Fathers

I’m writing this as a {belated} post to honour Manweek, an initiative to help Australian men talk about how they feel. There are quite a few fantastic posts out there that I know of, I am sure there are more (see end of this blog). I’m not sure whether there’s merit in these 2 stories but feel it’s best to get something out of my brain, it’s been rattling around in there for too long!

My Father & me

I’ve not been particularly close to my father, and know in some ways I was always the odd child. I’m different from him and my brothers but yet I know there are parts of me that came from him. (Before your mind races down a path, there is no ‘twist’ to this story – he is my father, I see him every week, there’s no doubting that!) One thing we’re very different on is that he’s a workaholic. I know many people who throw that term around a little too easily, however in the true sense of the word, my father really only knows work. He gets up at 4am, comes home at 7pm, eats and goes to sleep. That’s almost all there has been in his life. Sure we went on holidays every now and then, but for most of his life all he’s known is work. He doesn’t follow sports, doesn’t go to the pub, doesn’t get drunk, doesn’t threaten anyone nor raise his voice, but for the most part his life, work has defined him.

I don’t want to be like him; I don’t want other fathers (or fathers-to-be, or anyone for that matter) end up like this. I vowed to not become a workaholic and to actively pursue other interests. Perhaps this is why I am diving more and more into many varied topics (people, learning, thinking, the brain, social interactions, relationships, Sudoku/brain exercises, cycling, running, marathons, eating well, families, children….), and quickly coming to the realisation that I am (sometimes) not present in the moment. In it’s own way, not being present or ‘in the moment’ could have the same effect of not enjoying what’s here and now.

I’m vowing to enjoy everything I can about life, and looking for ways to share my thoughts and feelings with a wider audience. I’m also looking for ways to become a better father as well as understand both my father and father-in-law more. Just like I mentioned in my ‘Inner Story‘ post, everyone has an inner story that outsiders generally do not see. I’d like to uncover their stories. Maybe not today, but hopefully before tomorrow.

So in my quest to becoming a better father, what have I done?

  • I’m consciously taking time to be with my boys. Working from home allows me some freedom here – I’m not sure I could go back to an ‘office’ job
  • I’m staying active (both physically and mentally)
  • I’m learning from great people like Scott Drummond, Gavin Heaton, Mark Pollard, Trent Collins & Matt Moore, all of whom shared some of their inner story for Manweek.
  • I don’t want to be a workaholic
  • In an effort to get closer to my father, I have been researching the Blanda name and pulling together the family tree.

Father-in-Law

I was recently asked if I wanted to take my father-in-law’s (FIL) boat. At first, I didn’t understand the context of this and offering someone the use of their boat in the middle of winter seems a strange request. A little digging (not enough discussion on the matter, just a couple of questions as we were bundling the sleepy kids into the car for the drive home) and my FIL said he didn’t use it much, and if I got my boat licence he’d let me bring it home and take the boys out on it if I wanted. (He’d offered previously and we have been out on it before). If it didn’t interest me, he would sell it. It was a strange conversation in that it didn’t really go anywhere…

When I got home sand discussed it with my wife, she could not understand where this had (suddenly) come from – the request to take the boat or he would sell it was quite odd/out of character. Until we surmised that he believes he could not get his boat licence if he were to take the test (he’s currently not licenced). His mate from the pub told him that they’re clamping down now on boat licences (most likely in the wake of boating tragedies on Sydney Harbour in the past few years). Perhaps he feels it’s not in him to get a licence, therefore the easiest solution is to get rid of the boat?

I intend to find out more behind this request – the boat is something the boys have been looking forward to going out on, and is a great way to enjoy the outdoors when the warmer weather arrives, so there’s hopefully no more talk about selling the boat! I’d like to know a little more about the thoughts behind getting rid of it….stay tuned!

More on this (I’m sure as I have barely scratched the surface about being a father) in future!

Same stock; different flowers

In my blog post Letting your Flowers Grow I made note of some small milestones in the lives of my children as they transition to the next stage of their lives, gaining independence and skills to work their way through the world.

Something I’ve been guilty of recently and I’d like to share is about looking at your children for who they are as individuals as opposed to a part of a group (aka ‘family’). I’ve come to realise my boys are substantially different people – akin to having been grown from different seeds. This is an important point to remember about children; they all start from the same stock, however as they develop and grow, they become themselves. It’s important for us to realise we must let them become themselves.

As parents (especially of younger children) we must do our best to resist comparisons between siblings. Things like ‘why don’t you act like your brother (or sister)’, or ‘have a look at X, he’s being a good boy and tidying up after himself, why can’t you’. Fundamentally, each person has different drives – what works for one may not work for another. Each person has a unique listening & learning style, and one of the best ways to keep these young minds fed and nourished is to try to understand how each of your children respond. Some seem to work only when pushed; some seem to innately know (or sense) what to do next; Some daydream the day away.

I am on a personal mission to understand how we think and how the brain works, not only for myself as part of my passion for learning but also to help communicate with my children better. One of my 2009 goals is:

Improving the quality of my relationships….includes spending more time with my boys.

Also, one of the other things I am working on:

Helping reduce the amount of stress I cause in my family (by snapping less and thinking more) – this will also help me get rid of thoughts as quickly as they come

are both linked to trying to understand how the brain works and how we learn. Applying what I learn to myself + relationships to the ones around me are important part of growing as a person. Part of my recent book buying spree is aimed at helping me achieve this. It’s a difficult (but not impossible) path to help change ourselves, but ultimately there is only one person who can change anyone else – the rest are there as inspiration or motivation. I hope to {one day} be the inspiration or motivation for people I come into contact with.

Books I'll be reading soon!

I have always ‘had an interest’ in how we learn – how we take information in and use it to take action of some sort. I decided to look into this, and other areas of interest a little more by going on a book buying journey, which will lead me to a book reading journey soon! I have also included here books that I already own but have not yet read.

Starting with my short-list of topics I am interested with: People, Learning, Ideas, Innovation, Simplicity.

Books on my list to help me work out where to next:

  • “Career Renegade: How to Make a Great Living Doing What You Love” – Jonathan Fields
  • “Escape from Cubicle Nation: From Corporate Prisoner to Thriving Entrepreneur” – Pamela Slim

People/Learning

  • “The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force” – Jeffrey M. Schwartz
  • “The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science” – Norman Doidge
  • “Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School” – John Medina
  • “How We Decide” – Jonah Lehrer
  • “The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century” – James Howard Kunstler
  • “The Ruthless Leader” – Alistair McAlpine
  • “The Brain” – Richard Restak
  • “Learning and Behavior” – James Mazur

Ideas/Innovation

  • “Outliers: The Story of Success” – Malcolm Gladwell
  • “Lateral Thinking” – Edward De Bono.
  • “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking” – Malcolm Gladwell

There’s quite a bit of reading there for the next couple of months – might be time to devote more time to reading instead of digital fiddling! I will be posting reviews as I read the books, along with recommendations & insights!