The P Word

Muddling my way through parenting

Archive for the tag “fathers day”

Father’s Day: we can change the world

I hate melodramatic headlines. The world is full of lazy newspaper sub-editors who never let the truth of a story get in the way of a good headline.

So, you may ask, why have I gone for such a bold title in the run-up to this Sunday’s Father’s Day?

To put it bluntly, because I believe that parenting transforms families for generations. That’s the main reason why I got into this suff in the first place. Good (encouraging, supporting, loving, present, etc.) parenting helps form children who may well go on to become parents themselves, and much of what they do will (at least in part) be a reflection of what they’ve seen and experienced themselves. With any luck, this will be adapted and built on by their kids and their grand-children. And so on. Nearly everything good that I do as a Dad is thanks to the example set by my own parents, as described in this open letter to my Dad written this time last year.

Of course there’s a flip-side too. It’s painfully obvious that bad (neglectful, abusive, absent, etc.) parenting can scar children in such a way that it informs the way they (mis)treat their own children, entering into a lengthy cycle of despair which – if left unchecked – can continue for generations.

Without getting too wrapped up in what makes a good or bad parent (of course no parents are perfect, and I’m sure 99% are fantastic in the eyes of their kids, whatever they may think about themselves), it’s important to recognise the fantastic opportunity that this generation of fathers has to change the world forever. That means you (or your husband/partner).

The tools of a modern father

The tools of a modern father

I’m delighted that I’m living in an era when it’s socially acceptable – even becoming socially expected – for fathers to put their family above everything else.I was listening to a fascinating radio interview with Ben Fogle earlier this week. He was introduced as ‘presenter, adventurer, broadcaster, etc, etc’. His reply? ‘And dad. You forgot the most important bit.’ Then followed a tounge-in-cheek challenge by the presenter about whether his family really was a higher priority than his career. This demonstrated that the default answer has become family first, work second. That’s the expectation.

But for many of us, this is breaking new ground. It’s safe to say that most people who are becoming parents for the first time were born in the 1970s or 80s. To make a massive generalisation, this is probably around the time that the traditional moulds of family life  were being challenged. Without pretending to understand modern social history, it’s undeniable that parenting in the 20th Century changed. It gradually became less a case of Mum looking after the kids and Dad working to provide for them. Father’s Day has changed from an ‘opportunity’ for Dad to spend time with his kids, and more of a continuation of normal life.Think back to the attitudes that many of our parents (those now starting out on the adventure of being grandparents), who were born in the 40s or 50s, were brought up into. How would the way they were parented compare to what our children experience today?Because look where we’ve got to now. More shared responsiblity, more stay at home dads, more blokes stepping up to their role as joint-carer of the little people we love. Dads who are choosing to be fully present in the lives of their children.

So, this Father’s Day, is it time to change the world? Yes. We can do it, one family (and one generation) at a time.

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Getting back in the game

Under the cosh. Swimming against the tide. Run ragged. These and many other clichés are over-used in sports journalism (a career I once aspired towards), and as I’ve suggested before many of them also crop up in relation to parenting.

Feeling a bit deflated?

Feeling a bit deflated?

And that’s how I’ve been feeling recently. Perhaps that’s the reason for my all-too-lengthy blog silence. But the clouds are beginning to clear and (quite literally) the sun is starting to shine again.

This week a couple of things which I’ve shared on the blog’s Facebook page have helped me feel like I’m getting back in the game. This post reminded me that I’m not alone, and the motherhood rap made me giggle.

Getting back in the parenting game

Sometimes it all feels like a bit too much. I’ve been grumpy dad, tired dad and various other kinds of dad which I don’t like seeing in the mirror in recent weeks. Mealtimes seem to have become the battleground that I thought we’d seen the back of after (just) surviving the toddler years. But hope springs eternal, as the saying goes. Although I certainly don’t feel completely out of the woods, there are some chinks of light if I look hard enough. A bit of a holiday certainly helped.

Getting back in the blogging game

I think I’ve always been certain that I’d return to this blog at some stage, although the three-month gap might have suggested otherwise. Time has appeared in short supply. Motivation has been lacking. The thoughts about potential posts have been there, but all too often they’ve dispersed without being put into action. With Father’s Day looming, a flurry of traffic to my contribution from last year has also helped re-awaken my interest.

Getting back in the training game

‘Facilitator’ is perhaps the least elegant word in the English language. However, to help people on parenting courses it’s a label which I gladly wear from time to time. And over the past few weeks I’ve had the opportunity to be back involved in a Time Out course for a group of parents of under-5s (if you want, see if there’s one taking place near you). The mums and dads I’ve had the pleasure of sharing the past few Wednesday evenings with have both challenged and inspired me. I am hugely grateful to them, and I can’t wait to do more of the same later this year.

