The Secret Life Of Dads

I learned a secret this week. About the man who is my husband and my son’s dad.

Just about every woman I know gushes over babies and toddlers; ooh-ing and aaah-ing as much as they would if they were in a shoe store. Well, almost.

I am very guilty for saying :’Oh, they’re so cute at that age. Look at their little feet. Look at their lovely little ears. They’re drooling. They’ve just pooped – brilliant.’

Mums talk all the time about the various stages their children move in and out of, bemoaning the fact they no longer play with dolls or watch the Nickelodeon channel. We research what to expect from one stage to the next and as a result, often seem more immune to the rigours of the passage of time.

I always thought that Dads paid little attention to the movement through the stages, merely looking forward to the first game of football, the first bike, or the first car. But I was wrong.

My son is turning thirteen next week. A bona fide teenager. While I am spending my time devising strategies for dealing with teenage angst my husband is well, feeling it. The sound of time a-passing.

I caught him with a tear in his eye the other morning after talking to Nick before leaving for work.

‘He’s still a boy for now,’ he said, ‘But it won’t be long till it hits.’

For those of us who have experienced some trying times as an adult it can be hard to think of our own child plunging into what we sometimes view as the darkness. My husband’s teenage years were harder than most. He had an abusive, alcoholic father who often went on drunken binges for weeks at a time. He beat up his wife in front of their eight children then left them to call the ambulance. At 15, my husband had to drop out of school to help his mother support the family because his father wouldn’t.

Job losses, failed businesses, unaffordable housing, a highly competitive de-personalised workplace – these things can scar a person for life. Knowing your child is growing up and will soon have to face some of those challenges makes you feel like you are sending them into battle.

‘I don’t want that for my son,’ said his Dad. ‘I don’t want him to feel overwhelmed, like he has no one to turn to.’

Well, he never will because he has his Dad. To pick him up when he falls, to encourage him, to tell him he is good enough, that he can do it. To love him.

Our boy will never feel he has no one to talk to, will never be told to stop acting like a girl over a broken heart. We will always be there through good times and bad, no matter what.

I learned a secret this week. And it made me see fatherhood in a different light.

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21 thoughts on “The Secret Life Of Dads

  1. I hope the teenage years will be just that bit easier for Nick just knowing how much more approachable and understanding you both are as parents. I think our kids will be just as angsty as we were but they may feel a little safer.

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  2. Your husband sounds like a stand-up guy, Sel. You deserve nothing less. Both of you remember, your boy has a wondeful world opening up for him because he has had you two guiding him along the way….and who will continue to do so.
    NOTHING is more important.

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  3. Please give your husband an extra hug. What a compassionate and loving father he is. I wish he did not undergo such a horrid childhood/teen years. Such “character building” as I refer to simliar for myself, is something that didn’t need to happen in life, but also circumstances beyond our control. Now, ALL of you are lucky to have each other. (Puberty and teen years is not the same as the “terrible twos”, but it is trying for all. I have an older teen daughter…)

    Hugs

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  4. Hi Selma–what a beyootiful post!
    I have worked with many “teenangsters” (my Lisa-term for teens angsting over so much)at many Open Mics and poetry readings and workshops. ALL of them long for their parents’ attention(and even approval, though they are loathe to admit it!). My heart actually hurts when I see young people show up to read their own words aloud, and there is no parent there, to HEAR them. Sounds like Nic will not ever have to worry about being heard!
    Hugs to You, “Daddy” and li’l Nick!

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  5. Oh Selma, I know exactly how you (and your husband) feel, as my son just turned 13 too. This post made me all teary eyed thinking about what your husband when through as teenager, but also, how AWESOME of a man / FATHER he is! xoxoxoxo

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  6. oh do it sel,, follow thru with him like your husbands father was unable to do.. if more parents thought like you do there would be a lot more happy well adjusted human beings than there are scarred ones….

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  7. PUNATIK:
    He’s a good boy. He hardly gives us any trouble at all apart from his tendency to tell gross jokes about bodily functions. 😀

    KATE:
    I hope so too. That would be a dream come true!!!

    MARK;
    Double YAY for the Dads and high fives all around. Thanks for stopping by!

    THE HURRICANE:
    I think he’ll be OK. I hope he’ll be OK. This is where the hard work begins, I suspect….I’m up for it!!!

