I haven’t spoke with my father in nearly four years and I do not regret my decision to drop him from my life. The stress of his actions upon my life became far too much for me to deal with and the only healthy decision I feel I could make for myself was to cut all connections to him and minimise all my relationships with other people connected to him. I know I’m not innocent in how the relationship got to this point but it was the best decision I ever made. I always hoped he might change his outlook on life and be what I perceived to be a better happier person, this was wrong of me. However it is not wrong for me to want to have nothing to do with his life because of how I see him living it, that choice I do get to have.
This first line might make me appear a horrible and selfish individual, how can a son turn his back on his father? That just isn’t right? Is it? It does sound crazy and probably all boils down to poor communication between us and the inability to convey to the other how we are feeling.
I like to think I am a positive person and I always try to look for the best things in life and enjoy whatever I choose to do to the fullest otherwise I am probably wasting my time. We all know that time is a finite resource. I like to find solutions to any obstacles and challenges I have. I never look at situations I am faced with and feel that they cannot be achieved, instead I figure out a way to make it work and happen if I am interested in pursuing it. I hope this sets a scene for the type of person I am. I also believe my life is not far away from another big transition and I am looking to make some sense of the past, manage my feelings on it so that I might be stronger and more decisive in where I am going.
So why did I choose to stop speaking with my father?
If you have followed any of my other pieces then you will know that I lost my mother in 2006 and this changed my family in ways I could not have imagined. But very simply in the wake of this experience I knew I still had my life to live (and plenty to live for) as I was only 20 years old at the time. It was incredibly sad and she is not someone I will ever forget, nor the experience of her passing as well as all she taught me before. However I wanted from very early on after her passing to get on with my life and live in a positive manor that would make her proud. Not feel sorry for myself and use her passing as an excuse for why I might not go on to achieve better things.
My father on the other hand is a different story and outlook, his life fell apart and he could see no future for himself. We couldn’t be more different people in my view. When people who knew my mum compare me to her this is one of the biggest compliments I could hope for because I strive to follow the example she set to me. I did not follow my mother’s example well when she was alive and by way of apology to her for not doing so I do try (and not always succeeding) to do my best now. The example set by my father I want to stay as far away from as I possibly can because what I have seen there is toxic, poison and a generally horrible outlook, I don’t even think I know the half of what he feels life is all about. I now don’t want to.
So where to start with such as piece of writing? I will start by saying I am not a victim here. My dad has done many things that has pissed me off but I am certain that many actions I have done and decisions I made have given him similar feelings. So this in the first instance is not a healthy relationship where two people have conflicting views that only anger and frustrate the other, and then cannot come to any agreement or common ground. I will also say that there were good and fun times growing up as well, it certainly was not all bad. Unfortunately those feelings seem to be drowned out now and don’t really exist for me anymore. I say “don’t really” because I feel I just want a father figure in my life, but that is totally not my actual father. So I don’t focus on any of these happy memories, they remind of time that simply does not exist anymore and won’t exist with myself and him again, it’s too upsetting. They are from a long time ago and just do not feel relevant as I want to look forwards, not backwards and I’ve worked very hard mentally to achieve this. If we had a healthy relationship I would choose to focus on them more but the more recent feelings of hurt are so much more prevalent that I do not want to look back at my life with him in it in any way. I was a child and arguably knew no better from my limited life experiences. I followed my father’s interests as I think a lot of sons do. It was when I became a teenager and dropped these interests to explore other ones that things started to change. Perhaps this is the place to start.
My father is a very big War-gamer. For those reading this that don’t know what that is, it is a gaming hobby that involves the assembly of models to use to battle opponents over a tabletop. Invariably there is quite a complex set of rules to play these games and results are determined through strategy and chance results (outcome of dice rolls). I am not going to shy away from the fact I used to play some of these games when I was primary school aged and early secondary school aged. I played them a lot with my father and my brothers and even went to a few clubs with others who shared this hobby. My dad had been playing these games for a lot of his life and had a ridiculous amount of gear for it, he was very good at it and dedicated a lot of time to his hobby.
(boundingintocomics.com – 2018)
I never remember beating him at any of these games.
There was one instance even that we set up a sci fi game and he allowed me double the resource value of what he had. What he failed to tell me was the resource he was using was significantly more advanced than the forces I had. The equivalent of the 17th century musketeers lining up against a modern day army if you like. I was carved up in this game and my dad had taken great delight in this one as he found it very funny and knew I didn’t have a chance. This wound me up and he won’t ever know how much. He also told me much later on that when he first taught me games he used to under resource his sides to allow for the perception of an even game whilst I was learning, this was equally frustrating as I still never won even then with this advantage. After him telling me this it also made me feel quite stupid and incapable, plus I was being manipulated into playing this hobby because I thought I was doing well and gaining a false sense of achievement. A feeling of success in any hobby is key but I don’t know if this is the right way to go about it. I thought I was close, but then again not quite good enough. My dad was actually just playing me the entire time. Always just close.
