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#428186 - 03/15/13 11:32 PM Fatherhood - breaking the cycle
Farmer Boy Offline

Registered: 08/23/12
Posts: 442
Loc: Australia
Like many of us here being a good dad is one of my proudest achievements.

Recently one of my friends here pointed out what a miracle it is that I am such a good dad - given that mine was so bad. And how there is an undercurrent here of guys who are determined to break the cycle and make sure their own kids get what they didn't get growing up. He encouraged me to write this post. I would LOVE to see some dialogue here from us fathers and even those who hope to be someday about how they are breaking the cycle. I don't want anyone to feel left out...even if you had a great dad please offer something good he taught you - a good memory.

Sort of a 'How to Make Healthy Kids - for dummies' I mean CSA survivors.

This all started because a few weeks ago my 6 year old son helped a cow give birth for the first time (with ropes). He told the class about it for show and tell at school the next day and later that afternoon I ran into his teacher at the shops. She was so excited about it and said what a beautiful boy he is. She said how he is always talking about his dad and how much I love him and I specially chose his name (Matthew - Gift from God) She said 'He certainly doesn't have any self-esteem issues.'

That was like the best thing anyone has ever said to me. I HAVE broken the cycle.

From an early age I knew I didn't get what I needed from my parents and I was determined that my kids would get it.

My fatherhood journey .....

I was always taught that I grew up in a 'good Christian home' and I was 'lucky' I didn't grow up in one of 'those' homes.....but when I started to see other parents with their kids I soon worked out that something was wrong.

I decided then and there that my dad would be my anti-role model. To everyone else he was a good man and leader in the church... but at home.....He ignored me, He NEVER hugged/touched me, He berated me for being feminine, He called me faggot, poofter, Leanne, Sissy, Monkey Boy etc etc. - even though it was his other sons that treated me like a girl in their sex games. He never showed any interest in my achievements. He pointed out EVERY percieved physical flaw. He perved on my groin. He encouraged me to sleep around. He publicly declared my brother as his favourite. In short he treated me as sub-human and destroyed any chance I had of having a self-esteem. His taunts about my appearance left me so incredibly insecure and to this day nearly my whole worth as a human being lies in my appearance. I could go on but you get the point.

As a child I started observing other parents - formulating in my head what sort of father I would be. I was determined to be a better dad and to have kids that were independant and full of self confidence.

I watched a LOT of Phil Donahue's talk show growing up when I was home sick (probably stress induced from CSA). He was my male role model (sad huh). He showed compassion to people and would listen to them. He had shows that talked about stuff that was relevant to me at the time. It was from watching one of his shows that I realised for the first time that I had been sexually abused (maybe even raped) and that it isn't normal and NOT ok.

Also the idea of how God loves us - Like a father loves his children. I had to learn what God is like and turn that around into what a father should be like.

While I was still single I went to talks about the importance of fathers touching their kids in healthy ways.

About 5 years ago I realised that I went days without seeing my kids. (leaving early for work and getting home after they were in bed). I DID NOT want to be 'that dad'. So I changed my whole career and made a huge lifestyle change. Now I am pretty much their primary caregiver. I wake them up, I make their breakfast and lunch, I iron their uniforms, I drive them to the bus stop and pick them up, I make sure they brush their teeth and wash behind their ears and I tuck them in and read them a story at night. We talk about whatever is worrying them at school. They know I love them and I tell them ALL the time and we hug ALL the time too. I realise this option just is not possible for most guys and I feel very lucky to be in that position.

Some examples of what I would like to see here....

Whenever we went to the beach growing up my parents would sit on the sand and send me off into the water to play by myself - but only knee deep. That was NOT fun! I on the other hand have had to overcome my body issues and jump in the surf in my boardies with my kids and swim and throw them around in the waves. They have no idea that I am so painfully self conscious about my appearance. The cycle has been broken!

