I wrote A little post on social media this week about the backwards, damaging idea that if a boy is mean to a girl it means he likes her. After which my ego popped up and asked who I thought I was, having the right to remark about any questionable behaviours with a past like mine. what gives me the right to write about parenting. I was definitely not a saint.
Now I don’t imagine there is a man or woman out there who has landed the mighty task of parenting who hasn’t felt the nudge of shame and guilt for past mistakes along the way at some point.
I would never be so arrogant as to make light of the person I was before now. I became a violent, self centred drunk after decades of struggling with mental health symptoms. The most important person in my life was always me. I was fuelled by resentment and fear. I caused many harms to many people over the years. I have since cleared up where I can and no longer live with the conflicts and anger I carried.
My wife and daughters have never seen me take a drink, or lose my temper. But I am always aware of what is behind me, I don’t hide from it or shut the door on it. Which is why my life must be one of continual improvement. I cannot make excuses for my failings anymore. I am either moving forwards or backwards.
I used to fear becoming a parent because of my mistakes and resentments. There are also childhood memories that brought fear to the idea I could ever be a Dad that would do nothing more than damage.
I didn’t arrive at Fatherhood knowing how it would be or how I would cope emotionally. No one really does. I just knew I had to be an example. And that meant forgiving. Shame is nothing more than resentment directed inwards, and I didn’t want anger to become a wedge in my relationships with my girls. I had to stop judging myself. I need a moral compass to work from.
So do I have the right to step up and question the behaviours and lessons I see, and show my children the right path ? Absolutely, because otherwise they will just grow up to be victims of my excuses.
I don’t want my children to make the same mistakes I made, I know the outcomes. I have a responsibility to them, no matter what the path my life took to show them the difference between right from wrong. So if I see it, I have no problem calling it.
Because I was that boy that was mean to girls, and grew into a man that damaged others, and I’m aware of the harms I caused.
My failings as a man can be my greatest teachings as long as I’m willing to acknowledge them. My children deserve as much from me.