This is key and to say I had low confidence growing up is an understatement (I’ll come back to this). I actually never got a result over him memorable enough to be really pleased about and I’m certain I would have remembered any sort of result. It just didn’t happen. When I had turned 13 we moved away to Scotland just for a year because of my dad’s employment and this was a low year for me because I had no friend’s at school and only a couple of friend’s who lived locally. The gaming hobby felt like all I had and I was getting a beating at it. I think this was some what masked though as I could beat my brother at it (he was a couple of year’s younger than me). So when we moved back to England and I was surrounded by friend’s once again and I had turned 14 years old I realised I didn’t want this hobby anymore, I had become bored and frustrated with it. Looking at the stereotypical gamer then they were overweight (at various levels as some were grotesquely obese) and generally did not take care of themselves in a health sense. And being a 14 year old boy I was becoming interested in girls and this hobby wasn’t going to do me any favours here. So I decided to stop it, and also sell a lot of my stuff and this is the starting point (for me) of my relationship with my father falling apart. It was a starting point for my sports interest so all in certainly not a decision I regret.
I believe my father was deeply disappointed and frustrated with me for quitting and he was unable to change my mind which may well have got to him the most as I believe he takes a lot of satisfaction in being able to influence and manipulate people into doing what he wants. He had lost this with me as far as a hobby goes. However on the flip side I believe my mum was secretly ecstatic that I had ditched the hobby, not that she ever said. It is a hobby that to look at is just a game, however the fundamentals are death, destruction and completely obliterating your opponent which I actually believe is quite an unhealthy concept for the mind. You don’t just play these games like monopoly, scrabble or dominoes. There is a lot of building through the models, there’s a lot of pre game planning as well so to see all this work and effort being destroyed hurts (sounds stupid but it did). The entire concept I believe reflecting today in 2018 is incredibly toxic for the mind. The interests I have moved on to through sports, music, comedy, outdoors activities, gardening, cooking and more… I have found a far more satisfying way of living instead of this hobby hell bent on destruction. I’m not sure my father understands this, or ever understood what I moved on to enjoy because it was of no interest to him, my new interests to him were perhaps perceived as dull and boring.
So that was the start of the end from my view. I’m going to move on to discuss a few feelings towards him now and my thoughts towards it all. Why I have chosen to bring this up first? It’s a hobby he’s played for decades that is hell bent on death, destruction and obliteration. This took up so much of his time all through out growing up and I believe has had an impact on how he views life generally. The games to a greater or lesser extent have twisted with his mind because he spends so much focus and energy on them. What he perhaps hasn’t appreciated is the impact it has had on the relationships he has with people around him. Especially those who do not share this hobby and interest.
I feel this is the most prevalent feeling that I have when I talk about feelings towards my father. My father has an old school approach to many things and discipline of his children fell into this category. I believe he set out his discipline so that we knew if we stepped out of line we were in trouble. The phrase children should be seen and not heard is very true for me when it came to socialising in the presence of my father. This I guess is how he felt it best to raise his children and who can judge this. Everyone has an opinion here. Is there one right way? No. Are there perhaps better ways pending on the child? Almost certainly!
Actually with this fear in mind it may have inhibited us as children in being able to express ourselves and share our thoughts, feelings and idea’s, particularly if they did not fall in line with his way of thinking. From my own experience as the first born in my family I had a real reluctance to try anything new and actually got quite upset when forced in to joining things that I did not want to. My mum would push me into beavers, cubs and scouts (on reflection she was absolutely right to), I wasn’t happy about joining any but actually had for the most part a great time. I was pushed into swimming lessons, again nervous about it. I never wanted to try anything new for myself as a child. I was asked if I wanted to do karate, I never did. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I tried badminton, but again my mum was already at the club. I joined a rugby club at 15 years old but went with a mate. Nothing on my own until I went to uni perhaps??? Nothing for myself and I believe I never voiced it because it wasn’t worth it. My youngest brother had the opportunity to play county rugby, he attended the trials. He was upset when he couldn’t go after because my parents would not take him. Maybe I never tried as well as a child because I knew it would go nowhere, but equally there was nothing I wanted either. The games dominated at a young age unfortunately.
