Chores

I think chores are one of my failures as a father.

When I was growing up I did a fair bit to help around the house.   Karen and I took it in turns to set the table and dry the dishes when we were little tackers and during State School days I also had the job of cleaning and polishing everyones shoes before we left for school.

When I got old enough to use the lawn mower, I was pushing that around the yard once a fortnight and I can remember helping Mum paint the inside of the house or hang wall paper and one summer I painted the entire outside of the house perched up on a rickety home made ladder.

When Mum went back to work around the time I was finishing State School I also started to help with the interior house work, vacuuming and polishing the floors.  I don’t remember being over taxed with any of that at the time, it was simply part of life and it earnt me some pocket money which I could then spend on comics.  It was a good deal.

But when I had my own kids I realise now that I probably made things a bit too easy for them.  I can’t actually remember them helping me out off their own bat.  They helped sometimes when I asked but it always seemed a bit reluctantly.   So I failed them I think, by being weak and not insisting they pay their own way a bit more.

What about the rest of you?  If you have kids did they help out?   Was it something forced upon them or was it done with good grace and with a genuine desire to help you out?

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Happy Fathers Day

My Dad died on 14th August 2004, a little over five years ago and that was the catalyst for starting this blog and in so many ways the trigger for most of the changes in my life.  It was the moment when the midlife episode hit leading to an awakening and a realisation that things would never be the same again.   There’s been good and bad since that time for me.  I have changed, in some ways becoming more honest, mainly with myself.  I have learnt where I was weak and in the process I think I have become a better person.   But you know what, hardly a day goes by when I do’t think of my Dad, when I don’t wish that our relationship had been better, that I had taken the time to spend more time with him, that instead of being just father and son, that we had also been mates.

And I sometimes wonder in looking at myself in terms of that relationship, how I might have been a better father to my kids.   I know now that my biggest failure as a person is that I am a master at keping feelings to myself.  Ironically that has been seen as a strength by many work colleagues because they percieve me as someone who is cool calm and collected and always in control.   They don’t realise that sometimes that facade is hiding a little boy who sometimes quakes in hs boots.

That little boy tends to reflect on days like today.   I remember going to the local shopping centre on Saturday mornings and getting a hair cut with Dad and then sprinting along the street to the milk bar for a milkshake.  I remember him sitting on my bad at night smelling of beer and cigarettes and fetching me a glass of water.  I remember the cubby houses we would build out of sheets of masonite he would bring home from work, and the days spent setting up my cowboys and indians and farm yards on the lounge room floor.   I remember playing marbles in the backyard.

After I separated from my then wife and whilst I was living alone in a flat no one came to about two years after Dad died he came to me and sat on my bed.   I know I was more than likely asleep but it was a very vivid dream and I was once again that little boy who got comfort from that nightly visit by his Dad.

I expect to see three of my four kids today.  I fear it’s not because they want to but because they think they should and maybe that is a reflection of the type of father I have been.  My ex did tell me after I left that they kids had discussed things and thought that I was never there when they were growing up.  And it’s true I worked long hours but I never missed an event or any of the many games of sport they played.  I didn’t play cowboys and indians with my sons, nor marbles, nor did we build cubby houses, but we played basketball and built lego towns and I read them stories at night whilst they fell asleep.  Could I have done more?  Undoubtedly.  But I was what I was and that is all I was.

For anyone who is interested I have looked back over the posts on this blog and found some familiar themes in older posts.

Bad Jokes Good Father?
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Father
Things I miss
Cats in the Cradle
Parents and the Damage Done
Josie’s Interview Part 2 – A non-sozzled Loz

So if you happen to be lucky enough to still have your Dad, make sure you contact him today and tell him you love him.   Don’t end up with some of the regrets that I have.   And if you happen to be a Dad make sure you also tell your kids how much you love them, that if at times there have been some cats in the cradle moments, that is a weakness most fathers have.   We carry that burden of provider, pre-programmed into us and for some of us it is something we will bear till the end of our days.  If we’re lucky our inevitable midlife episode may give us a shake and awaken us to some of the other possibilities.  Maybe that’s why some of us make far better grandparents than parents.   Perhaps being that little further down the road means that we can choose to live the moment differently.

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Father Part 2

On the 18th June 2007 I wrote a post titled The Loneliness of the Long Distance Father which I had written after visiting a friend. Now, another year and a half down the track I can speak with a little more personal experience about my own situation and how things have unfolded.

