Charge of the Light buggy Brigade

posted in: Abuse, Male Mental Health, Parenting | 0

Something I see a lot in the male clients I work with at the intake and throughout sessions, is the description of their fathers “Hard man, drank hard” “liked a drink” “enjoyed a drink but always went to work” (see ‘functioning alcoholic’), alcohol is never too many family members removed from being an issue in Ireland. God forbid we actually admit Ireland has a problem with alcohol! The alcohol is a whole other issue and probably a whole other blog post. This issue is around the “hard man”.

I see it in the fathers I work with in their 30s & 40s. They grew up with “hard man” fathers. Of course this is a generalisation, but in my experience, hugely accurate. Love, affection, tactile contact was very rarely there. Maybe it was there from the mother, in between wooden spoon fits of rage, but rarely was it ever there from the father.

This generation of men is the first to push a buggy. Their/ my/ our fathers certainly did nothing of the sort, that was “woman” work. I remember being a young father proudly pushing my kids around in their buggies/ prams/ strollers. It was akin to a show and tell project of “I made this”. Really it was probably just a less arrest-able offence than walking around with my penis out saying “Yes, this works!”. Probably something the “hard men” would have liked to have done. Need we even go there with the tie in between masculinity and a working phallus?

But being the offspring of a “hard man” brings its own pitfalls. On one hand if we have the awareness to know “I don’t want anything like this for my kids” we can look at what didn’t work for us and try to do a better job. If that awareness isn’t there then in all likelihood we’ll repeat the sins of the father. Very often I’ll hear “I got a few slaps, it done me no harm” but in reality it did. In reality you’re saying I was physically hit and I’ll do the same.

I’ll hold my hand up and say with my older children 20 & 18, when they were young, they would have *VERY SELDOM* got a little slap on the wrist or on the arse. For the 12 and the now toddler, I never did. My words, the same as that of so many of my clients, “it never did me any harm.” To my son and daughter – I apologise.

See, when you’re brought up by “hard men”, it’s all about fear. I seen recently in a group, a post about spanking, some saying absolutely not, some saying it teaches respect. But it doesn’t teach respect, it teaches fear and if it continues it will teach repressed anger, resentment and hatred and very often the cycle will continue. Why? Because it’s all that’s known. That’s how we were taught to do it and we will in all likelihood, do the same.

My father very rarely hit me, in fact I can only remember one incident where he did. He rounded the corner at the exact moment me and my friends were playing Red Rover (remember that?) and I almost decapitated one of the lads. He never had to hit me! I was terrified of him. All the mother needed was the threat oh so many of us grew up with “I’m telling your father when he gets home”, queue manic grovelling “sorry, sorry, sorry!!! I won’t do it again!!!” The fear, oh that fear. When a child is faced with a snarling face and venomous words spat through grinding teeth… shit…yeah…it’s terrifying…that did the job alright! The authoritarian parent who rules with the iron first, “it’s my way or the high way” or the one I heard “cos I said so!”

But it doesn’t work, studies have shown that children who grow up with those parents, it doesn’t teach them compliance, it teaches them to not get caught! Another study has shown that children of authoritarian parents “are more likely to raise disrespectful, delinquent children who do not see them as legitimate authority figures.

Growing up in a “garrison town” where there was an army base, the stories of abuse I hear from clients who were the wives or sons & daughters of “hard men” who were mistreated by “hard men” in the army… The system of violence and abuse that exists in a closed system like an army or church. So my generation, are pretty much the first to be the product of “hard men” and hopefully realise it’s not the best way to go. They did what was done to them by their parents or their anger was displaced.

With all that being said, let’s push our sons and daughters in the stroller. Let’s face it, mammy isn’t going to pretend they are Michael Schumacher breaking hard and weaving in and out of the “Bus Stop” chicane at Spa in Belgium, albeit in reality around slow walker chicanes in the local shopping centre. She certainly won’t make the 3 litre V10 sound on acceleration. I’m not a real “hard man” you see, all I know about is Formula 1, I know nothing about my own car.

You can be the daddy, you can be a bit of craic, you can hug them, you can kiss them, you can tell them you love them and you can teach respect – you just don’t need to do it with fear. It might mean that you’re not a “hard man” but it might mean you’re a good father…fuck it…you might even end up being a great father.

Credit to Daddy Cool.