He’s the only person as well to make me truly doubt what I am doing.The trust I placed in my father as a boy I believe is normal of any child as you trust your parents, you know no better. But I think back and there are many instances where he has made doubt and therefore I do not act. It’s scary to wonder about possibilities potentially missed. There’s one that stand out that I did not miss and I was an adult at this point. My employer had threatened me with redundancy and I was competing to save my job. I was dependant on a job as well to pay my mortgage, my life. I knew this would continue also. So I started looking elsewhere and found work in construction. All my friends and even bosses at my current employment (the one’s threatening me with redundancy) backed me to take the opportunity. All except him. He placed doubt in my head but I did not listen despite thinking on it. We actually bust about 2-3 months later and on reflection I believe he made me doubt taking the new job because he would see me less than what he was at that point time.
My dad could also give a bollocking. He has an extremely powerful voice and when my brothers and I misbehaved he made sure we knew about it. We would invariably fall back into line. We were brothers though, we misbehaved so we needed readdressing. Even the odd smack when things went too far. I do not disagree with this approach if appropriate, it helped keep us on the straight and narrow as kids and stopped misbehaviour going too far as we knew where the line was. My dad frequently told us the story of how his dad, my granddad had belted him for stepping out of line. One day apparently I did go too far. I couldn’t have been much older then 6/7 years old, apparently I was spotted (at my aunt’s and uncles house) in the garden doing something I shouldn’t that could have very seriously hurt my brother. I really don’t remember that bit. If I did I deeply regret it, I have no idea the situation that culminated to that. But afterwards my dad was out like a rocket and he had lost his shit, he was raging. I was grabbed, dragged inside and upstairs to the spare room we were staying in and thrown on the bed. The belt was coming off and I was nothing short of terrified at the prospect of what was going to happen. It was my mum who had chased us up the stairs and had to fight and drag him off, anything she could to stop him giving me the beating of my life that I know I would not have forgotten. But I haven’t forgotten anyway and the mark of this experience has stayed with me to date. My mother was not prepared I believe to let one of her children receive such a beating. My dad was seeing red and had lost control, I am forever grateful to my mum for preventing it, mental mark still left on me though, as it was going to happen. It is amazing how some situations can be imprinted on the mind and never forgotten.
My brother was also fine with no lasting damage from the incident which was a relief.
Always the joker.
As I turned a teen and as I mentioned we’d left Scotland and I was in a place with friends again. Life for me was happier than it had been for a year. Equally I was also starting to learn banter from friends around me. My dad always loved a bit of banter, and would always ensure he had the last word, no matter who he was dealing with.
From experiences at school I have some incredibly witty and sharp friends and it began for them in teenage years at school. I had the nickname Paddy at school and it has stuck around to date. I was quite proud of it because it gave me identity at school, it was something everyone called me. I was happy with it. However everyone knew I was Scottish and everyone knew my surname was Ireland. Going to school in England this attracted quite a lot of easy shots of “banter”. I took it as this but at times later on in 6th form it did get me down because at times it was relentless. I had the odd moment where it broke me and I snapped back. However for the most part it was funny and that was the way it went down, I could generally take it and no big deal, just having a laugh. What I avoided though was giving it back at school, it might have been an error not to stand up for myself more but it felt the easier way at the time to deal with it, certainly the more civil. If I did decide to take it out on someone then physically I would not have been losing, that would not have been the right way. Reflecting on it now though it has made me very hardy to banter to be later received in life as it was much the same for me at uni as well, the additional “banter” here was I was 2/3 years older than most, therefore I was old, ancient, a relic, etc. I think everyone goes through things like this growing up and even as adults. How we manage it is the true test, not to let it phase us because usually that just attracts further unwanted attention.
I began experimenting a little at home on my brothers with “banter”. My youngest brother was never bothered but I could get a reaction out of my other brother quite quickly and I played on this at times. Some occasions definitely taking it too far to which I look back now at and regret as it really was a form of bullying. I’ve apologised to him now we are older and he’s doing well for himself but takes nothing away from the fact it could not have been much fun for him at the time, I just thought it was funny. Looking at it now it was probably a reaction to being bantered at school. The biggest difference being my brother couldn’t take it in the same manor I could. It continued for a couple of years, maybe when I was 14-16 until one day my dad game down on me hard for it. He laid down the law and that it must stop. I remember it happening in Scotland. There was no looking to understand why I was doing it, it was a full blown lecture and my attitude to my brother must stop. I think it did? I remember this and I told myself “ok, this has to stop as my brother really does not like it.” I actually put distance between myself and my brother just to ensure I stopped myself and not further upset him. My brother still gamed as well, I feel my father favoured him and my other brother over me because of this and I was actually becoming isolated to a degree at home from my family. Thinking about it now I do feel I set distance between myself and all my family because my interests were not the same and the best way for me not to get myself in trouble was stay out the way. Particularly from my dad. I did have a games console that my bros and I battled over, this might be about the only common interest we had when I was a late teen, that was good fun though with many laughs. Arguably this could be as close to family events as it got.