When I separated from my wife in February 2006 it is true that I withdrew from the world to a large degree.  I spoke to no one about how I felt, I worried constantly about what the future held and spent much of my time away from work alone.  I didn’t see a lot of my kids that first year and that hurt.  When I look back now I find that much of the year is foggy.   No friends called, part of the family isolated me and the kids were being exposed to things about the situaton that they probably shouldn’t have.

There was an assumption by a lot of people that I was in a relationship with the lady who was the catalyst for the marriage break up.  The truth was for much of the first 15 months of that separation we were friends, in some ways we were our only friends.  And whilst that was continuing I was being told that the kids would never forgive her and never accept her.   So I struggled big time with what I should do, I didn’t wish to pursue a full blown relationship because I was frightened of the consequences.  Hence there were no discussions with my kids about my feelings or my perspective on the marriage break up.  In fact I regard that as probably my biggest mistake because everyone I knew had a perspective on what they thought was going on because of the story they were hearing.  And it was a story in which my voice was silent.

Don’t get me wrong, there is no blame here.  I was simply acting as blokes are expected to act.  We aren’t supposed to show our feelings, or talk about them with anyone.  Keep a stiff upper lip, shoulder the burden but, if like me, you shoulder all the blame as well, then maybe expect to lose friends as a result of that.

It took a while but I can remember the exact moment when my kids did start to come around.   In August 2007 my lady moved in with me and on Fathers Day that year my daughters visited my home whilst my lady was there for the first time.  I wrote about that on Sunday 2 September2007 in a post called Red Letter Day.

Now I see them at least once a fortnight, maybe not as much as I would like, but the initial awkwardness has gone.  If they hate her, as I was told they would, or if they have not forgiven her, there is no evidence of that.  Last night my oldest son brought his new girlfriend around to meet us and they and my youngest daughter had dinner with us.   Yesterday my oldest daughter was here with her boyfriend and today my second son dropped in for an hour.   I am a lucky person.

If you’ve been reading this blog over the past week you may have noticed that I’ve been looking at the stats and where the visitors come from and there are a couple of search terms that people use which bring them to this blog.  One of the most common is a combination of the words father, loneliness and long distance, so I am guessing that there are a lot of men out there who do look for answers when their marriages fail.

I thought, therefore, that it might be worth showing those people that there is hope, that children can come around, despite what they may be told, in the end it will be their reality and experience which is important, not that which may be imposed upon them by others.    I am still looking at improving my relationship with my kids.  I am far from the perfect father, but if I can give some advice it is this, maintain contact with your kids, even if it’s only a phone call.  Tell them you love them, if they are prepared to listen teach them that there are different realities, that no one is 100% right all the time.   Let them know that it is OK to have an opinion but respect that of other people as well, but never, take those opinions as gospel.

Life is way too short to hold grudges and to be bitter about things forever.

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Father Part 2

On the 18th June 2007 I wrote a post titled The Loneliness of the Long Distance Father which I had written after visiting a friend. Now, another year and a half down the track I can speak with a little more personal experience about my own situation and how things have unfolded.

When I separated from my wife in February 2006 it is true that I withdrew from the world to a large degree.  I spoke to no one about how I felt, I worried constantly about what the future held and spent much of my time away from work alone.  I didn’t see a lot of my kids that first year and that hurt.  When I look back now I find that much of the year is foggy.   No friends called, part of the family isolated me and the kids were being exposed to things about the situaton that they probably shouldn’t have.

There was an assumption by a lot of people that I was in a relationship with the lady who was the catalyst for the marriage break up.  The truth was for much of the first 15 months of that separation we were friends, in some ways we were our only friends.  And whilst that was continuing I was being told that the kids would never forgive her and never accept her.   So I struggled big time with what I should do, I didn’t wish to pursue a full blown relationship because I was frightened of the consequences.  Hence there were no discussions with my kids about my feelings or my perspective on the marriage break up.  In fact I regard that as probably my biggest mistake because everyone I knew had a perspective on what they thought was going on because of the story they were hearing.  And it was a story in which my voice was silent.

Don’t get me wrong, there is no blame here.  I was simply acting as blokes are expected to act.  We aren’t supposed to show our feelings, or talk about them with anyone.  Keep a stiff upper lip, shoulder the burden but, if like me, you shoulder all the blame as well, then maybe expect to lose friends as a result of that.

It took a while but I can remember the exact moment when my kids did start to come around.   In August 2007 my lady moved in with me and on Fathers Day that year my daughters visited my home whilst my lady was there for the first time.  I wrote about that on Sunday 2 September2007 in a post called Red Letter Day.

