I’ve been thinking a lot about the Dad I am right now and the Dad I want to be. Can I be an effective Dad if I don’t know who I am or haven’t been my authentic self? Also, how did my Dad influence me in being the Dad I am?
I’ve put up walls and closed myself off from people. I tried to protect myself by not letting people get to close to the “real” me. I’ve done this at work, with friends and family. I’ve known what people needed and not given it to them.
I am an emotional person. People might consider me a “crier”. I care about people, particularly what I think are injustices towards others. I’ve been searching for answers. Why have I created this persona and shut this part me of down? I’m learning I did this because I am more of an introvert and I learned this from my father.
My father died 5 months ago last Friday. He was eighty-nine and his family was by his side. He died how a lot of us want to die. He knew for two weeks that his body was giving up on him. Yet, he died without saying any last words or showing any emotion. I was desperately hoping for some advice, insights…anything. Instead, I got nothing.
My father never showed many emotions to me. I never knew when he was feeling happy, sad or scared. It made it hard to know him. When he needed to make a decision he relied on logic alone. It never seemed like emotions guided his thoughts and actions. When friends and extended family needed advice, this worked well.
When I was emotional and told my Dad I needed him, he met this with silence. I knew I embarrassed him when I showed the emotions I felt. Over time, I became excellent at hiding them. I’ve been upset and confused about it for a long time.
Another emotion my Dad suppressed was anger. My Dad was an abused child and he had learned if you are angry with your child, you hit them. It started early in his life and continued for his entire childhood. Child abuse is so often passed on to the next generation. My dad refused to do that. It took everything he had, to have self-control. He broke the cycle that his father couldn’t.
This was his greatest gift to me.
I’m now realizing that the cost of that gift. It was all or nothing. He had to control all emotions to conquer the most important. He taught me not to hit my kids and to control those emotions. He also gave me the gift of realizing that my kids need to see me share my feelings. They need me to be open, vulnerable and my authentic self.
So yes, I cry at sad movies. I like fashion, hairstyles and wish I had learned how to sew. I suck at fixing things. I am not into tools, cars or cutting the lawn.
I am committing that from now on I’m going to give my wife and kids a different husband and father. I will show my coworkers the empathy they need and the attention they deserve. I will listen to them, be supportive and let them be themselves. They are going to know the real me.
And, I’m doing this because my Dad allowed me to.
Are you a Dad who is doing everything they can to create something different for their kids? Do you fight every day to find the courage to show your real self to your family and friends? I understand. I’m learning and I want to help.
Will you join me on this journey?