    EMPLOYEE 3699:
    He’s a young man now. I’m not really ready. *gulp*

    LAURI:
    They grow up before we know it, don’t they? 13 years went whoooosh, just like that!

    LYNNE:
    I actually went through the terrible threes. I didn’t think it was possible for anyone to scream and whine so much (and that was just me.)

    ‘Character building’ is a horrible phrase, isn’t it? I think I’ve had enough of that to last a lifetime. By rights, I should be a saint or something 🙂

    GERALDINE:
    I am lucky. It’s good to have those guys to count on. I think we all need that. Makes me feel I can cope with most things!

    LISA:
    I think I’ll have to steal ‘teenangster.’ That is perfect. I know what you mean, I used to see it when I was teaching. Kids getting awards for things or giving performances and no parent there to watch them. It’s heartbreaking stuff. I’ll pass on those hugs!

    MELEAH:
    Sometimes those things do make us better as adults but I can’t imagine my own son going through and coping with what his Dad had to. Our babies are growing up, aren’t they? *sob*

    PAISLEY:
    You are so right. And it doesn’t really take that much effort. I just want my son to know his Dad and I are always there – no matter what the problem is. That’s really all I wanted from my parents.

    MOTHER HEN:
    I think I did. Thanks, hon!!

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  8. Selma – your son is so lucky to have a dad like that!!! And you have a wonderful guy! When Father’s Day comes along wish him a good one from me.

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  9. Oh that’s lovely and yes, your son is never going to repeat his father’s experiences – his life is entirely different.

    I remember once I was round my neighbour’s house for their child’ birthday – can’t think how old – and the father had written this wonderful poem for her. I was stunned – as he read it out at the party. Amazing man.

    My son will be 13 next year too. But I think he’ll be fine as will yours.

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  10. My daughters turn 15 in 11 days and I know exactly how you are both feeling. As parents we never want our children to experience anything terrible, we never want them to get hurt, but life is about teaching us lessons and I guess that is all part and parcel of the deal.

    Your husband has managed to turn a terrible experience in childhood into something positive for his own child. How many times do we hear of people repeating the mistakes of the past with their own kids? He made a conscious decision not to do that and I applaud him for that. It shows a person of inner strength and character not to be product of his own experience.

    You and Nic are very lucky as your husband is to have both of you. I have a feeling you are all going to be just fine.

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  11. Selma…that is such an important secret revealed to you. Last summer I watched my husband’s discomfort with our daughter who at the time was 14 going on 15. She was involved in theatre and had made new friends who were a couple of years older and of the other sex. They were just as enthusiastic as our daughter was about theatre, and were very accomodating of her….almost like a little sister. So, one day, 4 of them show up at our house at once. It put my husband into a complete hyperventilating tailspin. The very idea that his daughter would be around boys that age. All he could think of was from the perspective of 17 year old boys!!!! It literally froze him and it truly surprised me.
    I made him go downstairs and introduce himself etc….before he knew it, he was swapping music tastes and various TV show stuff and they in turn left thinking he was the coolest guy ever.

    But, it was the initial reaction I wasn’t expecting, and it was all about his daughter moving into a world he wasn’t prepared to accept yet.

    great post. xx

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  12. Confession: I don’t get the purse thing, and I’m not a particularly big fan of babies and toddlers. I think get interesting around age 6.

    My good friend just had a baby girl. I was pondering this as I was tucking The Boy in… he used to fit inside me… and now, well, now I can slowly see him pulling away. I hope that his teen years are easier than mine were.

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  13. TBALL:
    I surely will. He will be very happy to get your good wishes!

    RELUCS:
    I think both of our boys will be fine. For some reason I get teary when Dads are emotional about their kids. I think it’s really nice. I would have cried if I’d heard that poem at the party!

    ROMANY:
    It’s true. So many people repeat their own childhoods over and over. It does take a lot of strength to move out of that line of thinking.

    I can’t believe your beautiful girls are going to be 15 soon. Boy, that time has gone by quickly. Please wish them a very happy day from me when the time comes!

    DANA:
    It must be hard for Dads when their daughters become interested in boys. Or boys become interested in them. I will certainly find that stage challenging. Reality bites as they grow up, doesn’t it? It was great to hear your story!

    NAT:
    My teen years were a mixed bag. I remember writing a lot of really bad poetry about boys who ‘didn’t know I was alive.’ I guess Nick will go through something like that in his own way. I just hope I don’t have to read his poetry. Hahaha.

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