People have different levels of tolerance with “banter” I’ve come to learn. This isn’t appreciated as a child but you can see when you are older. As already noted my dad enjoys “banter” and I have witnessed him go to town on people and taking a great sense of delight in it. On those odd occasions though that people get one up on him he is incredibly upset with it. Not until close to our bust up did I really see this. It was rare that someone could get a one liner over him and he not come back with something, however, if he was made to look silly in some other manor he could not stand this, but generally it was ok for him to do this to others, myself included. As we got older more and more “banter” would come mine and my brothers direction as well. (You might wonder why I’m being so sensitive about this but stick with me). I was a porky child at primary school and had a good appetite. Some of his classic lines directed at me were:
- “Nothing wasted when father keeps a pig”.
- “One day son you will have a belly as big as mine.”
I do remember one such reaction that went through my mind later on was “FUCK OFF it won’t”.
Again from an early age I just soaked it up, it’s what I’ve always done. I certainly didn’t call him names and make comments like this in the same way, or at least I don’t remember it, however I was a child and him an adult. He thought he was being funny and at the time everyone laughed. I don’t think he anticipated that I have my own mind and I thought about these incidents. The thoughts were “I don’t want to be like that”. So when you think back to my earlier points on overweight gamers, my dad was overweight. I was also aware of what the guys at school did to get the attention of girls, or at the very least not be picked on for being fat and nerdy. That was very simply playing sports, being active and taking a little care in their appearance. So the gaming stopped and the sports began and I was a part of a good group of people that had fun, a laugh (a little to often at me, but you don’t know what others are going through) but people I did feel a part of many still friends today. Equally because it felt like my dad distanced himself from me many of the comments stopped as well. I also significantly changed my diet to reduce weight. I knew basics in that fruit and vege were good for me, chocolates and cakes were bad so I pretty much stopped eating these things for a very long time (at least 18 months). It had the positive effect I was looking for.
This is actually the first time I’ve thought we were both consciously staying out of each others way because we didn’t want to be a part of each others lives during the time I was a teenager. I remember doing very little family things at this point in life. I was looking to spend time with my friends, work, or even exercise and spend time on my own. Family was the last place on my mind. I knew distance was there, I’m not a confrontational person and when we had no like minded interests we certainly would not have had a positive relationship heading on. It certainly hard to do things with people and engage with them when you feel you have little in common.
He does not care.
When I stopped the gaming I cannot remember an occasion where he was actively interested in what was going on in my life. I’ve made reference to how I was distancing myself from my family, there’s going to be quite a list coming up and only the real headliners within that list.
Growing up unless we were gaming he wasn’t interested. I do not remember my dad ever coming to a school parent’s evening, particularly at secondary school, just my mum taking me and speaking with teachers.
He rarely came to watch me play rugby, I was the oldest, my parents generally went where my younger brothers went.
My mum took me to uni as an 18 year old when I went to Nottingham and then I dropped out, she came to get me. I don’t even remember the time my dad and I had a conversation about uni. I remember the day I left on this occasion and considering it was a big deal for me, he really did not seem interested or overly bothered. I think he said something along the lines of “all the best” and that was about it. The only career thing my dad and I did was him taking me to the RAF recruitment office for one meeting, it didn’t last long and went no further. That would be it.
My 18th birthday nothing memorable happened for me. Friends were taken out by parents for meals, or parties were hosted for them. I tagged my 18th on to a 6th form party. I don’t believe my dad even took me out for a pint to celebrate the occasion. What’s hilarious though is after I graduated and came home, he also retired and had a huge do at the Officers mess. I barely had any space on my overdraft and he made a significant point to me that I never bought him a drink, he had plenty of offers but the gesture would have been nice. Slightly hypocritical.
This isn’t a one way road. I know I have hurt him from my drinking habits, or I would be surprised to learn if it did not bother him. It’s something I’m only now really working on but I was a huge binge drinker with little care for my actions because drinking gave me a confidence that wasn’t typically there.
My 21st was a write off because it was about a month after my mum passed. I understood that, but in the interests of fairness he wrote off both of my brother’s 21st’s, just to keep it fair/and equally do nothing for one of his sons/make an effort to demonstrate his feelings for them.
He never came to my graduation. This one stung because when I got there and realised the nature of all the other families and the pride parents were gushing over their children’s achievements I was gutted. I knew I was one parent short from the off. For him to show no interest in it hurt. I had Dawn though and that is what truly mattered.
