Imagine this: it’s your last conversation with your father. He’s sitting across from you and you need to say all the things you haven’t said or have always wanted to say to him but haven’t. I faced this reality, but not because my father’s life was in jeopardy (thankfully) but because I didn’t have the type of relationship with him I wanted. This thought changed everything.
What about you? What would you say? What would you reveal or ask if you KNEW it was the last conversation? Think about that while you read on…
Like 38% of children born in the 80’s I grew up in a divorced family, living with my mom (and her new family) and every second weekend with my dad (and his new family). He was, in many ways, my idol. I always wanted to be around him, ask him endless questions and, of course, gain his approval. Needless to say, my expectations for him were at times a little unrealistic.
I grew up wanting a different type of relationship than the one we had. I wanted more connection, more time, more advice, more everything. I thought since he was my dad that he should know and fulfill my expectations.
This led to frustration because for years I expected things without communicating. I expected phone calls, support, money, and time.
I got frustrated with our relationship because I felt he just didn’t care. So I called less, told him less, and expected less. It seemed like we were drifting apart which upset me.
It wasn’t until my late twenties when my life was on the verge of falling apart that I finally broke down and had a real conversation with my dad.
My relationship with my girlfriend of 4 years was falling apart because I had been unfaithful for over a year and couldn’t bring myself to ask anyone for help. I was carrying around a massive amount of guilt and shame and didn’t know who to talk to.
I visited my dad and family at the lake one weekend and communicated some of my fears, struggles, and dilemmas. I hoped that if anyone would understand and not be judgmental it would be him.
Standing on the pier overlooking the lake while drinking a scotch late one night I told it felt like I was failing at life. My relationship was a failure because of my choices, and I was hurting the woman I loved. I didn’t like the career I chose. I was miserable, ashamed, and I felt like “real life” was much harder than I had anticipated.
He shared some of his personal experiences and helped me see that we all have a path, we make choices and if they are not the right ones, we get a chance to make different ones (most of the time).
I told him I felt like an out of control monster who was trapped by the idea that ‘the grass is greener on the other side.’ He laughed and told me words of wisdom that are a constant reminder to this day. He said, “CB, the grass is always going to be greener on the other side because bullshit helps grass grow.”
We had a good laugh and at that moment I knew that — even though there might be an even darker time around the corner — he would be there no matter what.
Shortly after our talk I did fall into that darker place. The relationship came crashing down because I was caught in my lies. I left the music career I was working towards and found myself broke and alone.
During that time, I started to see how much I had been letting life and circumstances make my choices for me. I was playing the victim. I’m sure my dad saw it, but he was wise enough to let it run its course.
I slowly started to take matters into my own hands and realized that if I wanted a better relationship with him — or anyone else in my life — that it needed to start with me. So, I built a solid connection with my dad and through everything he has been a rock in my life ever since.
After many years of practice, here’s what I learned about how to be a great son and enjoy a great relationship with my Dad. Remember — it’s never too late 🙂
1) Stop expecting shit from your Dad. If you want a relationship, make it happen. Want money? Make your own. Want to have a beer with him? Buy him one. Want his respect? Earn it — don’t just expect it.
Although asking for help from him is great and much needed sometimes, expecting things and not communicating them will only lead to frustration.
2) Understand what he’s interested in. This doesn’t mean you have to follow in his footsteps and have the same career (although I tried that). But it does mean that you need to understand what he’s interested in so you can connect about the things that matter to him. This shows you’re not selfish in the relationship.
3) Let him know what you need. Remember, your dad isn’t a mind reader. He may be intuitive and know when things are off, but ultimately he isn’t going to know what you need unless you tell him. If you want to have a call with him once a week to catch up and share your wins, tell him. Dads want to help and they want you to succeed.
4) Ask him for help. Dads are like any other guy — they want to fix shit. When you have problems, let them help you. They may not have the perfect answer, but at least they can help and feel of service. Dads want to feel useful, especially when it comes to their kids. This doesn’t mean you should ask for a new car or a bunch of money, but it might mean going to him for career advice while having a scotch.
5) Express your gratitude. Tell him he’s done a great job (this can be the hardest part). Sometimes all your dad needs is for you to tell him he’s done a great job and that he’s made a difference in your life.
Dads are proud, and they don’t expect anything from you. They are often so selfless and don’t ask for the gratitude they need, so when you give them thanks it can change everything.
With that in mind, ask yourself: What if this was the last conversation with my Dad? What would I do differently?
You don’t need to take all of these steps at once, but there is probably one that stuck out the most. Maybe it’s just a call to say thank you for being there. Maybe it’s a tough call about how you don’t have as good of a bond as you would like and are committed to making more of an effort. Either way, you know what action you need to take. So start now.
Read More By ManTalks founder, Connor Beaton:
A true believer in the power of reciprocity and that what you give to others you will get in return. Connor believes he is here to be of service to others and to contribute to your life.
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