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).
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.