Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about families, and in particular Fathers. Previously I wrote about my own Father, I never really had a role model around except for some old memories and stories about things I specifically would not do as a Father myself.
Having just finished Scott Berkun’s book The Ghost of My Father it has given me even more to think about. Scott is becoming quite an influential author in my life pretty quickly. I had first read his book The Year Without Pants while looking at applying at Automattic. It certainly confirmed many of the things I had read elsewhere and gave me great insight into the company. It helped assure me I was making the right move working at becoming an Automattician. His other books will now be ordered soon.
Reading his latest book, a memoir about his own family and relationship with his Father, it really hit home with me personally. It has me thinking even more about all my relationships with my children and the things I need to really work at to make sure I have the kind of connection with them that I truly want.
Having the career I do gives me the opportunity and flexibility with my work life to really be a part of my kids lives. For the most part I do believe I have a strong bond with my children, but I really do need to be more present and active in their lives. While I do take them t,o and love watching, their extra curricular activities, my wonderful wife is usually the one that does a lot of the day to day things.
It’s not enough to just be present in the home with them I need to make a greater effort to talk with them about things, about their lives. More one on one time where I can show them individually how much they mean to me and how much I value them. This happens sometimes, but it is usually just something that occurs, I need to make more effort to purposely plan these things.
The one relationship that I need to work on the most is that of me and my oldest Alexandria. It seems we’ve struggled for a long time, and while I could make millions of excuses why that might be, they don’t really matter. What matters is I need to work to fix it.
Alexandria is turning 16 this month. When I was only a year older than that I left home and not on great terms. I wasn’t happy with my family and thought living with friends while I still wasn’t done high school, or have a job was a better alternative than living there in my mind. This put a huge strain on my relationship with my family that has taken a long time to overcome. Even still there are wounds there as well. My relationship with my youngest sister is almost non existent as she was so young when I left. This is a pattern I desperately don’t want to repeat with Alexandria and I need to fix it before it’s too late.
We have different personalities and different interests. She struggles with school a great deal which has always been a barrier between us. She will never be the strongest in some subjects in school and I need to learn to accept that, yet be willing to be there and help her without letting the historical battles frame how I approach it.
While reading and writing might not be strengths for her she certainly has the potential to be a great artist. She is taking her first real art class now in school and some of the sketches she has been doing are very impressive. Helping her develop these skills even more while improving in the areas she struggles in is going to be a balancing act I need to help her achieve.
While I don’t think I’m a horrible Father, there are certainly many areas that I can use work. It won’t be easy, especially in the case with Alexandria, there is already a lot of repair that needs to be done. The other night I took the first tiny step, I sat down and had a real conversation with her. Pretty casual, but I let her know that I’m proud of her and the hard work she is already putting in this school year. A small start but I’m going to build from there.