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  • Writer's pictureLeana and Andrew

Ideas for gifts for Father’s Day

A man who I’ll call Ian in order to protect confidentiality, thirty years of age, came to therapy every two weeks over a nine-month period. During that time, he contemplated courageously many issues about his life. He worked hard and extremely well on his personal development. I took care to feedback to him how well he was working whenever I could. The man he was becoming, the young man and boy he had been, were honoured by us both. His therapy journey to date is laced with new meaning, adding to and refining previous learning and experience.

Ian now has a fuller range of interpersonal skills and is increasingly confident and articulate. He is no longer undermined nor put down by his male colleagues. In what is his almost entirely male working environment, he asserts himself with a respectful confidence. His self-doubt still somewhat present, but integrated and working in good awareness within him.

A constant recurring theme of his work in therapy was his relationship with his father.

From his childhood days, Ian recounted the expectation from both parents that he

should be successful in life, in particular in his education and chosen career. When he talked about it with me, he described it as a time when; “That was just how it was. I didn’t know any different. I just assumed that’s what mums and dads did, that was their role in preparing us for life, to push us as hard as they could”.

Now ten years into his career, he finds himself feeling the absence of the relationship he would like with his dad. Ian is somewhat but not wholly resigned to that, and undoubtedly, sad about it. In his parent’s expedience to push for success, an experience void of love was left.

Ian’s work in therapy included learning new and more sophisticated communication skills, but mostly he finds himself stuck when it comes to reaching out for the relationship he wants with his dad.

The wanted relationship Ian seeks is signified still by a desire for his dad to speak out his love for him and be proud of him.

Once quite recently, Ian did feel his dad’s gratitude towards him. This occurred when his dad was seriously challenged with a technical problem at work. He was confounded by a task set by his boss. It required a level of knowledge beyond his experience. Ian’s Dad didn’t ask for help, but Ian noticed him struggling and so told him that he had the knowledge that his dad needed and furthermore, he could help. Dad was surprised but accepted Ian’s help. They completed successfully the task together, Ian’s Dad learning new knowledge and skills in the process. Ian told me that his dad didn’t actually thank him, but that Ian felt his gratitude nonetheless. I asked him in what way did he feel it. He said that he could see it in his eyes and by the way that he looked at him.

I wondered was that a moment when dad could have (relatively safely for him) spoken out his admiration or pride for his son. Or, might Ian have asked his dad if he was proud of him. We discussed this but Ian felt it would have been too much to ask. We explored this further. I wondered how far Ian might go in order to feel his father’s admiration and love in the way that he wanted.

At the same time, I realised that I too felt the loss of relationship with my dad. I reflected on my own childhood experience. Typically, my dad would criticise me for not achieving or performing well enough. He would be quick to ask in a negative tone, why I would do something that he thought unacceptable or inappropriate. He would never congratulate me on successes.

I remembered the occasion when I decided that my father’s openness about his feelings for me and understanding of me, were never going to be spoken, to me anyway. So, I decided to give up expecting or hoping for it at that point. I wondered would Ian give up and draw the line, or would he persevere. We discussed this. I told him about my decision to give up expecting praise. I was careful not to suggest that he should or might. That has to be Ian’s decision. We were clear to understand together that whatever he did, had to be his choice. Ian said that he felt that he would “chip away” and be content with any small gains. I admire him for this. A different decision to mine.

At a point in session, feelings of admiration and pride for Ian arose in me. I told him how proud I was of the work that he’d done in therapy and all that he’d achieved. We shared a silent moment of knowing that. I understood the moment as a combination of our shared loss of relationship with our dads and, respect and admiration for each other – dare I say love and pride.

I’m not a big fan of pride in itself. But I am a big fan of showing and speaking out love, admiration and respect for my four children. They know that they are loved and that I feel the joy of their lives.

As for Ian and me, we sat at the end of session with a glow in each-others company, we knew that perversely our fathers had taught us how to show love for our children (his still to come), by not showing it to us – and there had been a cost.

As Father’s Day approaches, why not prepare a gift for your children and yourself self as dad by finding a way to tell your children how proud of them you are, how you admire and love them – and why. You might find it will be a very meaningful gift for you, as well as for them.

If only ‘being dad’ was that simple, you might be saying….

Andrew Paterson

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