June 14, 2014
Being A Son On Father’s Day
I am not yet a father (as far as I know), but I thought I would like to write something about Father’s Day, especially considering my father also writes for redOrbit.
It is not always easy to look to deeply at the mechanisms of any family relationship, or the dynamics of any close personal relationship at all. Well, certainly not for British people, anyway. But doubtless thinking about it helps to make us a little better at those relationships, and talking about it even more so, if we can bring ourselves to do it.
San Francisco State University recently published some advice to fathers, and to families in general, that is aimed predominantly at those with children and teenagers, but which could easily apply to any stage of life. It talks about conflict resolution– domestic diplomacy, if you will — and the need for a peace envoy, such as a mother, to mediate in conflicts between a father and child. The most important thing, the study says, is that the child should understand why their father is angry. This may not be easy for pops to explain at the height of annoyance, so better that the child has it explained to them by someone else.
“When kids get explanations and good reasons that fit with the world they see, it helps them feel better,” Jeff Cookston from SF State tells us. “It’s sometimes hard to change how adolescents feel about situations, but we can talk to them about how they think about those situations.” It is part of a theory he calls “guided cognitive reframing,” a process that it is claimed can reduce depression in young people.
I don’t particularly remember having any major conflicts with my father, except for him hogging the guitar or the computer games. Which he had earned the money to pay for. And had gone out and bought. And set up. Hang on, maybe I was the problem! Now I am beginning to realize the importance of having things explained to you at a young age…. In seriousness, although I don’t remember any big conflicts, I do remember that time in life that we all experience when we slowly realize that our parents are human, that they are not professors in parenting (Jeff Cookston aside) and that it must be a bloody difficult job.
One late stage of those kinds of realizations may be reflected in the Fleet Foxes lyrics, “So now I am older than my mother and father, when they had their daughter, now what does that say about me?” One would hope that when we realize we are now older than our parents when they had ourselves and our siblings, we might start to look at the whole relationship more objectively. But as the SF State study points out, it is better if those kind of analytical understandings come about at a younger age, rather than feeling resentment for years and then only realizing later that expectations of parents are too high.
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