My parents NEVER read to me...EVER. I have always struggled with reading - I have mild dyslexia. I HATE reading. My daughter has dyslexia too. I have read to both my kids nearly every night (stumbling my way through - we are reading Narnia at the moment). My daughter corrects me now (she's 10) and she has become quite the book worm herself and she gets so engrossed in whatever novel she is reading that she will hide a torch under her pillow to read after bedtime. The cycle has been broken!

So that is how I became a good dad. I am not a perfect dad - they don't exist...but I AM a better dad.

I would really like to hear some stories from other guys about fatherhood.


More than meets the eye!

#428210 - 03/16/13 11:13 AM Re: Fatherhood - breaking the cycle [Re: Farmer Boy]
peroperic2009 Offline

Registered: 10/09/11
Posts: 3869
Loc: South-East Europe
Hey Lee, wow man, you are very good father wink
You brought couple of tears to me you know.
I've read your post and went cycling around for 45 minutes this morning.
I have huge park around small lake nearby and it is nice area for walking/cycling. I was cycling around in circles and here and there thinking about things that I've read here and that touched me. Among other things I was thinking on this your post.
Well in one moment while cycling there I meet one grand father with his grand children: boy and girl, all three of them were happily walking and talking.
Girl asked is she could go near lake to see ducks and she was wanting it badly but you could see that she was also aware that her grand father didn't like the idea. So she added quickly : "well on our way back we all could get closer just to have couple of glances, I wanna see them, please grandpa"?
And grand father said with deep sigh: Ok, lol.
He was disarmed with her honesty, care and curiosity.

I looovee children so much smile !

Please be like you are: the best father on this planet for your children, yes, you are the best, there is no other man who could be so good to your children and they are more than aware of that. Keep that in mind super dad and keep supporting and loving your kids wink

My story

#428222 - 03/16/13 03:27 PM Re: Fatherhood - breaking the cycle [Re: Farmer Boy]
crazy gecko Offline

Registered: 10/04/12
Posts: 309
I'll have to start with a confession - when my daughter was born, I felt clueless and totally overwhelmed. I will never forget holding her for the first time and looking into her little face, and realising that I had no idea what a good dad was like... So I figured her mom would know how to raise her - I would let her take the lead. I threw myself into my work. I worked 10-12 hours a day, often getting home after she had gone to bed. I often even worked weekends. I spent very little time with my daughter for the first three years of her life.

Than we lost her mom. I was left with this little three year old girl who depended on me 100%... I was terrified. But after the first few weeks, when I came up for air, I decided that I was going to be a great dad, even if it was the last thing I did. So I started reading, I started learning. I started making lists of things to do, things not to do. I changed my job for one with less pressure, and less pay. I cut back where I could to still make ends meet. Three years and 5 months later, I think I'm doing pretty well.

Like you, I'm using my own father for an anti-role model.

He used to make rules up on the fly, and they changed almost every day. It was impossible to know what to do (or not do) to stay out of trouble. I make a point of making sure my daughter knows exactly what is expected of her. I NEVER punish her unless I'm sure she knew what she was doing was wrong. In fact, I hardly ever punish her. I prefer using other techniques that doesn't involve punishment and reward.

I never felt loved as a child. I never felt like I had someone I could depend on. I never miss a chance to make sure my daughter knows I love her. She does know. We have this little game we play where we try to out-do each other with how much we love each other - I love you a truck full! I love you a train full! I love you and entire city full! smile I hope she knows she can never win that game. No one can ever love another human being more than I love her...

I never had nice clothes or toys. It was more important to buy booze than toys. My daughter has more toys than she can play with!

My parents never played with us of gave us any real attention. I try my best to spend at least 30min every single day giving my daughter my undivided attention. And that is excluding "story time".

The hardest part for me is to not overdo things. I was left to my own devices far too young. My brothers and I basically raised ourselves. So I'm paranoid about not neglecting to anything for her that a parent should do. Simple things like letter her make herself a sandwich is sometimes hard for me. It reminds me of when I had to learn to fetch myself some bread when my mother forgot to give us food. But I'm learning. I'm working on finding that balance between neglect and allowing her to become independent. It's not easy, but I'm working at it.