Now I see them at least once a fortnight, maybe not as much as I would like, but the initial awkwardness has gone.  If they hate her, as I was told they would, or if they have not forgiven her, there is no evidence of that.  Last night my oldest son brought his new girlfriend around to meet us and they and my youngest daughter had dinner with us.   Yesterday my oldest daughter was here with her boyfriend and today my second son dropped in for an hour.   I am a lucky person.

If you’ve been reading this blog over the past week you may have noticed that I’ve been looking at the stats and where the visitors come from and there are a couple of search terms that people use which bring them to this blog.  One of the most common is a combination of the words father, loneliness and long distance, so I am guessing that there are a lot of men out there who do look for answers when their marriages fail.

I thought, therefore, that it might be worth showing those people that there is hope, that children can come around, despite what they may be told, in the end it will be their reality and experience which is important, not that which may be imposed upon them by others.    I am still looking at improving my relationship with my kids.  I am far from the perfect father, but if I can give some advice it is this, maintain contact with your kids, even if it’s only a phone call.  Tell them you love them, if they are prepared to listen teach them that there are different realities, that no one is 100% right all the time.   Let them know that it is OK to have an opinion but respect that of other people as well, but never, take those opinions as gospel.

Life is way too short to hold grudges and to be bitter about things forever.

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Father Part 2

On the 18th June 2007 I wrote a post titled The Loneliness of the Long Distance Father which I had written after visiting a friend. Now, another year and a half down the track I can speak with a little more personal experience about my own situation and how things have unfolded.

When I separated from my wife in February 2006 it is true that I withdrew from the world to a large degree.  I spoke to no one about how I felt, I worried constantly about what the future held and spent much of my time away from work alone.  I didn’t see a lot of my kids that first year and that hurt.  When I look back now I find that much of the year is foggy.   No friends called, part of the family isolated me and the kids were being exposed to things about the situaton that they probably shouldn’t have.

There was an assumption by a lot of people that I was in a relationship with the lady who was the catalyst for the marriage break up.  The truth was for much of the first 15 months of that separation we were friends, in some ways we were our only friends.  And whilst that was continuing I was being told that the kids would never forgive her and never accept her.   So I struggled big time with what I should do, I didn’t wish to pursue a full blown relationship because I was frightened of the consequences.  Hence there were no discussions with my kids about my feelings or my perspective on the marriage break up.  In fact I regard that as probably my biggest mistake because everyone I knew had a perspective on what they thought was going on because of the story they were hearing.  And it was a story in which my voice was silent.

Don’t get me wrong, there is no blame here.  I was simply acting as blokes are expected to act.  We aren’t supposed to show our feelings, or talk about them with anyone.  Keep a stiff upper lip, shoulder the burden but, if like me, you shoulder all the blame as well, then maybe expect to lose friends as a result of that.

It took a while but I can remember the exact moment when my kids did start to come around.   In August 2007 my lady moved in with me and on Fathers Day that year my daughters visited my home whilst my lady was there for the first time.  I wrote about that on Sunday 2 September2007 in a post called Red Letter Day.

Now I see them at least once a fortnight, maybe not as much as I would like, but the initial awkwardness has gone.  If they hate her, as I was told they would, or if they have not forgiven her, there is no evidence of that.  Last night my oldest son brought his new girlfriend around to meet us and they and my youngest daughter had dinner with us.   Yesterday my oldest daughter was here with her boyfriend and today my second son dropped in for an hour.   I am a lucky person.

If you’ve been reading this blog over the past week you may have noticed that I’ve been looking at the stats and where the visitors come from and there are a couple of search terms that people use which bring them to this blog.  One of the most common is a combination of the words father, loneliness and long distance, so I am guessing that there are a lot of men out there who do look for answers when their marriages fail.

I thought, therefore, that it might be worth showing those people that there is hope, that children can come around, despite what they may be told, in the end it will be their reality and experience which is important, not that which may be imposed upon them by others.    I am still looking at improving my relationship with my kids.  I am far from the perfect father, but if I can give some advice it is this, maintain contact with your kids, even if it’s only a phone call.  Tell them you love them, if they are prepared to listen teach them that there are different realities, that no one is 100% right all the time.   Let them know that it is OK to have an opinion but respect that of other people as well, but never, take those opinions as gospel.

Life is way too short to hold grudges and to be bitter about things forever.

Another Bewildered Father

I was down at the local shopping centre last night where I meet my daughters most Thursday nights for a meal of KFC.  Yeah I know, I’m over 50 with a slight paunch and shouldn’t be eating that stuff, but I’ve liked it ever since Dad brought it home one night way back in the late 60’s when the first store opened in Box Hill.  But I digress.

