Profound impact of a father’s legacy
This Father's Day will be 21 years since my dad's death. I've now lived longer without him than I did with. Every day, I wake up grateful for what he worked so hard to provide for me: a good education, financial security and back-up. I know I'm very lucky though I've come to realise, a father's legacy is far more than any monetary provision.
Our dads, or closest male influence, teach us what men do and what to expect of men. They role model for us through how they relate what fathers are, what husbands are, and sons. They demonstrate interacting with the outside world.
Dads have a profound impact. Their reverberations can be experienced throughout generations. Statistics indicate the tragic knock-on effects of abuse but what of the other extremes? My dad was a great provider but this meant he was away on business — a lot.
When he was home, it's fair to say he wasn't hugely emotionally available. There was a big generational gap and perhaps he struggled relating with “little girl stuff”; he was not one for tea parties.
There are varying degrees of absence. My picture of childhood is being raised by a strong, practical, caring mother. Dad was just a behind-the-scenes guy, someone to threaten us with if we were getting unruly.
It shouldn't surprise me that when I grew up I would, in turn, be attracted to emotionally unavailable, dominant fellas who were reluctant to engage. They fit my experience of what a man is and does, despite not making me happy.
During my divorce I wasn't hugely mindful of my ex-husband's role because I figured that, like me, all you needed was a strong mother. I was subconsciously perpetuating all my childhood patterns.
It took the self-study and personal-awareness journey I embarked on when I began coaching, to start seeing how my past had influenced my present — and how I would continue the cycle unless I made changes.
What can we do if our dads just weren't there or died or worse: took out their inherited lack of understanding on us? Are we doomed to follow in their footsteps? No. Recognising our patterns is the first step to changing them. We can actually learn to re-parent ourselves. It involves breaking our subconscious templates and learning to make conscious choices about our identities and how we relate to others.
This work falls beyond the realms of coaching, but I share my very personal experience with it because I consider its consequences so significant. I can, at least, provide resources and offer recommendations if this narrative strikes a chord.
I don't blame my dad for my experiences. He was doing his very best with what he knew and had grown up with. I now know myself how hard parenting is. It doesn't come with a manual; even the best intentions can inadvertently negatively impact our children. I joke that I'm saving up for my son's future therapy along with his college fund!
There's just so much I could've learnt from my father. He was a self-starter, a Second World War pilot, a successful businessman, entrepreneur, adventurer.
I'm sad I didn't get to see much of all that he was, and that he was gone before I was old or mature enough to ask. So I continue my work to identify and embrace healthy male interaction and ways of being, in his honour.
I try hard to support my son's relationship with his father and point out positive masculine role models.
And I cherish the memories that I do have, knowing how hard my father tried for me. Thanks, Dad.
• Julia Pitt is a trained success coach and certified NLP practitioner. For further information contact Julia on 705-7488, www.juliapittcoaching.com