Should you say ‘I love you’ to your children?
Ten years ago, I first became a parent and as each year passes, I become more conscious of the fact that I have helped mould two mini human beings. They have traits I find annoying but recognise in myself. However, rather than blame myself, I tell them to not be so annoying and absolve all responsibility.
I’d like to make it clear that these traits do not involve the torturing of living creatures or the hero worship of Kim Jong-un.
After the birth of my first child in November 2007, I quickly became my dad. By that I don’t mean I started wearing slacks and comfortable sandals, using Brylcreem or falling asleep in armchairs with a copy of The Times adorning my lap.
But there was a gradual drift into the patriarchal mindset that since I have to go out and provide, I should take no active interest in the mundane non-financial activities associated with looking after a baby. No night feeds, very little changing of nappies, and bath time only when I had the time.
While I was waiting for the 1970s to call and ask for the return of its attitudes to parenting, my wife decided to explain to me a few home truths. Namely that if I carried on like this I wouldn’t have a home to come back to.
There are few more destabilising things than being stripped of the illusions you had about yourself. I was young (ish), worked in the media, was well travelled and liked Japanese food. How could a person like me not be a model hands-on dad?!
But I was also a product of the environment I grew up in. This is not to diss my late father. He was an extraordinary man who I loved dearly and miss every day. But he was from a different generation. He wasn’t even in the room when either my brother or I were born.
He was very much the breadwinner, who paid for most things, but did not do laundry or ironing, hoovering or polishing. He cooked only when my mum worked the night shift, every weekend at the local hospital.
CAN’T BUY ME LOVE
Recently on my BBC Radio 5 Live show, I hosted a phone-in about the relationship between fathers and sons. Whether it was important for a father to say ‘I love you’ to his son.
My father never said he loved us once. But don’t be sad – I knew he did. He exhibited that love through deed not word. By his care and protection, counsel and guidance.
That afternoon, I heard from so many men who’d had terrible relationships with their fathers. What was heartwarming was how those I spoke to were determined to make sure their own progeny would not grow up in a similar environment. A whole new generation of boys were being told that love was not a word to be shunned, or feel embarrassed to utter.
What’s not to love about that?