So … if you’re feeling like a bit of a spectator – or maybe sidelined by injury, or just exhausted and need to be substituted by somebody with a bit more energy – I hope that you find some way of getting back in the game before too long.

Father’s Day: a letter to Dad

It’s card-buying time for thousands of children of all ages across the country.

Yes, my card’s (almost) in the post – but I’m doing something a little bit different this year. I’m using this blog post as a kind of ‘open letter’ (you know, the sort of thing that business leaders write to politicians using the Daily Telegraph as their method of delivery). Essentially, it’s a way of saying something to somebody and making a broader public statement at the same time. So, ahead of Father’s Day this Sunday, here’s my own ‘open letter’ as a public way of honouring the great man who I call Dad.

[Before I begin, I realise that for many people the idea of celebrating Father’s Day is a difficult concept. Some have lost their Dad and this annual event evokes painful memories, while others are no longer in contact with absent (for whatever reason) fathers. And far too many ‘men’ down the years have neglected their responsibilities and inflicted lasting damage on their offspring. If that includes you, my heart bleeds for you. In whatever way possible, I hope that you are able to find your own peace, healing, restoration and freedom.]

I have been fortunate enough to have a great Dad, and I never plan to take that for granted. Here are a few reasons why:

Ok, this isn't my t-shirt, but the sentiment's the same!

Dear Dad,

Thank you for being there. My memory is full of happy times spent with you. We watched football together, ran together, talked together, played together – heck, we even built an epic Lego train set together! Time together. Our time together. Special time together.

Thank you for believing in me. You let me follow my dreams and gently nudged me in the right direction, or suggested a better path, if I was going off track.

Thank you for being a rock. As with most families, we’ve faced a few challenges. Even though it’s been a bumpy ride at times, with a few massive boulders along the way, you have always been reliable, strong, loving and with an unswerving determination that we will get through things together.

Thank you for being fun. Time with you has always been enjoyable; because of your determination to look at the lighter side of life, even the more mundane times together have been brought to life by your energy, enthusiasm and unfailing desire to enjoy life in all its fullness.

Thank you for setting an example. As a Dad, you’re my number one role model. Just by being your son, you have shown me and taught me everything that I need to be a good, positive and encouraging Dad to my own children. Beyond that, you have demonstrated loyalty, commitment, enjoyment and many other characteristics that I hope to inherit in similar measures.

Thank you for being ‘Poppa’. A new generation is now enjoying getting to know you and learning from you as their grandfather. You’re displaying the same characteristics which lit up my childhood, and your energy levels remain seemingly undimmed by the advancing years.

Thank you for not being perfect. Nobody’s perfect, even though the stuff I’ve written above may make it sound like you are! But you’ve shown me that even though we all have bad days and we all have faults, there’s no need to be restricted or held back by our limitations.

To put it simply, THANK YOU for being Dad.

From an eternally grateful and loved son,

O

Father’s Day: more than just an afterthought

You may not have realised it, but this Sunday (17 June) it’s Father’s Day, at least in the UK.

As you might have guessed from my previous posts, this is something I’m quite excited about. Not because I’m expecting  to be surrounded by gifts and have a day of treats and surprises, but because I think it’s REALLY important.

As my own dad is a retired history teacher, perhaps it’s appropriate that I start a mini-series of blog posts about this special day by giving a bit of a background about how Father’s Day came into existence.

To be honest, most of my ‘research’ comes from the dubious source that is Wikipedia, but here’s some kind of brief summary:

  • Just over 100 years ago, an American woman wanted to honour her father, who was a Civil War veteran and single parent who had raised his six children.
  • It was a popular local event, but failed to take-off to any great extent until the 1930s.
  • More official recognition was resisted in some quarters because it was viewed as ‘an attempt by merchants to replicate the commercial success of Mother’s Day’.
  • Eventually, in 1966 the US President Lyndon B Johnson officially declared the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day.

So, after a few decades of ambivalence, Father’s Day slowly started to gather some significant momentum.

But perhaps the biggest problem with the current perception of Father’s Day is rooted in the tale of its creation.

It only really came into existence because Mother’s Day already existed, so right from the beginning it was riding on the coat-tails of its higher profile and more illustrious counterpart. In one respect, it was just an afterthought.

So has it ever really emerged from the shadow of Mothering Sunday? Is it still only a second-rate celebration?

Perhaps we’ll find out for real on Sunday.

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