As I was walking towards the food court I ran into a bloke I’ve known for a lot of years, in fact we used to be members of the same organisation.  I see him occasionally and we always stop for a chat.  He’s lost a lot of weight recently and when I commented he told me that he’d separated from his wife of 30 odd years in the past two months.

It is a story that repeats itself every day somewhere on Earth.  He had had enough and left.   I didn’t ask what the marriage was like but I did say that I knew how he felt.   He had been doing his own thing for a few years, pursuing other interests his wife had no time for, he explained how that lack of communication and enjoyment of each others company began to build barriers, and how the molehills became mountains that he couldn’t see a way over.

His children refuse to talk to him at the moment and he asked me what to do.  Given I’ve often felt like a failure in that area myself I could only tell him to hang in there, that he needed to keep calling and showing interest in their lives and that if he did that then they would come around.  He was their father after all.

We exchanged cards and left with a promise to catch up.  But like most blokes, he will probably also suffer in silence, accept the entire burden for the break up himself and not reach out for help when he most needs it.    I know how he feels.  This is not necessarily an episode of depression, it may be, but it is more likely to be a grieving process.  An examination of what went wrong and how things may have been different.  At the end of the day we all find our own answers to those questions and when we do, it is possible to move on.  

It is a sad fact of gender that men do not have the support networks that women do, that we almost always put on the brave face, and that any crying we do is in private and when we are alone.  When all of the blame seems to lie on the one set of shoulders that self imposed isolation becomes even more of a burden as friends take sides, so that the people we may have felt we could talk to are no longer there.  So we withdraw into self imposed isolation for a period of time.   Self esteem can suffer, judgement can become clouded, we can throw ourselves into work to the detriment of everything else.  I have come to believe that the only way out of that miasma is to find an interest, be obsessed for a while if you need to be, but allow passion for a part of your life to creep back in, until the grief receeds, and you are ready to live again.

I will call him in the next week or so to see how he is getting on and to offer a little support if that is what he wants.

Another Bewildered Father

I was down at the local shopping centre last night where I meet my daughters most Thursday nights for a meal of KFC.  Yeah I know, I’m over 50 with a slight paunch and shouldn’t be eating that stuff, but I’ve liked it ever since Dad brought it home one night way back in the late 60’s when the first store opened in Box Hill.  But I digress.

As I was walking towards the food court I ran into a bloke I’ve known for a lot of years, in fact we used to be members of the same organisation.  I see him occasionally and we always stop for a chat.  He’s lost a lot of weight recently and when I commented he told me that he’d separated from his wife of 30 odd years in the past two months.

It is a story that repeats itself every day somewhere on Earth.  He had had enough and left.   I didn’t ask what the marriage was like but I did say that I knew how he felt.   He had been doing his own thing for a few years, pursuing other interests his wife had no time for, he explained how that lack of communication and enjoyment of each others company began to build barriers, and how the molehills became mountains that he couldn’t see a way over.

His children refuse to talk to him at the moment and he asked me what to do.  Given I’ve often felt like a failure in that area myself I could only tell him to hang in there, that he needed to keep calling and showing interest in their lives and that if he did that then they would come around.  He was their father after all.

We exchanged cards and left with a promise to catch up.  But like most blokes, he will probably also suffer in silence, accept the entire burden for the break up himself and not reach out for help when he most needs it.    I know how he feels.  This is not necessarily an episode of depression, it may be, but it is more likely to be a grieving process.  An examination of what went wrong and how things may have been different.  At the end of the day we all find our own answers to those questions and when we do, it is possible to move on.  

It is a sad fact of gender that men do not have the support networks that women do, that we almost always put on the brave face, and that any crying we do is in private and when we are alone.  When all of the blame seems to lie on the one set of shoulders that self imposed isolation becomes even more of a burden as friends take sides, so that the people we may have felt we could talk to are no longer there.  So we withdraw into self imposed isolation for a period of time.   Self esteem can suffer, judgement can become clouded, we can throw ourselves into work to the detriment of everything else.  I have come to believe that the only way out of that miasma is to find an interest, be obsessed for a while if you need to be, but allow passion for a part of your life to creep back in, until the grief receeds, and you are ready to live again.

I will call him in the next week or so to see how he is getting on and to offer a little support if that is what he wants.

Fatherhood, loneliness and what happens after the cliffhanger ending.

Of all the posts I have ever written “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Father” is the one that consistently gets hit through google.  And I am sure that is because it is usually the father who gives up parts of his contact with his children when a marriage fails.   Maybe fathers are searching for those of us who experience the same pangs.

