What with it being Father's Day today, it's an obvious time to think about our dads and just how wonderful they are. So, I thought I'd reminisce about my dad's parenting style and see how it's shaped me, thirty years on and now a father myself.
My father was a great man. He is a great man in fact - I haven’t killed him off yet, that inheritance will wait. As a father myself now, and considering how I’m bringing up my children, I’d like to think I learnt a lot from my father’s parenting style, both good and bad.
Dad aka Big Chris or the Old Fruit, as I've fondly labelled him in recent years was (and still is) an incredibly generous man with his wallet. My sisters, my mum and I, always had the best of everything growing up; a beautiful house in the country, nice cars, decent clothes, great holidays, that sort of thing. We weren’t overly wealthy, but my dad ensured we were always comfortable. I suppose that was how he demonstrated his love for us, by providing the best he could.
Growing up, I also remember him being so big – both physically and socially. His large frame meant he appeared in my infant eyes like a mountain of a man, you wouldn’t mess with him – my dad’s tougher than your dad and all that. I’d catch him lifting things in the garage that at the time appeared to weigh the equivalent of a double decker bus, but having grown up and refined some brain cells, it was clearly just my immature mind admiring my father’s apparent Superman-like strength. Looking back, probably because of his size, we also always felt an unwavering level of safety around him – nothing could hurt us. He was also a big hit socially. Our local pub was the hub of our small village and along with the landlord, there were three or four men who regularly formed the core of the belly-aching tales you hear in such pubs. My dad was one of those men, incredibly popular and social.
Along with his popularity and apparent open wallet, he was also generous with his time, especially when it came to me, his only son. My dad is football crazy, and when I say crazy, I mean c-razy! He’s so into football, he left his brother’s wedding half way through to go and stand on the terraces (in his ‘70s flared suit) for the second half of a match – yep, crazy! Anyway, back to my point… Around the age of 6, I started getting into football because of his influence and ended up playing to a reasonable level for the next 15 years or so. With a handful of clubs showing an interest in me, my dad pushed me to play as much as I could as it was obvious his dream was for me to be a footballer. That meant our evenings, weekends and school holidays were spent training, playing matches and attending football camps. This involved a huge amount of travelling and his weekends would be lost as we raced up and down the A12 going to event after event. He happily dedicated all of his spare time to me, which at the time, what with being so young, I didn’t appreciate. Over the course of 15 years, he never missed a match and would take annual leave to see me play if need be. Such dedication demonstrates an unwavering level of commitment to his role as father to me as we followed a love we shared together.
However, like all dads, there has to be some flaws and I think my dad would be the first to agree, his has to be his lack of affection. Sure, he provided me and my sisters with gifts and nice holidays, but all a child sometimes needs, more than anything, is a simple cuddle. Looking back, I don’t really remember having too much physical contact with my dad growing up. Perhaps it’s because he was of that generation where men were a little stand-offish with such tenderness, especially towards a growing boy perhaps. A real shame as I know I’m not alone; a lot of my friends have similar memories of their fathers. Thankfully though, such old fashioned awkwardness seems to be a thing of the past as a new wave of modern, hands-on, sensitive dads show just what those from generations past were missing.
Thirty-odd years later and as a dad myself to two wonderful children, I think my father definitely influenced the way I am with Edie and Arlo. I’ve taken the very good things my dad did such as his enormous generosity, the time he gave us and the security we felt around him, and then tried to react positively to the lack of affection by ensuring my children are showered with warmth and tender moments.
But, I’m by no means perfect. I’m constantly learning and applying what I think will shape me as a dad, but more importantly, shape my children. I’m sure in years to come, if Arlo becomes a dad himself, he’ll look back at me and will no doubt have plenty to moan about. There are lots of things that I don’t do well; like getting frustrated far too easily, being a rubbish cook and banning Topsy & Tim from ever being shown on the iPad. But if we all consider our own good points as dads and try to improve on what our own dads did, then our role will constantly improve and evolve – which is a great thing to celebrate this Father’s Day. I’m glad I got off to a pretty good start being a dad though, much of it was being able to learn from my father, the old fruit, Big Chris.
Happy Father’s Day… fancy a hug dad?