I even allowed her to go to a sleep over a while ago. It was the scariest thing I'd ever done. I didn't sleep at all that night, and for weeks after, I watched her like a hawk for the smallest sign that something had happened - but nothing. But I'm glad I did it. She shouldn't miss out on normal-childhood things because of my paranoia.

I know I'm over-protective in many ways, and extremely paranoid. I've even caught myself checking her underwear for blood frown

But the most important thing is that she knows I love her. She is a confident, outgoing little girl and she knows there is nothing I wouldn't do for her...

I'm a better dad than I ever thought I could be. And like you, that is my proudest achievement smile
I guess what I'm trying to say
Is whose life is it anyway because livin'
Living is the best revenge
You can play
-- Def Leppard

My Story, Part 2

My blog

#428229 - 03/16/13 05:41 PM Re: Fatherhood - breaking the cycle [Re: Farmer Boy]
JoziSA Offline

Registered: 05/05/12
Posts: 145
Loc: Johannesburg, South Africa

You are amazing, a fantastic dad.

This week I went to a talk about abuse at a business school, it was very academic but one of the speakers was discussing what makes you a good man, it was that great modern men are nurturers, they nurture their children, give them love, take both emotional and physical care of the children. Modern men can cry with their children feel their pain. Wow it sounds like they were speaking about you.
Rees (JoziSA)
My Story and Blog

South African MALE SURVIVORS of Sexual Abuse
If your mind can perceive it and your heart can believe it, YOU can achieve it.

#428242 - 03/16/13 09:09 PM Re: Fatherhood - breaking the cycle [Re: Farmer Boy]
Jude Offline

Registered: 08/09/12
Posts: 1633
Loc: New England

Thanks for posting this. We all need to give ourselves credit for what we've done RIGHT in our lives.

My experience with my own father was terrible. He was a drunk who hung around the house all day getting shit-faced, then disappeared for weeks at a time. He barely knew me, but never had anything good to say about or to me. Didn't come to my high school graduation, college graduation, or wedding. He never met most of my children. Finally I had to cut him off for my own sanity (what little there was of it).

Me, I have ten children..YES 10!!, aged 12 to 30. The older ones (aged 25, 27, and 30 unfortunately experienced me in my drunken crazy period, and the crash that came after it. The younger ones either weren't born yet or were too young to notice that I was way out there. I have recently made amends to my older boys and told them everything about myself, CSA, drugs, alcohol, mental illness, and all. It was hard to do, but I'm all about telling the truth nowadays.

Over christmas holidays when everyone was home, we pulled out some old home videos we made when my oldest were little, and to my surprise, there I was, a young father, apparently not drunk, and engaged with those little boys, playing and wrestling on the floor. I have very little memory of that part of my life, its all a fog, but it was reassuring to see that I was a present and active father, despite myself.

The payoff is that all ten of them are doing well. They do well in school, have successful careers, and have what seem to be healthy relationships with the opposite sex. None are or ever have been in jail. No out-of-wedlock babies, and none are addicted to ANYTHING.

Despite all my shortcomings as a father and as a man, I have ten things in my life that I didn't fail at. That counts for something.

I will remember you
Will you remember me?
Don't let your life pass you by
Weep not for the memories
Sarah McLachlan

#428261 - 03/17/13 12:51 AM Re: Fatherhood - breaking the cycle [Re: Farmer Boy]
SoccerStar Offline

Registered: 10/15/12
Posts: 929
This is a beautiful thread and I think it's only going to get better. It is important to celebrate how people have overcome hard starts in order to do better at the most important endeavor in life.

I don't want to "intrude" by talking about my dad, as I had a good one.

