As we age how we treat our children, and how we want them to treat us changes. A lot.
With our first two children, Tamryn and Dannielle, my primary concern was being their father. With our younger two, Gareth and Julia, being accessible as other than an authority figure has become extremely important to me. Indeed it is so important, and so satisfying I’m now trying to encourage similar relationships with Tamryn and Dannielle. However this is proving much more difficult, probably because the roles assumed in relationships established over many years are difficult to change. Yes, that is a subtle dig at how old my two older children are… no, it isn’t. It is an apology to my two older children that I wasn’t more of a friend and less of an authority figure to them.
Why do I feel many people will actively discourage me from wanting my children to treat me as a normal person, rather than a father-figure?
Well for one I am a normal person… well, as normal as the silly standard of “normal” can be in a world filled with billions of utterly unique individuals. But even more important is the growing realization I am an aging, real flesh and blood person. Besides the obvious issue of age, I have all the failings of flesh and blood. I have all the doubts, hopes, dreams, regrets and woes which render any person real.
What does that mean?
It means I would rather be seen as a flawed yet accessible man than as a lifeless caricature composed of societal definitions of the way fathers “should be”. You see, to me that is all any figure is. Including “father-figure”. A father-figure is a two-dimensional, empty, pen and paper sketch with grossly distorted and exaggerated authority. But worst of all, just like many pencil outlines, they have an empty white space where their heart should be.
I don’t want to be a father-figure to my children. Yes, I want to be their father, but I very much want to be accessible as someone they might care to consider their friend as well. And honestly? Once my children are no longer children, the second is more important to me than the first.
Everyone knows our children are our children forever. Our parents are the same, but why not also be friends? It is said that you can pick your friends, but you cannot pick your family. How wonderful would it be if we picked our family as our friends?
Please don’t bother regaling me with hollow wisdom which asserts that before I am my children’s friend I should be their father. Instead regal me with why you personally think such a statement is wise.
Thank you for spending your time on the musings of a softening old man…
We enter the world wrinkled, and soft,.
and if we are fortunate
we leave the world the very same way.
— C.G.Ayling (@CGAyling) January 29, 2016