Being a dad (or mum, for that matter) is like taking a particularly eventful roller coaster ride. Lots of ups, inevitable downs – a richly rewarding but, let’s face it, sometimes white-knuckle ride. Hang on!
Nobody tells you how to be a parent, although for expectant dads I would recommend the amazing books, Raising Boys and Raising Girls by Steve Biddulph. To my eternal shame, I read little in preparation for fatherhood, but I knew we were expecting a boy and found Biddulph’s insights especially useful.
You don’t have to go it alone
He contends that boys need more than one strong male mentor to build their confidence. It was a relief to learn I wasn’t going on this scary journey as the only male passenger. And, armed with this knowledge, I picked my three best friends as godfathers.
These vastly different, caring men have developed their special bonds with him. They think the world of him, and he feels the same way about them. He’s had his male support band every step of the way. We will be forever grateful.
There is no shame in asking for help (see links below). You can feel frightened and alone grappling with the inevitable dramas of life.
A moment I’ll never forget
I remember with great affection the moment I discovered I was going to be a dad. I was out of the country on business, which made it so exciting for me. I was with a group of strangers, so I just celebrated, free of the anxiety my wife was experiencing at home.
Once I got home, I was shaken out of my complacency by the realisation that she was petrified, and I had been naive. Even when a pregnancy is planned the reality can be a huge shock, especially if it’s your first baby.
It wasn’t an easy pregnancy with a major health concern at the 20-week scan, and he went into the Special Baby Care Unit at Dorchester Hospital after he was born. The first week was very scary, but the staff were amazing, and we got through it.
The prognosis got better and 19 years later he’s a robust and healthy young man. We feel incredibly lucky and blessed.
What being a father means to me
It means the world. He’s kind, thoughtful and interesting, frequently chaotic, and often a worry, but I wouldn’t change him for anything.
I suppose the pressure you feel as the father of a boy is to be an adequate role model, someone he can feel proud of, someone he can turn to in a crisis, but hopefully someone who doesn’t interfere in his decisions, even when you don’t agree with them.
It is a humbling experience because you can never do enough, you feel you’re failing and sometimes you don’t have the answers. So that is why support is such a comfort.
We’re human, we’re fallible, and we can only do the best we can.
Filled with pride
At times you shake your head in disbelief, at times, your heart fills with pride.
When I found out I was expecting a boy I foolishly thought he’d be like me, a sports fanatic, who’d play cricket, tennis, and golf with me.
Of course, he hated those things, and his passion was for music. We can’t and shouldn’t try and mould our children in our image.
He’s derived so much joy and confidence from his music and we marvel at his courage. He is a shy chap but isn’t fazed by performing in front of hundreds of people. He doesn’t get that from his parents.
It isn’t always easy, but if you can discover your children’s passions it helps provide a sure foundation for their life.
Constantly evolving relationship
The relationship that you have with your children is constantly changing. When they are little, you are there to keep them safe and marvel as their personalities begin to emerge.
In those early years, the bond with his mother was strong. She was so imaginative, so full of fun, and so clever at changing tack when one course of action wasn’t working.
But by the time he went to secondary school he identified more with me. We have shared interests in trekking and biking.
This year, to celebrate my 60th, we’re walking the Camino St Francis in Spain. I am thrilled he is prepared to spend two weeks with his old man, who is likely to moan about his knees and his feet every inch of the way.
It’s so important to stay communicating with your children, even when it’s incredibly hard to do so.
I hope Spain will be an opportunity to find new ways to reach him and show him how much I love him.
Needing support? Do reach out for help
Our Guest Blogger:
Huge thanks to out returning guest blogger is Nick Rowe who writes candidly about fatherhood and who and what helped him along the way.
Dorset Mind offers group support that can also help with your wellbeing. The group offers peer support and helps to reduce stigma by normalizing conversations about mental health. You can also check out further support for stress and mental health here.