As a long time people watcher and student of relationships, I have stumbled across a trend that seems to be more common than I realized. It seems that no matter what the circumstances are, fathers and sons don’t generally have great relationships.
My relationship with my father wasn’t great. He grew up with a legacy of unavailable fathers and wanted to break the cycle. His father was a drunk and didn’t want much to do with my father even when he was sober. His father’s father was always gone for work. His father’s father’s father…well, I already talked about that and the “bastard” lineage. My guess is this trend has been ongoing for many generations.
But my relationship with my father wasn’t good because he didn’t really know me. He tried to change who I was from the minute my own personality showed. I was never going to be the child he wanted and I received that message loud and clear, so I tried to be who he wanted and made my own self miserable and depressed in the process. He still doesn’t know me and I’m pretty sure that’s for the best. My brother’s relationship with him isn’t much better. My father wanted to be like my brother and gave him way too much freedom. My father was always proud of my brother no matter what he did but I had to work hard for scraps of that pride. It really sucked. I actively try not to remember that time in my life because it felt like nothing I did was ever good enough. He just expected me to be perfect and never acknowledged that I was working hard to achieve his expectations.
My friends don’t have great relationships with their fathers, either. They feel like they let their fathers down or weren’t who their father wanted them to be. I see it with some of my soccer players. I had one 9 year old who cried every time he didn’t score at least one goal a game. He was sure his parents were going to pull him from soccer if he didn’t score. What they really had a problem with was his pouty behavior when he didn’t score. He would turn away from the game and cry on the sideline, convinced that he wouldn’t be allowed to play soccer. His dad was a super supportive parent, so I’m not really sure where the idea that he would be pulled from the game comes from.
It’s just so striking to me how many men/boys I know have this huge load on their shoulders from their fathers, whether it’s an actual burden or a perceived burden. Parenting seems fairly easy to me; accept who you have and who they are and love them for those reasons. Why does anyone need to be changed to fit some ideal or expectation that doesn’t suit them? And why would a parent get to make a choice on who their child gets to be in life?
It’s all so puzzling to me…