the past-shaped present

December 12, 2006

Right at the very beginning of this blog, I remarked on how I might at some stage look back on my own childhood. Thus far this is not something I’ve really done, but recently I’ve been thinking more about what kind of foundations for fatherhood are laid by our own experiences of being fathered.

So far, so obvious. And since this is a deeply personal matter the specifics of your own relationship with your father will almost certainly be very different from another man’s – but maybe some more general observations could be helpful.

My ‘expectant’ period to date has provoked some reflections on my own father – how he approached his relationship with his son, and even how his father in turn, will have influenced him. No man is perfect, and therefore no father will be perfect either, and I’m sure many of us can remember that time when Parents became people. When Dad went from being, well, ‘Dad’, and instead became [Insert name here]. And I’ve found that in anticipating my own fatherhood, I have become keenly aware of both the successes and mistakes made by my own father.

So I will offer two points that could prove helpful. Though I write this knowing that, sadly, for some people, their own fathers will have committed such monstrosities, that the following is really impossible to apply. With that caveat…

The first point is that the most healthy position to be in is one where the negative experiences and mistakes made by one’s own father have been accepted, forgiven, and embraced – rather than condemned or repressed. Moving beyond anger and bitterness means that the whole can be seen for what it is – an honest, loving man, who has been in many important ways a good father, and who inevitably made mistakes. Such an approach is likely to avoid the risk of an over-compensating rebalancing in one’s own fathering.

The second point is that as determined as we are to be good fathers, we too will make mistakes, even with the best intentions – often unconsciously. So let’s set about this task, this incredible privilege and joy, holding on to the best of our own fathers, giving room for our own personalities to flourish, and trusting in our children’s grace to, in turn, cherish – and forgive – us.

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