Dad Interviews Dad Series – MadDadSkillz
Since becoming a father, I have been able to relate to my own dad in a different way than before. Instead of the usual Father-Son dynamic there is now an element of Dad-to-Dad understanding, a shared experience.
As a Dadblogger I enjoy commenting on and analysing my own parenting style but I haven’t previously spotlighted the parenting I received. I thought this might the case for other Dadbloggers too.
So, in celebration of Fathers Day 2017, I asked some of the top Dadbloggers in the UK & USA to sit down with their own fathers and see how, or if, parenting has changed much in a generation. I sent them a list of suggested questions and then let conversation flow from there.
A different interview from a different blogger will be released each day this week on MadDadSkillz.com
Dad Number Six– Ross
I guess we all have those “couple friends” that have blazed the trail a little bit before you. To my family, Ross and his wife were/are our parenting role models. Ross and I met back in 2009, before either of us had kids. Seemingly overnight Ross is now a Dad of three and I have two.
He’s always been a man I’ve looked up to in the Dad sphere, he works hard and parents harder. Whatever he’s doing he’s doing right because his three wee ones are an absolute delight. Ross isn’t a blogger but he arguably should be, he’s got a goldmine of funny stories happening under his roof.
Ross reached out to me when I wrote the 13 Reasons Why post. His Dad was a policeman and he said it’s only now he realises what it must have been like to experience such horrible things and then go home to your own kids.
I’ve met Ross’s Dad, he’s an excellently interesting man and extremely supportive grandfather. I was interested to hear more so invited Ross to join the Dad Interviews Dad Series.
Ross & Dad
Having discussed doing this interview with my dad a few weeks before we got together in person, it turns out (much to my mum’s amusement) that my dad had become a little nervous about what I might ask.
The pre-arranged evening came and we went to the pub, when asked what beer I wanted I responded with “Beer is Beer, unless its off, its normally good”. At which point a chap beside us piped up with “Just like sex, even bad sex is good sex!” There was a stage, many years ago, where my Dad and I would have grinned awkwardly and shuffled away as quickly as possible. Today, however, we stood, as men, and laughed.
For me, it highlighted how relationships with Dads evolve over time and it set the scene for our Dad Interview rather well.
I began thinking about the last time we went for a beer together (a long time ago) and how the distance between us, due to my career, has stopped us carrying on traditions of meeting for a Friday evening pint on the way home. My Dad used to stop in at the pub with his Dad regularly but it seems that work, Scottish drink drive laws and 3 wee ones at home have caused the generations to change and a Friday pint is a rarity now.
Question 1: How do you remember feeling when you found out you were going to be a father?
“Shock and surprise!”
My parents had ‘tried’ without success for well over a year so had put less focus on having a baby while my dad joined the Police and they bought their first house. We agreed that pregnancy seems to come along when you are not focused on ‘trying’, hence the shock and surprise.
“With hindsight I feel like perhaps I was a little naïve and, compared to you and your wife, we hadn’t discussed family thoroughly and planned enough. I was concerned about whether I could provide for the family, especially given the 16% interest rate.”
16% Interest rate?! The mere thought is terrifying! I remember feeling surprised too but for almost entirely opposite reasons; my wife and I have been very lucky and the ‘trying’ has only ever taken a month or 2. Having previously heard from friends who took 6 through to 18 months, getting pregnant the first time was a big surprise!
When my Dad was born, fathers delivered their wives to a maternity hospital and then had the door slammed in their face and waited for a phone call. When I was born this had, thankfully, changed and fathers were encouraged to be at the birth, however, paternity leave was still non-existent. My Dad was able to be at the hospital the Saturday I was born, which he described as an amazing experience, but had to be back to work on the Monday and didn’t get, or take, any time off.
The amazing experience part I can definitely relate with, having been fortunate enough to be at the birth of all 3 of my children. In stark contrast, however, I had one month off after the first 2 and 2-3 weeks leave with our third child.
The first time my dad took time off after I was born was a few months later; apparently, we hired a caravan in Upper Largo, Fife. It cost £40 for the week, rained from start to finish, I had a cold and they made it to the Thursday before giving up to go home!
My dad was blown away when I told him that MadDadSkillz had taken 3 months Shared Parental Leave. He’s not sure he could have coped, but then, I’m not sure I could have either!
Question 2: What is your favourite story about me as a kid?
Recently my wife posted on Facebook how I often need to go for a poo at awkward times, such as just as we are about to get 3 kids in the car to go out, and that I may, allegedly, take longer than required. This had prompted my parents to reminisce about how I used to sit on the toilet as a child and read my Dad’s copy of “The Broons” or “Oor Wullie”. Thankfully, they were unable to find a photo!
My Dad also fondly remembers a 7-year-old, embarrassing version of myself at our Aunt and Uncle’s wedding. My cousin and I were BIG Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fans at the time. Needless to say the phrase “Cow-a-bunga dude” was used a lot, arguably overused!
On the subject of embarrassing, we then spoke about the awkward day my parents found out I was no longer a virgin. I could write a blog about this on its own but the short version goes like this:
My Girlfriend’s mum finds out and decides to tell my Mum in person when she picked me up.
Cue a very awkward 10-minute car journey home, in silence, before hiding in my room until the inevitable living room chat.
The chat came and went, quickly, followed by more hiding in my room – or so I thought.
My Dad knocked on the door, took me to the rugby club and bought me a pint whilst trying not to smile and laugh.
I learned yesterday that my dad figured I had always been sensible and could be trusted, so why make a big deal about it. He trusted me. We spoke about house parties when I was a teenager and again how I seemed to be smart enough to know what I should and shouldn’t be involved with.
