I had a guest post on Dadcentric last month, but it wasn’t my first attempt. This was what I originally submitted, but it was wisely rejected because it doesn’t have a conclusion. I still haven’t come up with a conclusion, but here it is.
Writing about fatherhood, in a way, can be like dancing about architecture. What is a universal experience is also very singular. Usually we learn from our fathers, and their fathers, picking tips up along with way from other guys in our life, as well as taking more than a little direction and input from our wives (or whatever the case may be). Some will always find it easy to stand on a soapbox about fatherhood and what it means. Personally, I don’t have that wealth to draw upon, so I always feel like I’m making it up as I go along – even with my 5th child.
Part of my dilemma is due to the fact I never had a father growing up. I’m not going to go into the long story of my childhood, but for a large part of my life it was just me and my mother, then my brother Ian came along just before I turned 12.
For the next couple of years it was the three of us, then my mother married Pat just after my 15th birthday. I was entering my sophomore year of high school, and I was already pretty well formed, and wasn’t looking for a father figure. He wasn’t necessarily looking to sit me down and “be the dad” or whatever. He was there for me when I needed him to be, but mostly he let me be. Over the next couple of year he and my mother separated, got back together, then separated again. I left home just before I turned 18 to join the Army (the subject of a series of blog posts I really would like to find the time to write). They would get back together once more only to permanently separate later.
I probably could add up the total amount of time I spent living with him, but I’m sure it comes out to less than 2 years. During those separations I was of course much closer to my mother. As time went on throughout my 20s and 30s I would occasionally see him. Our relationship was cordial, never having any real animosity. During my 30s however, there was a shift, and I began to grow closer to Pat, and it became easier to refer to him as my dad, rather than my ex-step-father.
Somewhere along the way there was a shift from being the guy my mother married to being my dad, and maybe it was the baggage of not having a father previously and being a teenager that prevented me from allowing myself that relationship. Throughout my childhood I never lacked for male role models or father figures (something I’ve touched upon before) but not an actual daily male parental presence.
What does this have to do with my own parenting and role as a father? Maybe not much. It might be the kind of thing I look back on after all my kids are grown and I can see the influences and effects. I do know, however, that I try to be present and available in my kids’ lives in a way that I didn’t have growing up.
How does Pat fit into all of this? Does my relationship with the person who wasn’t necessarily a father to me growing up, but I now refer to as “dad”, mean much in the way I am a father to my own children? Maybe it points to a type of relationship that I hope to have with my kids when they grow up and have kids of their own.