Like many of us here being a good dad is one of my proudest achievements.
Recently one of my friends here pointed out what a miracle it is that I am such a good dad - given that mine was so bad. And how there is an undercurrent here of guys who are determined to break the cycle and make sure their own kids get what they didn't get growing up. He encouraged me to write this post. I would LOVE to see some dialogue here from us fathers and even those who hope to be someday about how they are breaking the cycle. I don't want anyone to feel left out...even if you had a great dad please offer something good he taught you - a good memory.
Sort of a 'How to Make Healthy Kids - for dummies' I mean CSA survivors.
This all started because a few weeks ago my 6 year old son helped a cow give birth for the first time (with ropes). He told the class about it for show and tell at school the next day and later that afternoon I ran into his teacher at the shops. She was so excited about it and said what a beautiful boy he is. She said how he is always talking about his dad and how much I love him and I specially chose his name (Matthew - Gift from God) She said 'He certainly doesn't have any self-esteem issues.'
That was like the best thing anyone has ever said to me. I HAVE broken the cycle.
From an early age I knew I didn't get what I needed from my parents and I was determined that my kids would get it.
My fatherhood journey .....
I was always taught that I grew up in a 'good Christian home' and I was 'lucky' I didn't grow up in one of 'those' homes.....but when I started to see other parents with their kids I soon worked out that something was wrong.
I decided then and there that my dad would be my anti-role model. To everyone else he was a good man and leader in the church... but at home.....He ignored me, He NEVER hugged/touched me, He berated me for being feminine, He called me faggot, poofter, Leanne, Sissy, Monkey Boy etc etc. - even though it was his other sons that treated me like a girl in their sex games. He never showed any interest in my achievements. He pointed out EVERY percieved physical flaw. He perved on my groin. He encouraged me to sleep around. He publicly declared my brother as his favourite. In short he treated me as sub-human and destroyed any chance I had of having a self-esteem. His taunts about my appearance left me so incredibly insecure and to this day nearly my whole worth as a human being lies in my appearance. I could go on but you get the point.
As a child I started observing other parents - formulating in my head what sort of father I would be. I was determined to be a better dad and to have kids that were independant and full of self confidence.
I watched a LOT of Phil Donahue's talk show growing up when I was home sick (probably stress induced from CSA). He was my male role model (sad huh). He showed compassion to people and would listen to them. He had shows that talked about stuff that was relevant to me at the time. It was from watching one of his shows that I realised for the first time that I had been sexually abused (maybe even raped) and that it isn't normal and NOT ok.
Also the idea of how God loves us - Like a father loves his children. I had to learn what God is like and turn that around into what a father should be like.
While I was still single I went to talks about the importance of fathers touching their kids in healthy ways.
About 5 years ago I realised that I went days without seeing my kids. (leaving early for work and getting home after they were in bed). I DID NOT want to be 'that dad'. So I changed my whole career and made a huge lifestyle change. Now I am pretty much their primary caregiver. I wake them up, I make their breakfast and lunch, I iron their uniforms, I drive them to the bus stop and pick them up, I make sure they brush their teeth and wash behind their ears and I tuck them in and read them a story at night. We talk about whatever is worrying them at school. They know I love them and I tell them ALL the time and we hug ALL the time too. I realise this option just is not possible for most guys and I feel very lucky to be in that position.
Some examples of what I would like to see here....
Whenever we went to the beach growing up my parents would sit on the sand and send me off into the water to play by myself - but only knee deep. That was NOT fun! I on the other hand have had to overcome my body issues and jump in the surf in my boardies with my kids and swim and throw them around in the waves. They have no idea that I am so painfully self conscious about my appearance. The cycle has been broken!
My parents NEVER read to me...EVER. I have always struggled with reading - I have mild dyslexia. I HATE reading. My daughter has dyslexia too. I have read to both my kids nearly every night (stumbling my way through - we are reading Narnia at the moment). My daughter corrects me now (she's 10) and she has become quite the book worm herself and she gets so engrossed in whatever novel she is reading that she will hide a torch under her pillow to read after bedtime. The cycle has been broken!
So that is how I became a good dad. I am not a perfect dad - they don't exist...but I AM a better dad.
I would really like to hear some stories from other guys about fatherhood.
More than meets the eye!