My version of the teenage days in many ways matches this. My Dad was a policeman in a small town and county. He was a 6ft 3in rugby-playing policeman, which has obvious impact as a child. But more than that I always feared embarrassing him or getting him in trouble rather than just being worried about me getting in trouble.
The trust concept is a strong one. I remember being allowed to have a beer with my parents now and again at 15/16 but only a beer or wine, no alcopops, spirits, or ‘MD 20/20’. They would also allow my friends to have a drink at the house as we got a little older. If you can have a beer at home there is less need to drink cider in the park right?
My Dad’s view on parenting, shaped by his life experiences, is clear: “be supportive, logical, do what you think is right, support and advise your child”. He was always keen to support my direction with one distinct caveat – university. My dad describes himself as not academically gifted and was adamant that, because I was smart enough, I should go to university.
He now wonders whether he was pushy and whether I felt pressured to go or not – the answer is yes and no, in that order. The simple fact is, the life experience I gained in those 4 years was invaluable, not to mention I met my wife there!
I have some time before I must commit to encouraging university, or not, and, who knows what university will be or mean in the future. I do know that I share my Dad’s view that the life experience element can not be underestimated and some careers depend on a degree. However, my experience has also taught me that university isn’t for everyone and I’d be wrong to push any of my children into something that isn’t for them.
Questions 3/4: Which phase of parenting have you found the most enjoyable and conversely, which was the hardest? Also what is the most challenging aspect of being a father?
The most enjoyable part of parenting for my Dad has been the overall experience of seeing me take the steps from being a child to a teen to becoming a man with my own family.
He’s also very proud of the short rugby ‘career’ I had and being able to watch that.
Apparently one of my Dad’s most frustrating phases was when I was convinced the WWF was real! I remember arguing with him about it and I feel pretty silly. (It’s not real?? – Maddadskillz)
The hardest part for him was the empty house when I moved to university; the baby stage wasn’t that hard because mums did that when I was born, and I was an easy-going baby apparently.
This is obviously a tricky area to compare given my Dad has 35 years to look back on compared to my 7 but I have 3 children who present different rewards and challenges on a weekly basis. I was more ‘hands-on’ but that is also down to a change of generation not just individuals.
Question 5: Do you think you changed when you became a father?
“Being a father brings added responsibility”
We both agree on that.
It didn’t change his lifestyle necessarily as he continued to play rugby most weekends, but that had always been a family thing where my mum went to watch so it just evolved to include me. I remember the rugby club and watching my dad. It is a huge part of my life and I have many great memories thanks to the rugby club. Could/would I spend all week in my current job either busy or away from my family and then spend most of one half of the weekend away from them? No, but I have 3. They had 1. I am however, guilty of dedicating too much time to work.
As a policeman my dad was exposed to all sorts. I remember distinctly some events (without knowing any detail at the time) and my Dad’s reaction to them and how he treated me as a result. He attended to teenage suicide situations, the aftermath and investigation of the Dunblane school shooting, and witnessed babies and toddlers crawling around dirty needles in ‘drug’ flats while the parents were ‘out of it’. This must be a challenge for anyone.
I asked my Dad if this changed anything he did as a parent; his answer wasn’t really surprising I guess – it made him more protective and reminded him/inspired him to be as good a parent as he could be.
“Most of all it reminded me to be there when your kids need you”.
We then randomly discussed piercings and tattoos and his strong stance on them when I suggested any of it as a teenager. He claims to be more tolerant now but I’m glad he put me off some of the piercings I thought about! I hope I can strike the right balance with my kids; a crap tattoo in the wrong place can cause problems in life and job.
Questions 6/7: How do you think parenting has changed between your day and mine? & How do you think we differ as dads?
“You have 3 kids, I only had 1.”
Nice try but you are not getting off that easily!
“Some things haven’t changed between our generations or us: values, protection and advice.
You are a more hands on Dad.”
I asked if he thought this was because I have 3 and it would be hard not to be or if it was a generational change. He definitely thinks it’s a generational change. My Dad is great at being a Grandad and comfortable being left with all 3, aged 7 and under (some Dads struggle with that).
So what made the difference?
My Dad wasn’t exposed to parenting by other friends or family close by who ‘went first’. Conversely, I was able to see a few others have children. Although I was always much more relaxed when it came to my own children than with anyone else’s.
My Dad has a younger sister who had children when I was in my early teens. This gave him a chance to be more hands-on than he was with me and, subconsciously, practice for being a grandparent. I also think that fathers today appear to enter fatherhood more experienced and open to the requirements.
Do we differ as Dads? In some ways, yes, as described already I am more hands-on, etc. But in many other ways we are very similar. We shared the same feelings of inexperience as new fathers but also just learned to figure it out.
Question 8: Is there anything you would go back and change in your parenting style?
Ultimately no. I was an easy-ish kid to raise. He wishes he had watched me play rugby more often; I was reasonably talented and therefore didn’t need his help, so why change other plans.
Question 9: Do you have any fatherly advice for me?
“Be you. Do what is right. Be there. Direct them (your children) and give sound advice. Be supportive.”
I think that’s pretty sound advice and he’s done exactly that for me for 35 years.
As we finished our drinks, the rain had stopped, and we made it home just in time to say goodnight to my kids and have curry with my Mum and wife. We both really enjoyed the chance to talk about our lives as fathers and shared more detail than is possible to put into this and some that is invaluable to have shared but is too personal for others to read! Thank you!
No Ross, Thank you. Also thank you to your Dad for being so open and insightful. I’m glad you guys enjoyed the experience, Happy Fathers Day.