When my kids were 4 and 7 years old, we moved to the country. It was a new, cool experience as open land, well water and snow days became the new normal. New schools, new restaurants and, of course, new people to meet filled us with excitement. But something better happened...I met two men who impacted my life (and my kids) forever. Ben and Steve were strong but loving fathers. They had high expectations for their children, but were patient; cautious, but encouraged their kids' adventures; good at rough-housing, but generous with hugs. I learned more about being a father by watching them than I had in any other way.
Many men have told me they are apprehensive of modern fathering, fearing it will feminize them, but they did this in a very masculine way. One was a firefighter, the other an undercover cop. They shot guns, rode dirt bikes, played competitive sports and enjoyed outdoor living, 'redefining masculinity'.
Not surprisingly, both of these dads came from good stock. Their own fathers were (guess what?) also strong, loving and patient. Not a surprise when we think of the old adage, "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree." Most of the time, good dads breed good kids who become good parents. It's a simple, beautiful, universal formula.
But what if you didn't have the privilege of being raised by a strong, temperate, caring man? What if he wasn't around...or worse yet, was abusive? Sadly, just as great fathering qualities can be transferred from dad to child, so can the bad ones. That's a universal formula, too.
If this is you, you are not alone.
The sad reality is that an overwhelming number of fathers today were raised in far from ideal situations...dismissed, ignored, abandoned... shamed, belittled or abused. But now the crucial question: Can a man rise above his own childhood traumas and become a great father? Unequivocally - YES. It will be easier for some, tougher for others, but I have witnessed men who were raised by abusive fathers (or with no father at all) stop the nasty cycle and create new, peaceful, loving and purposeful lives with and for their own kids.
It might not be easy but it CAN BE DONE. You may need help, accountability, counseling, a mentor or resources. Look around and I'll bet you can find them all. I'll also bet you can find them either free or inexpensively. There are countless credible books on fatherhood, dad's social media support groups and YouTube channels available today. And don't overlook local non-profits, churches and county agencies designed to help you along your path to becoming a great father. There is help out there! Regardless of your past, it's time to unpack your own baggage and bring out the best dad that is in you. Your children deserve it. Your past does not define you or limit you. You got this!
* This is an excerpt from Mike Mason's book being released later this year
Mike Mason is the Community Development & Communication Director at KidsFirst Counseling and Family Resource Centers. He is a graduate of the Defense School of Public Affairs & has a B.A. in Communication Studies as well as two Professional Life Coaching certifications. A father of 2 adult children, Mike’s background is Marketing & Public Relations, but he found a new passion in social causes - particularly in advocating for child abuse prevention as well as positive father involvement. In addition to his community relations & development duties at KidsFirst, he teaches Mandated Reporting, Child Abuse Signs & Symptoms and ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) Awareness in Placer County as well as leads his agency’s Forever Fathers dads support groups.You can reach Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org