The father-son relationship is one of the most important relationships we can have. It can greatly influence how our lives turn out. It can also affect how we feel about ourselves, how we view other men, how we treat women … the list goes on and on.
Some of you may be fathers now. And some of you, like me, may have had a father who abandoned them at an early age. My biological father said goodbye to my mother and me when I was six months old. Today, there is literally only one single picture of the two of us together.
But I’m still not sure what’s worse: a father that leaves, a father who stays but is emotionally unavailable, or a father who is physically and emotionally abusive.
My stepfather entered the picture when I was about five. And while he was not a hitter (there were no physical spankings), he wasn’t a very verbal guy and we didn’t have many real conversations. He was more like a roommate. Consequently, I was very uncomfortable bonding with other guys. I just didn’t know how to act around them. I eventually learned, but the process was emotionally uncomfortable at best.
About fifteen years ago I tried to find my biological father. I knew he was from Wooster, MA so I called all the men in the phone book with his last name.
Long story short, I found one of his three sons from his second marriage. We spoke and I learned that my biological father died young at the age of 46. I also learned that all three of my stepbrothers knew about me.
Later, we all met for a long weekend at my house in Florida. And what they said next surprised me. They said that I was the lucky one — I was lucky that my father had not been a part of my life. Wow. I guess if I see him in heaven, I’ll have to thank him for dumping my mother and me.
Twenty-five years ago I became a father myself, to a girl. And oh shit was I scared! But I was also excited. I wanted to be really good at this “father” thing. So off to the bookstores I went to read everything I could in the self-help section. And now, if you ask any of my three kids what kind of a dad they have, they’ll tell you this: “My dad is the best dad a daughter or son could have.”
I have worked hard to create a good relationship with each of my kids and to develop a strong father-son relationship with my son, Brandon.
From the moment he was born, I made it an everyday occurrence to participate in his care. Diaper-changing, bottle-feeding, baby-talking, you name it! Later it was bike rides and swimming lessons. I showered him with all the physical and emotional love and support that I never got.
As he grew up, I went to all of his events and cheered for him like there was no tomorrow. I also made it a point to talk with him about my own upbringing as a way for him to learn to talk about his emotions. I told him that strong men eat quiche and can talk about their feelings.
I also wanted to create wonderful father-son memories for him to cherish and repeat with his children. So I came up with a few ideas. Some of them were just as much for my rehab as they were for his benefit.
To start, we spent every weekend practicing whatever sport he was into at the time. Whether it was baseball, football or tennis, we had hours of one-on-one time on Saturdays and Sundays. But it didn’t end there. When his friends would come over or meet us at the park, I played with them too. I would QB or pitch for both teams.
We also took two trips a year together to bond. One trip was for just the two of us, and the other was with another father and son. My son got to pick any city in the US and that’s where we went for our four-day father-son trip. Even as I write this, it brings back all the places we went: San Francisco, LA, Boston, Chicago, Washington DC, New York City, and lots more. I even made Shutterfly books to make the memories last forever and to have a physical reminder of the bond we had created together.
Okay guys, whaddaya think?
Have you had a similar experience? Can you relate? Share your thoughts, your stories, your questions and advice so we can all learn from one another and make better decisions. Plus, you’ll get some huge karma points for doing so.
Have a great day and a great life.
A regular guy, another opinion.℠