Posted by: Admin | August 14, 2010

The Saturday Interview – 7 PART ONE

Boys to men

As many of project50 readers are of the masculine variety, this week we’re looking at the sometimes difficult relationship between fathers and their teenage sons.  Son No.2 and his dad clearly care for each other, but it hasn’t always been an easy ride as the “old stag” hit 50 and the “young stag” reached 18 and they started to lock horns. This is Dan talking about  his relationship with his father.

“I’ve noticed that the older I get, the more Dad challenges me.”

“Challenges you?”

“Yeah, in the way a teenager challenges his dad. He wants to show he’s still the biggest, the strongest, the wisest.”

“You mean like an old lion? The new alpha males are taking over the pack?”

“Yeah. He’s not being marginalised like an old lion though.” Dan laughs. “It’s just this strange role reversal that’s taken place.”

“How do you deal with that? Do you rise to it?”

Dan laughs again. “Nah. I don’t need to.”

“So how do you see your role as a son now that you’re 19 and have flown the nest?”

“Bloody hell, that’s hard question.”  I go to make a cup of tea of tea while he thinks about it.

“What do you mean?” he asks when I get back.

“Well, how has your relationship changed?”

“I suppose as I’ve got older I’ve shown him more respect.”

“Why?”

“Because I suppose as I’ve got more mature I’ve realised how he’s supported me, financially and in backing me up in the path I’ve taken. When I was younger, I wasn’t aware of how hard he worked. I didn’t think about it. As a kid, your dad isn’t there in the day, then he’s there at night. You don’t know what he’s doing, or where the money comes from.”

“I remember you telling me that you thought he wasn’t very bright as all he seemed to do was watch the football on the TV.”

“I didn’t have much respect for him until I was about 17 to be honest. That sounds a bit mean. He didn’t really show me much respect. Nothing he said to me was positive. We didn’t have much in common and he was quite distant emotionally and verbally throughout my childhood. I know now it was because he was so tired etc, but then I never really felt I got to talk to him, unless it was to discuss how I presented myself.”

“Dad took you to Borneo when you were 16 so you could spend quality time together.”

“Yeah, that was good. We got on very well most of the time.”

“Why did you get on away from home, do you think?”

“There was just me and him and we could talk. He was relaxed, didn’t have to worry about anything. And we both like beer.”

“You were sharing an experience.”

“I personally believe that you’re only truly yourself when you’re thrown into a new situation that’s totally unfamiliar to you.”

“When you’re being challenged?”

“Yeah. When you’re outside your comfort zone it forces you to be yourself, the purest you that you can be. So, for example, at home you behave in different ways with different friendship groups, at work and so on. If you’re in another country, or doing something unfamiliar, it makes you react to things in a more authentic way.”

“So because you were away your relationship was more honest, less bound by your perceived roles?”

“Yeah, we were both stripped down to who we really are and were able to enjoy the new experiences together.”

“I suppose the point is that they were new to both of you and therefore you were both on a level.”

“Exactly.”

“Would you have any advice for fathers and sons who are finding it difficult to get on?”

“Try to see things from your dad’s perspective. Have a bit of empathy. You need to be the stronger one by taking the first step to be empathetic because your dad probably won’t because a dad naturally thinks he’s all knowing and has to command your respect. Dads don’t feel they need to empathise with their sons, they feel they should be looked up to unquestioningly. I believe a father should earn a son’s respect as much as a son should try to earn the respect of his dad.”

“When you become a dad, is there anything you’d do differently?”

“Of course. I want to be a very hands-on Dad, the kind of Dad who teaches their son things.”

“Such as?”

“Just the standard things, really. Take them fishing, teach them how to drink, about girls, how to shave. I’m lucky that I have a dad – most boys don’t and they get these things from various different father figures as they grow up. Dad’s quite modern – that sounds strange, doesn’t it? I mean he’s metrosexual. He doesn’t do the traditional manly things like hunting and fishing. He’s manly, in that he’s into sport and fitness and stuff and he’s a Structural Engineer, so very factual. Many people would say he’s more manly than me – I’m a musician and a poet and I hate sport.”

“Isn’t that because Dad watched it all the time?”

“Yeah. And Ben was good at it and I was under pressure at school because Ben’s name was up on all the honour boards at school. All the teachers used to call me Ben.”

“We’re going off the point here. How would you describe your relationship with your dad now? Has it improved?”

“Oh yeah. Dad hasn’t changed, but I’ve changed.”

“In that you understand him better?”

“Yeah. I know now that he loves me and thinks I’m all right. He’s shown more of an interest in me. So he has changed a little, I guess. I now recognise when he’s showing me approval. I don’t think I did before. I don’t have any memories of him being impressed by anything I did when I was younger.”

“Because as you were growing up his role was to guide you.”

“And he was distant.”

“That might be because his own father died when he was ten, so he never had anyone to teach him how to be a man. He had to work it all out for himself.”

“I never thought of that. It’s all cool now though. I just didn’t see him much. In a way I see him more now. When I see him now it means something because I’m not living at home any more, so we both make more of an effort. I don’t get so frustrated with him now. And once he accepts that I’m now the alpha male I’ll take him for a pint.”

Not all tension - Dan at 16

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Responses

  1. I guess I was lucky, my old man was always my hero, as long as I can remember – and there were plenty of hero-worship moments, could fill a small book.
    Plus no boys for me, only had the protective father role for my girls.

    • Thanks for the comment, Rich. I think you were lucky – there are so many men out there whose fruitless search for approval from their fathers defines them. You would probably tried to replicate the father/son relationship you enjoyed if you’d had a son yourself, and I’m sure you would have succeeded. x


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