What kind of dad do you want to be?
This is a tough question, one that isn’t easily answered before you become one.
How do you know how to do something before you do it?
The short answer is that you don’t. The more complicated answer is that you already do, whether you know it or not, have experience in some form of fatherhood. Albeit from the other side.
Many of us had some form of father figure in our lives, and how they interpreted the role has undoubtably left an imprint on us.
How do you feel about your dad?
A father can be many things.
Maybe it’s the caring, strong figure in your life that you have always depended on. Or it’s the man that tucks you in to bed at night, only to be gone when you wake up, tirelessly working to provide. Or maybe a father is the person who wasn’t there at all, just a memory that your mother speaks bitterly about.
The only reference point for fatherhood most people have is the person who raised them. No matter how feel about the father figure in your life, their contribution to what you learnt about parenting is significant.
This experience is something that can impact everything, not just parenting. Much of how we live is passed down from our parents.
This can be both a good thing and a bad thing. On one hand, if you’ve had a great father figure in your life, then you have something positive to model off. If not, you’re left with the task of figuring out what is good and bad on your own.
Deciding what a good dad is without a reference point is like finding your way through a minefield in the dark. It takes a lot of introspection and self awareness. Breaking the patterns of harmful parenting is a daunting task.
Building on what is great or breaking down what isn’t
I’m lucky, I have a father who has taught me a lot just by raising me the way he did.
It even continues until now. My dad always remembers when I have a job interview and wishes me luck just before it. He even remembers things about my life that I miss.
I want to be that dad.
The one that pays attention to all the small events in your life, the one that drives you home at 3am and doesn’t bat an eyelid when you ask them to do something for you. Nothing is a hassle.
The positive feelings I have for my dad have helped me shape my identity and behaviour since I was a kid. This has made me hyper aware of my actions and behaviour as a dad. I want to do everything possible to give my kids the best start and continuing support in their lives.
A chip off the old block, turns into the block
The word ‘legacy’ comes up a lot when I think about my parenting and how my kids will perceive me later in life.
We pass down so much more than money. I can already see my personality being transferred onto my kids, they speak like me, walk like me and have similar struggles as me. I often wonder how much of who they are has been passed down by their grandparents.
Knowing this, it makes you more aware of your behaviour around your kids.
The challenges I’ve faced are my own, and my burdens are not for them to carry.
So frequently we only consider money or property to be the things we pass down, but what is so much more important is the non-tangibles. The trauma we have been carrying from our parents, the patterns, and the fears they taught us to hold.
Maybe what we don’t pass down to our kids is more significant than what we do.
We have the opportunity to break those cycles. To look at ourselves critically and recognise what about us is useful and what is not. A truly great father can look at themselves with compassion and do the work. Pushing past the intergenerational patterns and healing themselves first.
In the last eighteen months, I’ve discovered first hand what it takes to interrupt these patterns and make sacrifices to protect my kids. I go into detail on what happened in this post.
The boundaries that I have placed have broken the cycle of negative behaviour that has plagued my family for generations. The participants are seemingly unaware that they are in control of the effect they have on their kids. And are unwilling, or incapable, of changing for the better.
As a conscious parent, it is your duty to isolate the contagious attitudes and protect your kids from the infection of generational trauma. This may sound harsh, after all, it may be someone you love that you’re protecting them from, but it doesn’t have to be personal. You just need to choose what your kids absorb and what they don’t. If they love you, they will understand.
It’s time to switch off autopilot and steer your parenting in the direction you want it to go.
You are more than what you were made to be, and so are your kids.
Let’s keep working.
See you in the next one x
This post was previously published on dadmode.io.
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