As a parent I often wonder what my children will remember about me. Will they remember the cuddles, the fun we had together, the places we went, the conversations we had, the love we share, or the days I was shouty, impatient, irritable and not my best self?
With the recent passing of my dad it’s something I’ve thought about a lot. What do I remember about him? What do I want to write down? How did I know he loved me? What were the key moments in building our relationship? What did I learn from him? What can I continue to learn from him? How were we different and how were we similar? I know I need to note down the answers to all of these questions and keep them safe. I don’t want to forget our relationship and the conversations we had – just the two of us.
Small talk was something my dad struggled with but it is something he knew and worked on. His forte was discussing bigger, deeper and more meaningful things and it’s something I relied on him for. He had the ability to think of all outcomes, to be balanced, to think outside the box, to be practical, sensible, kind and honest – all at the same time, although his (sometimes brutal) honesty is not something I fully appreciated until I got older. I valued his advice as I knew it would always be with my best interests at heart, and somehow he always managed to consider everything.
When I found out he was ill, something inside of me knew he wasn’t going to make it and selfishly I had a huge panic that I needed to ask him his opinion on two things. Nothing current, but two things Jared and I are thinking about in our distant future that I really, desperately wanted to know his thoughts on. My dad was good at taking me aside and talking to me – even as I got married and had my own children. My parents have chatted to Jared and I together to talk to us, give us advice and help us. It’s something I love them for.
As I’ve reflected on the relationship I had with my dad there are many conversations that I want to remember, but the two that feel most significant are the last one I had with him, and one I had with him when I was 15. The last conversation I had with him – just the two of us, was over the Christmas holidays. He asked me if he could pick my brain about an idea that he had. We chatted for almost two hours – he shared his exciting idea, I gave my comments and along the way he taught me so many things. He valued my opinion and I loved listening to him.
When I was 15 my dad took me aside one evening and asked if we could have a chat. Of course, I said ‘yes’. I sat there and he asked me why I never feel like I am as good as everyone else, why I always put myself down and think that I can’t do things. Then he asked me what he could do to help me to overcome my inferiority complex. It may sound dramatic, but this conversation literally changed my life.
Up until then I’d never really thought about how I felt about myself and putting myself down was so much a part of me I hadn’t even noticed. I hadn’t realised it was a problem and promised myself (and my dad) that I would do much better. I also promised him that I would stop caring what people thought so much. I made it a life goal. I often wonder if he hadn’t pointed it out – what would I be like now? At 28, I’m very comfortable with who I am and I know it is largely because of him.
Reflecting on my dad has really made me realise how important it is to talk to our children. To have those awkward conversations, to have those conversations that show that we care, to ask for their opinions ideas, to take our children aside and listen to them, because that is how I knew how much my dad loved me…and with this – comes a new life goal.