But I'll say this: after my CSA memories surfaced, I made it a point to teach my 4yo son how to climb trees. He took to it like a lemur and I spent a lot of time at my most scared, disgusted, and "not me" status watching him delighting as a big bold proud confident boy. It was like I had to create some extra goodness / childhood pleasure to compensate.

My story

"Don't think it hasn't been a little slice of Heaven just because it hasn't!" --Bugs Bunny

#428290 - 03/17/13 12:48 PM Re: Fatherhood - breaking the cycle [Re: Farmer Boy]
traveler Online   confused

Registered: 02/07/06
Posts: 4287
Loc: resettling in NE Ohio
How did I break the cycle?

It is hard for me to answer this question without getting lost in self-pity or self-condemnation. I tend to focus more on my negative experiences as a child rather than on the hopefully positive actions I took as an adult and a father. I usually don’t feel I did a very good job of raising my kids - partly because I was unable to look at good role models and measure myself against them - and partly because I never felt good about anything I did – due to the way I was raised – to believe that nothing I did was ever good enough. My wife actually had to help me identify the things I did right.

When we got married, I was not excited about the prospect of having children. To be honest – I wanted to avoid the topic as much as possible – and then postpone having kids as long as I could manage. I passed it off to my wife as being tired of being the resident default baby-sitter. As the oldest of 4, that was often my role – and I’d only been out of the family house for the 4 years since I started college. At that point, I knew I had not had a happy childhood but had repressed the details of how bad it had been. But I knew I was scared to death of screwing up innocent children’s lives the way mine had been. Eventually, my wife wore me down and we had our first – a boy – more than 9 years into the marriage.

The step-dad had little to do with me – and when he did – it was usually bad for me. The few times he tolerated having me “help” with a wood-working project or mechanical repair, I was just a spectator – no teaching involved – and I got yelled at for handing him the wrong tool. How would a 7-year-old know the difference between a standard screwdriver and a Phillips – unless someone had told him? I don’t remember any normal conversations – only being berated, criticized and insulted.

I NEVER used physical violence or shouted in anger to “discipline” or correct or punish my kids!!!

I do remember carrying our son around the supermarket and showing him the different fruits and vegetables before he could talk – naming each one and telling him the colors and shapes. And I know as soon as they were able to understand, I would read each of them stories at bed-time, say prayers with them, sing a good-night song, and tuck them in. My son and I would play Legos or Micro Machines or Star Wars. With our daughters, I would have tea parties or play house or school. And there were house chores that we did together, too – raking leaves, planting flowers and a vegetable garden, weeding, washing the car, shoveling snow, etc. and then there were the homework projects and science and history fairs. I vividly remember spending hours making a Styrofoam model igloo with one daughter and an ultrasuede teepee with the other. and every year we decorated dozens of Christmas cookies together - while their mother baked them - to give away to friends and neighbors.

One time when we thought our kids needed to understand the value of money and how to manage finances, I cashed my paycheck and brought it home and spread it all out on the table. The kids were so impressed and started making suggestions about what we could buy. I got envelopes and started explaining about all the bills that had to be paid for things we needed to live. So we counted out the amount for the house payment and labeled it, the utilities, the groceries, gas for the car, etc. – until we had a much smaller amount left. Then we could decide what we could buy with it. They were surprised at how little was left over!

I know that there were many ways in which I did not succeed in giving my kids the perfect childhood. For instance, I could not coach sports or even play much casually in the back yard one-on-one with my son because of the extreme triggers that anything sports or athletics related had for me. That was one of my worst experiences as a boy – being yelled at for not being perfect on the 2nd or 3rd try at pitching or batting or catching or dribbling or shooting. I was always even more clumsy and inept because of the pressure and the anger. I grew up hating sports. But our son loved every sport. I did sign him up for the youth softball league and chose his coach carefully. This guy was not a sports star but had good values and was more concerned with the boys learning teamwork, sportsmanship and skills than in winning every game. I went – or occasionally his mom went - to every practice and usually both of us went to every game. Same with our 2 daughters, who came at along 2 ˝ year intervals. Same story with cub scouts – I was always there – and also took with us a neighbor boy whose dad had run off with another woman. And in high school, our son made the volleyball team and the baseball team and one daughter was a great runner. i did not let my dislike of sports taint their enjoyment.

