This post is the result of many different inspirations.
It is inspired in part by Agent Spitback’s heart rending post on bullying and random acts of kindness. This in turn links to DIY Daddy’s unexpectedly soul searching questions for his Brilliant Dad’s feature on fatherhood. It also comes from Man Vs Pink’s post on the lonely dad in the corner and Sour Girl Ohio’s poem No Rewind.
I don’t want my children to grow up like me / It’s too soul destroying / It’s a mocking disease / A wasting disease
This at first look seems like a negative sentiment but it’s not. There is hope here.
DIY Daddy asked me for a contribution to his Brilliant Dad’s feature and sent me a list of questions to answer. What I hadn’t expected it would be the simplest of questions that would set off a whole chain of thought.
I’m not going to pre-empt that post but it was in a similar vein to the issues raised by Agent Spitback’s post on bullying and my own on trigger warnings. Despite my best efforts the past is never far away. It’s only a single word or gesture away. You can see it in the blog comments where posters share their own long passed experiences of bullying. The violence, name calling, exclusions and petty indignities are rarely forgotten and can be recalled in a heartbeat.
And then it’s all replayed in the next generation either as the perpetrator, the victim or the witness.
I don’t want my children to grow up like me as I was then. There are lots of things I have done and do now that I am proud of but there is much I am not and would not want my children to model their behaviour on those bits.
Watching my children grow up I realise how difficult that is. They are always watching and listening to the words, we say, the way we say them and how we behave. We see this when they mimic our unconscious catchphrases, subtle face expressions and in how they handle anger, frustration and sadness and how they reflect our own back at us.
Most parents want their children to be happy but there’s more than that. It’s about letting them know that it’s OK to feel sad and they can be angry. The important thing is teaching them how to handle those feelings. I can’t expect them to be in control of their emotions if I can’t control my own. This was brought home to me when my toddler son used the same technique that I use to calm him from his tantrums on me when I lost my temper.
I also see how my children learn how to socialise by watching me. I’ve seen my daughter miss that tiny window of friend making opportunity because she spent too long watching from afar and studying people before she made tentative steps to play with them or talk to them. This is why I now do what does not come naturally to me. I push myself to talk to the mums at playgroup rather than withdraw and become the lonely dad in the corner.
They make me better because I see how they copy me and if they are going to do that I need to be the best I can be so that they can copy the best bits and learn coping strategies and develop the resilience to handle the times when it doesn’t go to plan. I want to take opportunities so that rather than begging them to learn from my mistakes I can show them something worth learning from.