A true hero to the ones who are close
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When you hear the word ‘father’, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? Probably the first image will be of your own father, biological or otherwise. Maybe you will think of a dictionary definition, something like 'a male parent'. If you extend your concepts to a more metaphorical field, you may think of someone who represents love, protection and guidance, as well as strictness, punishment and fear, among many other feelings. This will vastly depend on your personal experiences, either as a parent, a child or an observer, and your concept of father is very likely to be a mixture of all of the above. It's probably safe to say that whatever images, concepts or feelings the word ‘father’ brings on, you will not be indifferent to it. Being a father necessarily involves being related to other people and how this relationship takes shape is what makes it special, unique and, hopefully, positive.
If you are a father, how do you feel about it?
If you are a father already, you may have mixed feelings about it, though you may not always admit it. Being a father, I guess, will very often feel like being a mother. It means you feel needed, loved, appreciated and admired; you’ll have someone to listen to you, to learn from you, to play with, someone who will show off proudly saying ‘that’s my dad’. However, it also means a lot of work, less sleep than you actually need (first, because they are babies, then because they grow up so quickly and you cannot get to sleep before they arrive home…). It can mean arguments about school, friends, work, the messy bedroom, not to mention that being a father very often means less time with your partner and less time for yourself.
The list is endless, filled with both the good and not-so-good things about being a father and filled with the strengths and weaknesses one might have. So, if you are beginning to feel overwhelmed about your role as father or the role of fathers you know, let’s shift our questioning to the ones who are directly involved. If you asked, 'Children, what do you think being a father feels like? What would you like to say to your dad?' What kind of answer do you think you would get?
A child will always look up to their father. And here I am not only talking about a father per se, but anyone who might represent a father figure for you. A child will think of their father as the person who will be with them in their happiest moments and in the hardest times, the person who will listen to them, advise them, tell them off and hug them. It really does not matter if your child is very young or a grown up (or how long it will take them to recognise that), but a father will be their hero, the person who will always believe in them, who will be there to share their concerns and certainties, their ups and downs, their fears and their love.
Maybe you think you are not, will not be, or have not been a good father, but that is not how your children will remember you. When your children grow up, they will even be able to understand that you are not perfect and that you do not always know all the answers as they used to believe, that you have limitations, make mistakes, may not know what to do, might not have the solution, may cry, feel angry, and say things that will be regretted later. This ‘reality shock’, however, will by no means change how children will feel about their father. Quite the opposite, it will make them admire fathers even more for, even being imperfect, they manage to be heroes, real heroes in real life.
Scout Leader Graeme Hodgson with his scouts and two sons – Personal Collection
I wish my father had lived longer so that I could have had the chance to tell him how much I loved him and how important he was in making me become who I am. Although I was just a kid when he left, I hope I managed to show him how I felt about him. So here I would like to pay homage to all those who acted as fathers for me and my siblings, to all fathers who care about teaching their kids to believe in and work for a better world and especially to the father of my own children, a true hero not only for his own kids but for those he cares about and who admire him for the brilliant father he is. Happy Father’s Day!
Graeme Hodgson with Lucas, Daniel and Sofia – Personal Collection