I had to tell him not to come to my wedding to Dawn. I actually believe he did not want to come. That’s another matter but he could not bring himself to say. I asked him a closed yes or no question, 3 times I asked do you want to come until he eventually said yes without trying to dance around the question and avoid the answer. So down the line after this I wrote a letter to him to say he’s not coming. I don’t know if he was bothered or not.
The mental torment.
In writing this entire piece it’s brought back feelings of absolute mental torment that he has created on me just through his selfish ways. For so long I felt it was all me and what I know is my dad is just at much at fault.
I always kept my feelings on my family generally to myself (other than a couple of trusted friends later on). It’s not appropriate to slag off your family. But he never played by the same rules and I know he has lied and twisted the truth to many other people/pretty much anyone who would listen to him. With the relatives I felt like I was fire fighting because his words were to be trusted more than mine and my wife’s. This really hurt that he had gone about other people spreading things, how could he think it would not get back to me?
The most significant thing linked with the bust up is when he brought up his issues with Dawn. This one broke me because I copped so much on me and just accepted. His issues with Dawn I totally disagreed with and were unjust. He let his own feelings to her manifest into hate all because he couldn’t talk about it. I have had many intense conversations with my father after my mum passing in an effort to improve life for all my family and these were all emotionally draining and upsetting. At times I needed to challenge him because we could not go on as we were, it was an itch for me that I had to scratch. It was all connected to me and was ok at the time, or so I thought. I went to uni, met Dawn and learnt so many more things on other families which seriously highlighted the flaws in my own family life at the time, for me. So when my father kicked off at Dawn that was it! It took a few months of working through, I admitted myself to a professional counsellor through my local surgery because I was not coping. I struggled sleep, my normal positive routines were falling apart. At the end of the months of work we told him he was not welcome at our wedding and I was done with him at that point.
On a plus point though the counselling was excellent and I would recommend that to anyone undergoing internal stresses. It was a great to talk through my issues without judgement. It also reinforced to me that the path I was thinking I needed to take was ok and I need not feel guilty for doing what was right by my own health.
It was the reflection after on many things that I still had to work through, my realisation that he is very good at making himself appear a victim and pushing the blame on to other people. The critical element for this for me is that because my father is not a stupid man, he is actually a very clever and calculated man. All these elements combined are no accident and he is deliberately choosing to behave in this way. This is what I cannot be a part of because it is a relentless stress and I have no trust in him. That was also broken when he presented his issue with Dawn and I am never going to look to find that trust again. I am just not interested. I’ve also heard stories since from others connected to him about his behaviours with them, he’s not changing or behaving any differently and I know my decision is 100% correct.
So when is enough, enough?
There are so many issues up in the air here in this blog. If my dad and I got on, they probably would not even come into the equation. But we bust up and that has made me think about the past to move on in the future. At what point:
- The so called banter and having a laugh?
- The loss of a common interest/hobby?
- The lack of interest in me as his child?
- The repeated instances of causing me to doubt where I’m going.
- The disapproval of my partner.
- The lack of attendance at important life events for me.
The list could go on.
So after everything I’ve discussed I’m going to circle back to the very first paragraph. Like I said I always hoped he would change and be a happier person, particularly after my mum passed. I know now it was never coming and it was a false and wrong hope to have. It’s not fair for me to expect change, he is who he is and that is fine. But what is fair is I can make my own decisions and I’m choosing not to be a part of his life, it’s not good for me or healthy. So I have stayed out of his way for over 4 years and I have every intention of making that last. What feels amazing is being able to write these feelings down and get them out in the open and off of my chest. It has been refreshing and I’ve definitely learnt a thing or two in the process. In the wake of the bust up I see things differently. I think people struggle to understand an unhealthy relationship until you’ve left it. I know I did. As previously said as well I know I’m not innocent but I know I am a better person for now not having him as a part of my life because it feels like I have been freed.
Thanks for reading, I’ll apologise for the general tone but if you have experienced similar I’ve learnt that it is ok to break relationships from family if they don’t work. They are not different to a friendship and need to be worked on like any other one. People break up from relationships as well that do not suit so why should family be different. You will know if it was the right decision because a weight and a release will have been lifted. I felt a little guilty at the time, it did not feel right, I think it would be hard not to but ultimately I’m happier now and the the guilt no longer exists because I know I’ve made the right decision.
It feels great to have got so many of these issues off of my mind and write them down. It was a while coming, probably the main reason I started writing blogs because I was conscious of these feelings. But blogging has been enjoyable for discussing other things as well.
Enough was enough.