It’s OK to let your children see you cry

I picked up the title of this post from a randomly stumbled page on personal development, titled “45 life lessons from a 90 year old” – it came in at number 12. I’ll explain the significance of this later, but to fill in some detail, here goes:

My dad’s health is on the decline.

I wrote about this in my last blog post in 2012 and it’s now gotten to the stage where there’s more going against him than for him, physically speaking. He can still hold a conversation and remembers who’s visited, but the sad reality is that the body is failing. No-one knows when the time will come for him to leave us but whilst he’s still here, we’re doing what we can for him.

Today we began the funeral planning process – more to ease our minds as to what’s involved and how things progress once someone passes away and also to make rational decisions without overwhelming emotions clouding our judgement when the time comes. In speaking with our funeral director today I commented that the dearth of ‘funeral plans/funeral insurance’ ads on television are helping people look into these things before they’re needed. It’s going to be an unknown, difficult, emotional journey sometime so getting started and understanding what happens should help make things easier when the time comes.

Some may think it’s not the right time or place to talk about this, but in my world, it is an important topic to talk about. Especially for us men We have a habit of crawling back into our cave(s) at times like this. This is one of the places where I get to share with you how I see things and what’s on my mind. I decided to share this information for 2 reasons: 1) to help me document what’s important/happening in my life right now, and 2) (possibly) to educate others in some small way (this was also a topic of discussion with the funeral director today, about how we can learn from others).

I’ve spoken to my boys (7 & 10, soon to be 8 & 11) about their grandad and whilst I have used the words ‘death’, and ‘dying’ with them during the discussion, it’s been to make sure they are ready to hear those words when others start using them more frequently. In a way it may be an act of priming them to ensure they at least ‘know’ what’s coming – in no way can I guarantee it will help them understand what happens when the time comes. It’s a tough conversation to have but an important and essential one.

So, sometime over the next few days/weeks/months they may yet see us cry – and it’ll be a good thing as we’ve never shied away from it in the past and we’re not about to start now.

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!