Shit Dads Can be Good for You

I’ve just started a cracking book – “The Book of the Dead” by John Lloyd and John Mitchinson – and one chapter in, I’m hooked. It’s a fascinating point of view on some of the greatest dead people from history. The first chapter focuses on people who had a shit start from a Dad perspective, including Leonardo da Vinci, Sigmund Freud, Isaac Newton, Oliver Heaviside, Lord Byron, Ada Lovelace, Hans Christian Andersen and Salvador Dali.

So here we have a group of people who changed the world and all of them had abusive fathers or were abandoned by their fathers. We all know people badly scarred by their upbringing, but if you read this book, you’ll see that sometimes it’s how you apply yourself to living within the context of your scarring is what matters most. As Robertson Davies puts it “a happy childhood has spoiled many a promising life.”

It’s just a perspective that really resonated with me, because I know too many people crippled by their upbringing, and the reality is, based on these people and what they achieved, a shit childhood can be an opportunity to do something spectacular – if you can just move on and even laugh at what went on in the family home. Or maybe live despite it, although that’s a pretty negative way to be. Many of these people did what they did to piss their Dads off – which really isn’t too healthy, but hey, no one’s perfect.

I know many people who suffered really intense childhoods – some move on, others are stuck. You can’t blame the ones who remain stuck, because people really do suffer some shocking shit at the hands of their family. One I know who always stands out is a great friend I’ve known for many years. This friend was sexually abused all during his childhood by his Dad while his Mum looked on. Sure he has some definite anger issues towards his Dad (and his Mum), but he is one of the nicest people I know and has achieved awesome success in his chosen profession. I admire him tremendously.

Obviously, most of the folk in this book were bloody weirdos with sexual hang-ups or social misfits, but without their shit childhoods we wouldn’t have the Mona Lisa, psychoanalysis, space travel “or the machine on which these words are written.”

Freud is obviously a stand-out for me, because I find it frightening that someone who was so fucked up by his childhood had such an influence on the way people think about sexuality and his perspective on women was just downright twisted. The reality is he started a discussion, and hopefully most people now think his ideas were nonsense, but many still think they had substance… Scary!

Now I’ve got to reconsider how I parent my boys. If I do it too well and make them too happy, they might not reach their full potential? Then again, the second chapter is about happy go-lucky people who changed the world too, so I’ll keep my focus on giving them a cracking childhood. Sure they may need some sort of therapy, no matter what I/we do, but we’ll do our best to ensure they are confident, happy and well balanced young men (with impeccable manners and dress sense of course) when they go out into the world.

And talking about happy go lucky people, Epicurus was first up in the chapter – a Greek philosopher from 341-270 BC – and three things he thought were the bare necessities for a great life are thought, freedom and friendship. I like the way he thinks!

Yours, without the bollocks

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