By Tony Scanlan
Talking about their kids may take some guys out of their comfort zone. But not talking doesn’t mean not caring, discovers Tony Scanlan.
A few years ago I was working with a guy called Mark, who at 49, was still unmarried. I asked him if he ever regretted not having kids.
“Oh, I’ve got a kid, he’d be grown up now, living in Australia somewhere I think, but I haven’t seen him in twenty years.” In the ‘ten years I had worked with him, that was the first and last time he ever mentioned him.
There are some fathers that talk about their kids with pride i; and obvious affection at the drop of a hat, some working parents I know (Mums and Dads), adorn their working areas with pictures of, and by their kids.
What little Billy or Susie did, or said the previous day is one of their main conversation pieces.
With other guys, however, it seems their children hardly rate a mention, even in the ‘intact’ families. They talk of racing, rugby and religion with eloquence and passion. To meet them at their work, or through sport you wouldn’t know they were parents at all.
For a long time I assumed these reticent guys just didn’t care that much. To them, kids seemed to be a bi-product of marriage, something to keep the missus happy. Well, like all good assumptions, mine was based on ignorance.
When we had our child, I was overwhelmed by the strength of I my feelings for him, yet when around other guys, especially in sport, I didn’t really talk about him. Sometimes I wanted to, but I didn’t think they’d be interested.
Even in the ‘Father & Child’ committee, we rarely spoke of our own children. Someone pointed out that when we got together, it was all funding, projects, wages, and newsletters. We didn’t ask each other how the kids were.
Since I’ve become aware that I’m not always comfortable sharing my feelings about my son, and seeing other guys act similarly, guys that really care for their children, I have had to rethink my previous assumptions. Especially the guys I have known through rugby.
Even if the game is called off, they still spend the day with the boys down at the pub. But on closer inspection, or if asked directly about their children, you can see the affection they have for them. It’s just that Saturday is for footy.
What about Mark, the guy who hadn’t seen his kid in twenty years 1 and didn’t seem to care? Recently I met a guy who could have been Mark eighteen years ago. I knew he had a couple of kids and I asked him how they were, you’d think I’d just punched him in the face.
His kids were in another country and he wasn’t even sure which one. The reason he wasn’t sure, wasn’t because he didn’t care, but because he found it too painful to even think about them, he felt it best that they were with their Mum, and that was that.
In another eighteen years maybe the pain will have eased, or maybe it will be replaced with the ache of regret. Either way it will be deeply buried.
I don’t know if keeping a lid on your feelings is a bad thing that 1 needs to be changed, or if it’s just way some men are and always, will be.
Either way, here I am, well outside my comfort zone, sharing my feelings. Just don’t ask me to share them out loud, that’s all.