My interests, talents and gifts were never valued – but degraded as useless and stupid by the step-dad. Biggest difference I guess was that we let our kids choose their own interests – and then did our best to encourage, nurture and develop them – not impose our preferences on them and then push them to excel. We praised them, complimented them and tried to build strong self-esteem. When we planned family vacations, I let them have a say in deciding where to go and what to do for part of the time. All have traveled internationally.– both with and without their parents, both for service projects and for educational purposes. All three graduated from college and one has a master’s degree. Our son majored in art and writing – and is working in a creative position of a media production company. One daughter is in the medical field and the other is using a psych degree in a human resources dept. Two are happily married, the third is not in any rush.

Sometimes I look at how great our kids are all doing and wonder how they turned out so well – happy, well-adjusted, successful and free of major psychoses. I know a lot of the credit goes to my wife. She is a natural nurturer and teacher with good common sense and a great heart for other people. She could make up for the emotional illiteracy and constipation that I carried from the past. And like several others have said above – I decided to do the opposite of what had been done to me. I consciously tried to imagine how I’d wanted to be parented – and tried to do that. And I also got lots of guidance and sound parenting principles from a radio program called “Focus on the Family.” It helped fill in some of the gaps from the terrible role model I had endured.

Thanks for suggesting this, Lee. It helped me feel better about the whole thing. I guess I did better than I thought.

the other Lee
How long, LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save?
Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?...
Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails....
Habakkuk 1:2-3

#428292 - 03/17/13 02:51 PM Re: Fatherhood - breaking the cycle [Re: Farmer Boy]
seanm Offline

Registered: 02/13/10
Posts: 17
Loc: Florida
Wow, did I need this thread! I'm in the second week of care for my three kids-7,4 and 2, while my wife is away. She checked into an alcohol treatment program (she's been battling alcoholism for some time) and won't be back for at least a month.

I, too, left my traditional job about a year ago for a work-at-home one that gives me the flexibility to take my kids to school, pick them up, volunteer in the classroom, and just generally be there.

We just got back from a quick vacation in St. Augustine, exploring the fort, pirate house, and all kinds of other adventures. It was fun. When I went places with my dad, it was a chore to have us there. He did it out of obligation. He took us to plenty of places, but never asked where we wanted to go or what we might like to do. I gave my kids choices and let them pick the places we'd go, kept the schedule loose so we didn't HAVE to do anything on our vacation, and I didn't get mad when we spent a couple hours doing nothing. They were happy and needed the down time. I am never good at verbalizing things I do well or right, but I listen to my kids and pay attention to what they need. I make it a priority, and I'm proud of that.

So tomorrow, my vacation is over and I go back to work, alone without mom, and I'll be the 24/7 caregiver for these 3 awesome kids. I'm scared shitless of the next month, but after reading these posts, I remember that I am strong and capable enough to handle this. I'm a good dad and I love my kids and family. Being a dad is the one thing I've done in life that I feel 100% positive about.

Thanks for this thread!

#428366 - 03/18/13 03:40 PM Re: Fatherhood - breaking the cycle [Re: Farmer Boy]
focusedbody Offline

Registered: 02/03/13
Posts: 542
Loc: NY
Thanks for this thread. It reminds me of how hard I am trying to be a good father and in some ways how my Dad keeps trying, mostly because I tell him to (he's 81!).

Recently I traced the lack of parenting on the male side back to my great-grandfather who left my grandfather when he was two years old. The word was "he went out for a newspaper and never came back". With the help of the internet I found out that he traveled as a salesman for the next twenty years. When I finally saw his picture on a passport application, there was this sense of closure. I even felt that somewhere in his lonely traveling heart, he must have wanted to know about his great-grandchildren.