Whilst my relationship with my kids is a good one now, there were times when I was gripped with despair about what may eventuate.   But even now, there are times when I wish I saw them more often.  It is that daily contact, or lack of it, that makes things hard at times.  

Sometimes I just wish for a phone call from one or the other of them, just to ask how things are, what happened at work or school today, how are their relationships with friends going.  I miss the fact that they don’t just drop in.  That it sometimes feels like it has to be a formal invite or an occasion for them to turn up.  And the standing Thursday night date is sometimes overlooked if other offers come along.

I miss not having the regular interactions with their friends and finding out what they are doing, or just sitting and watching as my kids interact with them.

The football season is coming up soon and I know that will provide opportunities for me to just hang out with my kids.  It’s something to look forward to.

I think part of the melancholy is that when you no longer live in that original family unit, that your kids grow up and grow older in episodes.  It’s like watching a soap opera rather than being part of it.   And sometimes you miss how the cliffhanger ending turns out, the drama and laughter happen in places where you don’t exist.  And when you are able to catch up with things it is often passed off as not important anymore, so it seems that you only get the echo from distant mountains rather than the full on quadraphonic experience of the origin.

But there is also the knowledge that sometimes these things were going to happen anyway, because they did with me.  

I left far too much unsaid to my Dad, didn’t take the time to know him, or give him the chance to know me.    I’ve learnt that fathers don’t complain, that we accept it when our kids cancel on us, that we hide the hurt more often than not.    It’s easier that way.   And I’ve learnt that kids don’t see that, that fathers are often too good at hiding things.    And with that I’ve learnt that a father can be lonely even if he’s surrounded by crowds.  

Loneliness is a fickle beast.  It hides in circumstance, in ritual and in occasion.   And if you find your self experiencing this lonely father syndrome, it doesn’t necessarily mean that every aspect of your life is lonely.  Just sometimes, when you miss your kids, it can grab you and squeeze you till it hurts.

So instead of waiting for them to contact you, pick up the phone, say hello, tell them you love them and that you’re looking forward to seeing them whenever that may be.  And when you do see them, listen to what they say, engage with them while you can, because that loneliness is only a short time away again.

So I leave you with this song.

Fatherhood, loneliness and what happens after the cliffhanger ending.

Of all the posts I have ever written “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Father” is the one that consistently gets hit through google.  And I am sure that is because it is usually the father who gives up parts of his contact with his children when a marriage fails.   Maybe fathers are searching for those of us who experience the same pangs.

Whilst my relationship with my kids is a good one now, there were times when I was gripped with despair about what may eventuate.   But even now, there are times when I wish I saw them more often.  It is that daily contact, or lack of it, that makes things hard at times.  

Sometimes I just wish for a phone call from one or the other of them, just to ask how things are, what happened at work or school today, how are their relationships with friends going.  I miss the fact that they don’t just drop in.  That it sometimes feels like it has to be a formal invite or an occasion for them to turn up.  And the standing Thursday night date is sometimes overlooked if other offers come along.

I miss not having the regular interactions with their friends and finding out what they are doing, or just sitting and watching as my kids interact with them.

The football season is coming up soon and I know that will provide opportunities for me to just hang out with my kids.  It’s something to look forward to.

I think part of the melancholy is that when you no longer live in that original family unit, that your kids grow up and grow older in episodes.  It’s like watching a soap opera rather than being part of it.   And sometimes you miss how the cliffhanger ending turns out, the drama and laughter happen in places where you don’t exist.  And when you are able to catch up with things it is often passed off as not important anymore, so it seems that you only get the echo from distant mountains rather than the full on quadraphonic experience of the origin.

But there is also the knowledge that sometimes these things were going to happen anyway, because they did with me.  

I left far too much unsaid to my Dad, didn’t take the time to know him, or give him the chance to know me.    I’ve learnt that fathers don’t complain, that we accept it when our kids cancel on us, that we hide the hurt more often than not.    It’s easier that way.   And I’ve learnt that kids don’t see that, that fathers are often too good at hiding things.    And with that I’ve learnt that a father can be lonely even if he’s surrounded by crowds.  

Loneliness is a fickle beast.  It hides in circumstance, in ritual and in occasion.   And if you find your self experiencing this lonely father syndrome, it doesn’t necessarily mean that every aspect of your life is lonely.  Just sometimes, when you miss your kids, it can grab you and squeeze you till it hurts.

So instead of waiting for them to contact you, pick up the phone, say hello, tell them you love them and that you’re looking forward to seeing them whenever that may be.  And when you do see them, listen to what they say, engage with them while you can, because that loneliness is only a short time away again.

So I leave you with this song.