Have your cards already been taken from the shelf? Has that special bottle of beer they bought you been used by your wife to bait the slug trap? Have the children (dependent upon age) returned to vomiting down your work shirt; poking you in the eye with a spoon; throwing everything out of the shopping trolley faster than you can throw it in; slamming the bedroom door so fiercely that next door have to rearrange every photo they have hanging on their walls; reminding you that whatever you have said or done it is simply ‘just not fair’?
Don’t despair, it will be ok. By the time they go to Uni they will be talking to you; by the time they are in their thirties they will quite like you and by the time you reach sixty they may even have forgiven you for embarrassing them at their wedding. Parenthood is meant to be challenging – it stops contentment seeping in – and fatherhood is particularly so because you can’t even fall back on the ‘You should be grateful. I carried you for nine months. I protected you. I gave birth to you!’ All you’ve got is ‘I assembled the drawers in your bedroom’ which doesn’t have quite the same impact. Kids are a challenge that parents have to face up to, as parents are a challenge to kids – mind you, there’s only ever going to be one winner and it ain’t gonna be you, so you might as well suck that one in here and now.
Have you ever wondered why your stroppy, moody, needy, semi-bi-polar teenager seems ok to everybody else? It’s because they are. It’s not always easy to remember when they’re demonstrating what a crap parent you are, but realising that ‘JUST LEAVE ME ALONE!!!’ probably means ‘Give me five minutes’ is a good place to start. And don’t think for a second that I think I know the answers: I am no perfect dad. I scraped through, the same as everybody else. I’ve had my own moments of total irrationality; my own moments of knowing that I just got it all terribly wrong; my own moments of howling at the moon, but somehow we all came through it.
It is my experience that most young people are actually good people – they want to do the right thing. Of course, there are a few little shits – I fear I could have been one myself – but most emerge from pubescence as decent honest people and most of them will make the world a better place in which to live.
I have two beautiful daughters and just one single piece of advice to offer: stick at it dads. Unless you really screw it up, they will grow to like you (they’ll always love you – even when they hate you) and, in the end, you’ll all be much the better for it.
Oh, and by the way, find out where the cards have gone and store them carefully away. One day, when you’re not at your best, you will find them when you’re not looking and they will make you smile…
My Father had a profound influence on me. He was a lunatic. – Spike Milligan