One of the management quotes I use most often with clients is, people remember criticism but they respond best to praise. No matter how high-up the corporate ladder we go or old we get, this statement rings true.
As father’s day loomed on a family holiday, I got thinking about these words and how I hadn’t applied them to my closest personal relationships. Observing our family dynamics on holiday I noticed that we (OK, I) don’t talk to each other very nicely (especially when I’m tired, hungry or hungover). And that I’d never dare talk to a client in the way I snap at the people I love most. This revelation made me realise that for the majority of my life, most of the feedback my father has had on his parenting has been critical (poor Dad). Yet as I see my friends tackle the woes and joys of parenting and I struggle to look after my nephew for a few hours without a lie down after, I see how hard it is. How there is no right or wrong, only your best.
So this father’s day, given my Dad already has four draws of socks and wardrobes full of polo T shirts, my gift to my Dad is to speak to him nicely, without snapping, being sarcastic or critical all day long. So to start as I mean to go on, I’ve written a little letter of thanks to Bob, my Dad, who having now being a single parent for more than half of my life, did his best.
A letter to my Dad.
Thank you for making me earn my own money as a child. Teaching me that if you want something in life, there’s more chance of getting it by working hard, than waiting for somebody to give it to you.
Thank you for the many, many nights you gave up your time after work to drive me to swimming club. Sometimes it was five times a week and never once did you say no you can’t go, no matter how much you’d have preferred to crash in front of the TV.
Thank you for years of never ever picking me up from dancing on time. This taught me patients and that crying and complaining doesn’t ender people towards you half as much as being nice.
Thank you for being creative with what little we had and not giving me everything I wanted. Realising that no means no, meant I learned to appreciate and be creative with what I had.
Thank you for instilling in me a spirit of adventure and boundless love of travel. Oh how I envied my friends who would go on package holidays to Spain and Greece as kids. When instead we’d to go on four-week long camping holidays around Europe. Looking back, these trips are my most cherished memories of childhood.
Thank you for being slightly blasé about my safety. When I was ten, you offered me a quid if I’d dive off the ten-foot-high diving board. I’d never been so scared in my life. Yes, I did it, and yes it hurt, but I also learnt that if you’re not scared, you can’t be brave.
Thank you for being an amazing Granddad to Charlie. It’s probably because you’re the biggest kid going. I’m grateful there’s now a new generation in our family for you to recycle your Dad jokes on and that your many many stories will live on when you are gone.
Thank you for my step-mum Sue. Your positivity and ability to recover from heartache, have meant that we’re still a close family – albeit it a slightly dysfunctional one. Showing me nothing is ever as it seems, everyone has their issues and version of the truth. It’s having the courage to put our own happiness first, that makes for a happier life in the long run.
Thank you for my siblings. Being the oldest, I despised having to share – toys, clothes, attention. I hated how nothing was ever really just mine, I either shared it or they’d nick it anyway. As it turns out my siblings were also the best playmates and life long companions. I was never lonely as a child, something I took for granted back then. My sisters are without a doubt the best gift you’ve ever given me.
Thank you for changing careers in your thirties. For putting your families needs before your own work ambitions. To me this is the most valuable lesson, one that took my entire twenties to learn, that it’s far better to have more love, than it is to have more money.
So dearest Daddy, wishing you a very happy fathers day. I promise to be nice to you all day. Love you.
Rachy, aged 34 ¼