My kids are now 9 & 12. A few days ago my eldest told me I was ‘less naggy’ than I used to be.
Is it true? I don’t know and it doesn’t matter because it’s true to my son, and he matters.
Did it hurt? Yes.
I never wanted to be naggy-dad. I have always set out to be a dad they’re proud of and admire and look up to. For a while after my son’s comment, I felt like I’d failed at that ambition. Well, at first I denied it, but not for long because deep-down I knew it was true.
Once I accepted it, my mind went off down an imaginary road that leads only to bad places. I think it was Marcus Aurelias that said we suffer more from imagination than reality. Wise bloke.
I guess there’s a plus side to being naggy. It means I’m fighting the naggy mum stereotype by taking on more of the parenting load.
After thinking about it more, I realise that the two experiences of me as a dad aren’t mutually exclusive. They love me and admire and are proud of me, in spite of my naggy-ness, not because I don’t nag them.
I try not to, but I do. And I know why. It’s because I want four things for them.
1. To be the best they can be
2. To know themselves well
3. To take responsibility
4. To explore life
While I am naggy, I know there’s a line I’ll never cross — making my love conditional on the kind of behaviour I want to see from them. I won’t ever be that dad for whom they were never good enough. I nag them because I care, but I care more about our love and relationship than I do about that those four things.
Realising this, literally writing it out, has helped me learn more about myself and the way who I am and what I’m like, shapes my life. Taking that realisation, and looking in other areas of my life for its presence, is very revealing.
Here’s an example. At work, I work hard. I have a tendency to take on too much because I see a lot that needs doing and take the responsibility to do it. That’s why one of the notes I have near my laptop says, ‘Slow down & delegate’.
Trying to be a better dad is making me a better man. Actually, trying to be a better dad and doing BeingDads to help others, is making me a better man.
Don’t misread this. I do regret my character flaws. I wish I wasn’t the naggy dad. I’d like to be the happy-go-lucky dad. But I’m not. Never will be. And if I try to pretend I am, it’s only going to end badly. Which reminds me of another of those now over-used bits of wisdom about being you, because no-one else can.
Maybe you can see something of yourself in me, and that might help you realise something new about yourself. Maybe not. If not, why not try answering this question (I love questions, I collect them. Weird I know. I nearly deleted this bit, but then thought fuck it. It’s the kind of thing I’d like if someone gave me.) –
What about your character don’t you like?
What sits behind that trait? What are you trying to achieve with it?
Got something? Good, that’s a principle or value, or belief you hold dear.
Now, look at other areas of your life for where you might be acting in line with that thing.
If it’s not the way you want to behave, now you can think about what to do about it, about how to change it, because now you know what’s causing it.
Previously Published on Medium