YOUR father has so much to teach you about child-raising, even though he was largely at work, in the garage or out at a hardware store. Here’s how he nailed parenthood:
‘Relax – they’re just kids’
Said when your delinquent children have refused all offers of food, sleep or phone games, this advice is both infuriating and revealing. Decades of distance from the reality of parenting, which for him was only ever a playfight every second Saturday, means he’s just as disengaged as he was then.
‘You can’t let them get away with things’
As driven by whim as a child himself, your father’s tolerance for challenging behaviour depends on his mood, how many whiskies he’s had and how well he parked the car this week. One minute they’re ‘only young once’ and the next he’s discussing the benefits of corporal punishment and military academies.
‘You never did this’
Not advice, but a phrase spoken enigmatically when your children are demonstrating your failings as a parent. Learning your child’s behaviour is aberrant even by the standards of your dysfunctional family is unhelpful and inaccurate as your father has no real clue about anything you’ve ever done, aside from the big events for which he took the photos.
‘You always did this’
Implies that your daughter’s shrieking is a genetic flaw passed down by awful daughter to awful granddaughter, without considering that if it’s genetic then that counts for him as well. Though if he did realise that he’d blame your mother.
‘You can only do so much’
He genuinely believes that he gave his all, within his own carefully maintained boundaries. After all he used to take you to classic car meets and once when your mum had flu took you in work. He mentions it at least six times a year.
‘They all turn out okay in the end’
Did you though? Does your Dad really think you did? Or was he always jetwashing the bins, unblocking the gutters or planing wood when you had emotional breakdowns and had to borrow two grand for rent? Perhaps he thinks that’s ample reward for the effort he put in. Fair enough.