The relationship between fathers and their children is one of the most important and influential of all human connections. But no one really prepares sons or fathers for it. At best, dads are lifelong mentors lovingly ready to guide boys into manhood and much of the rhetoric around fathers is indeed reverential and heroic.
On Father’s Day 2008, for example, Barack Obama gave a speech in which he said:
“Of all the rocks upon which we build our lives we are reminded that family is the most important. And we are called on to recognize and honour how critical every father is to that foundation. They are teachers and coaches. They are mentors and role models. They are examples of success and the men who constantly push us toward it.”
And surely that’s what every boy hopes for anyway. But of course it’s never that simple. It’s a relationship fraught with hope and regret, drama and tension, joy and pain. Whilst motherhood seems to have changed beyond all recognition, coinciding with the brave march of Feminism and increasing gender equality, fatherhood has remained as hoary and stiff-upper-lipped as ever.
Sure, it may have mellowed a tad, tuned in to being a little more sensitive and become more in touch with physical affection but most men are still happier to talk footie with their dads rather than talk about what their dads mean to them. And the male tendency to struggle when it comes to expressing matters of the heart and their love for each other simply compounds it.
The author John Burnside recognises that elevating your father to hero-like status, willing him to be your action-figure come to life, is a dangerous concept, “… fathers must be allowed to be mere mortals. If we can love them, so much the better; if we can forgive their failings, better still.”
Perhaps once that great father-figure is no longer on the pre-ordained pedestal, it may be easier for men to start finding the right words to explore the relationship. Perhaps once the myths and the legends that surround fatherhood are relieved of their grand stature, it will become simpler for men to articulate their feelings.
When his father turned 80, Ted Kessler felt compelled to write about what his dad meant to him. And then he started a blog on the subject – www.myoldman.org - asking others for their contributions.
He says, “Everyone has a unique tale to tell and you always receive a blast of emotional honesty when you ask about someone’s dad. It’s a clear peep into the soul.” Thoughts range from sadness to regret, from deep affection to painful frustration.
But, clearly, not all men find it easy to say how they feel.
As Father’s Day approaches, perhaps this is the time to tell your Dad how you feel. Whether he knows if he matters to you, if he knows that you love him, if he knows that you are proud of him.
And if you’re still struggling with what to say, you could always buy him a personalised whisky from alexanderandjames.com. Because even after a lifetime of working through those awkward pauses and forceful bear hugs, it can still be incredibly hard to put into words just what your Dad means to you.
It’s not always easy to say how you feel about your dad. Say it better with a personalised whisky from Alexander & James. Choose free engraving or a bespoke toast label, all delivered in luxury packaging. Create yours now at alexanderandjames.com.
Alexanderandjames.com - Fine spirits and accessories - Drink responsibly - Get the facts at www.drinkaware.co.uk