bank rather than from the bank of mum and dad. We’ll have to see how Hay and I decide to deal with money in the future when it comes to a teenage Baby L, but the principles and values I learnt growing up about finances have helped get me to where I am today.
Be Around More
As mentioned above, my dad was the main breadwinner in our family. This meant that he often had to travel around the country and be away from home. Obviously things are distorted with time, but from recollection, he would often be away for a few nights each week as we were growing up. It is easy to say things like “be around more”, but in reality this can be really hard. How can you spend more time with the kids and as a family when you need to do a job which takes you away from them so that you can put food on the table? I don’t resent my dad at all for not being with us every night growing up because we more than made up for it on weekends and at other times.
Looking back, I know he wasn’t there 100% of the time, but it doesn’t feel like he wasn’t, if that makes sense at all. It’s not like there is a gap in my head or heart with a dad-sized shape. With this in mind though, I know that he missed out on a lot of things because he was away. This is something I really don’t want to do. Like my dad, I too have spent many nights away from home due to work in my previous career as a business consultant and thinking about kids was one of the drivers when it came to looking for a job closer to home. Things didn’t work out with that, so from a family perspective, I’m now in an even better position as I work from home and get to spend all my time with Hay and the little one. It means money is tighter which isn’t ideal, but the benefits of supporting each other and being a family outweigh the financial barriers.
The plan is for me to be a stay at home dad as the missus goes back to work next year, so in a weird twist of fate, this now means that I’ll be the one raising the kid the majority of the time and be in the opposite position to my dad. I remember asking my dad his opinion when it came to me being at home and turning down a job earlier in the year which would have seen me commuting and being away a lot – when I asked what he’d do in my position, he said he really wished he would have been around more when we were kids. That answer was good enough for me to help make my decision that I wanted to be around as much as I could.
Be Equally Involved In Decision Making
Obviously there was a lot of behind the scenes conversations between my parents that Andy and I were not privy to as kids. Therefore a lot of what I’m going to say is based on reflection and may not be 100% true. But as mentioned already, because my dad was the breadwinner and because my mum was responsible for us, it felt like everything was on mum’s terms. That’s not a negative against either parent, but thinking about mine and Hay’s relationship, I don’t think either of us could just sit back and let the other make the decisions.
I’m not saying that my dad sat back, but I’m sure there were plenty of things that he disagreed with when we were growing up, but either he didn’t state his preference or it was overruled by mum. I remember a recent conversation with my bro in which he said that dad was really against the idea of pushing Andy and I down the musical instrument route. If we wanted to do something, dad would support us all the way, but if we didn’t want to do it, then he didn’t want to push and it should be our decision. However, both Andy and I ended up playing instruments and being in different bands and orchestras even though we both hated doing it. On weekends, we were made to go to a local college to play our stupid instruments which always involved arguments with mum as we didn’t want to.
I’m sure mum had her reasons, but neither Hay or I want to force Baby L to do something she doesn’t want to do. She can try everything she wants to then pick and choose based on her preference. Therefore, from my dad’s perspective, I don’t fully understand why or how Andy and I were made to do things when he knew we didn’t want to. I guess what I’m getting at is that I want Hay and I to make decisions together as a 50/50 partnership. There will be things we disagree on, just as there has been in our nearly nine years together, but we always find a compromise and work it out. I hope that this continues on our parenting journey. And if we do have different opinions and perspectives, one of us doesn’t sit back whilst the other bulldozers through.
Stay In Touch With Family
As a kid, both my bro and I fondly remember going to our auntie (dad’s sister) and uncle’s house at Christmas and being with them. As we didn’t see them or our two older cousins much, it was really nice to spend some time with the other side of our family. As time progressed, we saw them less and less. In the past ten years, I’ve only seen them twice – at my cousin’s funeral (which in itself was really sad as I hardly knew him) and at our wedding (which was nice to have them there).
The truth is that dad and his sister just aren’t massively close and have drifted apart a lot over the years. I’m not fully sure of the reasons, but a pretty big difference in age meaning they weren’t really around together when growing up surely plays a part. I don’t resent my dad for letting things drift, but I know that both my bro and I are a bit annoyed that more of an effort wasn’t made. We missed out on relationships with our auntie, uncle, cousins and extended family just because. My bro and I are really close, so I just couldn’t imagine not wanting to see him or not having him in our lives. Let alone sharing Baby L with him and seeing the enjoyment he gets at being an uncle.
It’s the same with my granddad (dad’s dad) – again, they weren’t particularly close and I just can’t fathom how that could ever be the case. I remember my dad going over to his dad’s house every week or so and we wouldn’t go with him. We liked our granddad, but because there were negatives surrounding the relationship, that rubbed off on us. Again, as adults ourselves, my bro and I both feel a missed opportunity to get to know my dad’s side of the family. That’s something we’ll never get back, although we did get to know him more just before he died. Therefore, no matter how big or how small, for me, losing touch with my close family will never be an option.
For as long as I can remember, my dad has just been my dad. A really sweet, nice bloke who puts everyone first, often to his own detriment. He’s never attempted to do things just to fit in and live up to the stereotype of being a bloke. He doesn’t like football. He doesn’t go to the pub. He doesn’t have many male friends. He’s never been afraid to show emotion or tell us how much he loves us. He’s just himself. In many respects, he was pioneering the metro-sexual movement (just without guy liner and man bags) before it was even recognised as a movement!
Having this influence in my life has definitely made me the person I am today. I may like football and have male friends, but I also enjoy the colour pink, straighten my hair (or used to when it was longer) and have been told that I can be more camp than my gay brother. I’m not a typical lad, I’m far from it. But just like my dad, I’m me and there’s no point putting labels onto people. I can be found laughing at things on The Lad Bible or crying my eyes out at Long Lost Family. Having a father figure like my dad has really helped me find the person I am. Uni helped a lot when I came across like minded friends etc, but having a male role model who showed that you didn’t need to be manly and could show love has always stuck with me.
This is what I hope to show Baby L. It is OK to love. It is OK to cry. It is OK to be yourself. Not all blokes are twats. Etc etc.
Mum / Dad – thank you for everything. Please don’t read any of the above as a negative, please just see it how it is intended which is taking your experiences and learning from them. You always did your best and put us first. For that I’m thankful and wouldn’t change anything about our childhood 🙂
Have you taken anything positive / negative from your parents and ensured that it is built into your teachings with your kids? If so, what? How were you shaped by the influences of your dad?
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