Lad to Dad

On the weekend I was completing a questionnaire when I encountered two confronting and linked questions. They were:

1. What has been the greatest life changing moment in your life, and 2. What is your greatest regret

They both sound like easy questions to answer, right? For me it turned out not. As with many questions these days, and wondering whether I’m overthinking stuff, I started retrospectively reviewing all evens in my life and which would fit best. To say their weren’t many moments or regrets would be a lie, however these questions emphasise “greatest”, not “a”.

Before I answer the question I need to provide context as to the cultures I grew up in and the impact they’ve had on me. This context isn’t an excuse, I’m accountable for all my actions and decisions. They might however help understand the path I sometimes took.

From 1982 until 2008 I lived and worked in predominantly all male environments. These were a mining town, boarding school and then the Australian Defence Force. Environments that exuded masculinity and more often or not included poor and disrespectful behaviour towards females and non heterosexuals. These cultures have been consistently outed for this over the last 30 years as existing and self perpetuating.

As a kid and young adult I was continuously exposed to the sport of women, conquest and capture. At the time it seemed fun and we were often celebrated by our achievements. This won’t be news to anyone and while many may say quietly they disapproved of the culture it wasn’t one that supported disagreement. If you weren’t a beer swilling, female conquering lad then what type of man were you.

So to the first question, “What has been the greatest life changing moment in your life”. Undoubtably this was the birth of my daughter. Holding her in my hands for the first time I knew my job was to keep her safe from everything that was evil. It wasn’t until a few years later i understood this meant boys and men like me.

In the Navy the standing joke was to have a wheelie spanner hanging on the wall. If your daughter brought home a man who knew what it was then that it was it, he was straight out the door. On one level this was funny, on another it wasn’t. I believe subconsciously that fathers were saying don’t bring a man like me home.

For me I guess this is the case and I’ve worked hard at trying to be a man that lives the beliefs that all women should be respected and treated well. As should anyone. This will probably place a burden on my son as I hope to help him develop his values and beliefs. The overarching message I give him is that he needs to be respectful how he treats women. The importance of this is that as the older brother his mates will take the message the way he treats women is how they will treat his sister. A tough message but one which I believe, with my help, will come naturally to him.

Now for the second question, “What is your greatest regret”. Looking back I freely lived and enjoyed the “Lad” culture. The sport of the chase was an adrenaline release and the recognition / notoriety from my peers enjoyed. We often had competitions on this and bringing back a trophy was lauded. How the women felt was rarely considered and the damage some must of experienced from the “walk of shame” may never mended.

Looking back I regret some of the stuff I did, in these instances my actions showed no respect or morality towards women. That I often think and regret these, while not enough, is punishment for my actions . It also means I have worked hard to see all women as someone’s daughter and treat them with the respect they deserve.

In a couple of my blogs I talk about being unable to share some of my experiences with others as they wouldn’t understand. In this instance many of my friends have daughters and, regardless of their experiences as a single man, would judge me. I guess there is an amount of shame there, something I need to man up to and accept. Needless to say these aren’t experiences I’ll be sharing with my son regardless of the possible learnings.

So back to the title, “Lad to Dad”. This journey started when I met my now wife and the birth of my son. The intensity with which it escalated at the birth of my daughter was incredible. At times it feels as if planets are colliding when I try and reconcile who I was and who I need to be.

We all have regrets in our life, whether or not they are as significant as mine doesn’t matter. I’ve learnt over time that I need to be accountable fr my actions and in part this blog recognises my past behaviours and is somewhat of an apology to those I have hurt.

The power of regret is how you use it to grow as a person make better decisions as you move through life. While I have a lot of growth left I would like to think that I am becoming a better person which will be reflected in the adults my children become.

For everyone reading this, my message is we are always told not to dwell on the past. For me this is a fruitless approach. Past experiences are learning and growth opportunities. If you are dwelling on a past experience it is because you haven’t finished learning from it. Once you have finished learning then I believe the memory will fall away amongst the others.

And this my friends ha been my journey from “Lad to Dad”

Published by zimmermanwalks

An Australian military veteran, I spend my time volunteering for a number of organisations and blogging on the challenges faced by Veterans.

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