Probably the thing I am most proud of has a mixture of pain as well. When my kid's mom left when they were two, I kept things stable. I cared for them by myself, making meals, changing diapers, etc. I didn't move from the house they had been living in even though I ached to. I have kept the faith that healing is possible. Now it seems that when they are not quite sure where to bring their feelings, they also seem to know that my heart wants to listen.

The other thing I'm kind of proud of is that my son is known as "mush" by his teachers in day care. There were moments when he acted angry that I would be told about. Then I would check in with myself, see how I was reacting to his mother's absence, and his behavior would change.

Oh my god, I almost forgot! My kids potty trained well, but my son didn't want to use the potty at day care. His mom couldn't really be talked to about it. She pretty much just said it would happen when it would happen. Unfortunately, he would pee on the floor in front of everybody there and I felt something had to be done. Patiently, I tried different things without making him more nervous or anxious or running to Mommy if I sounded judgmental. I felt how this was hard for him, even though he couldn't seem to care. Slowly he understood that I wasn't going to give up. I called every day and talked with the teachers and worked out a way of giving him a reward or to. After a couple of months he finally would go potty and then run and hug me. It was pretty much home free from there.

Another painful but proud moment him was when his mom had a boyfriend at her house. I saw in his face the next day that he had seen them together, probably doing things that he had never seen me do with her. This was a moment of knowledge between us, a kind of love that transcends difficulties. And a kind of love that says its all right for people to do what they need to do. It was also a moment to understand that being the center of his universe was not as important as being there for him.

I hope the journey of my fatherhood has as much inspiration as I have gotten here. Thanks.
Lose the drama; life is a poem.

#428371 - 03/18/13 04:48 PM Re: Fatherhood - breaking the cycle [Re: Farmer Boy]
Jim1961 Offline

Registered: 03/10/09
Posts: 1201
Loc: Pa, but likely traveling...
How I Broke the Cycle:

- I did not leave my wife for another man/woman
- I stayed engaged with my son and daughter (though I often traveled due to business, I would call them EVERY day)
- I quit drinking when our first born (son) turned 3. I wanted him (and later our daughter) to have no memory of daddy trashed
- I encouraged my son in sports (baseball, football, wrestling, soccer, karate)
- I made sure he knew that dad did not expect him to be perfect
- I supported my agreement (prior to being married) that our kids be raised in the Catholic Faith
- Later I so appreciated the moral teachings of the Church, that I joined it (at age 41)
- I let both of them know (at appropriate ages) that addictions run in the family, and to stay far away from drugs/alcohol). They know that their dad was an addict.
- I did not hide emotions from them. They have seen dad get angry at their mom (and visa versa). It is ok to show emotions.
- I challenged my son at times to be more independent (specifically of his mother)
- I supported him throughout Boy Scouts (though I had my own bad experiences) and am PROUD that he obtained Eagle Scout.
- I love to death our daughter, and have set the bar HIGH that whenever she chooses to date he MUST live up to her expectations
- I affirm our daughter's beauty, personality and athleticism as often as I can (its easy to do)
- Both kids know they can talk to dad anytime, about anything. And that I deeply love them both. Yet I give them space to be there own person.

Am I perfect? HECK NO. Have I done a good job as a father? I think so. If I compare to my father.... well that isn't a relevant comparison is it? I could REALLY screw up, and be a better dad than my father was to me as a kid.

Our son is 19 and a college freshman doing very well at an Engineering university. Our daughter is 15, and writes and reads like CRAZY. She is also a gifted gymnast. I am blessed.

Edit: I do FIRMLY believe by the way that parenting is the toughest job period. There is so much GRAY especially as they get older and more independent. I also know wonderful parents that have really messed up kids. It is an art it seems, not a science....

Edited by Jim1961 (03/18/13 07:01 PM)
Loneliness is a power that we possess to give or take away forever. -Yes, Starship Trooper

My Story

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