Lessons I learnt from a father who never ‘slapped’ me.
Part of growing up is looking back and realising the relevance of something that is now truly meaningful, but didn’t appear to be so back when I was a teenager.
I was a brat, no doubt about it.
I was immensely privileged and disregarded authority.
I was a punk.
I was a wanna-be.
And a complete train-wreck in the making.
Yet my father never ‘slapped’ me, when I say ‘slapped’; I mean never even touched me as a form of punishment.
Instead he could humble me with just a look of ‘disappointment’, he led by example; much like he did so at his workplace.
He wasn’t a loud man, nor an abuser.
He didn’t walk around with an inflated sense of contrived ego.
He always said “Hello” and introduced himself to everybody where ever we went.
Even though, as a naïve observer, I thought to myself “People already know you”.
As a teenager I did pretty much all I could to do deserve a good ol’ beating.
I tested his patience continuously.
From Report Cards painted in Red, to Stealing his Official Work-Vehicle because I wanted to impress my friends with how ‘cool’ my dad’s car was.
Until I got almost arrested, only for my dad to received a shocking phone-call saying “Sir, your son was driving your diplomatic vehicle without a permit. He’s in our custody. We can release him and will keep your name out of it.”
I still remember to this day, my dad’s response; “Don’t keep my name out of it. He’s my son, I’m responsible for his actions.”
I wanted to sink six-feet deep into the ground, as I sat in the back seat whilst my dad drove me back home.
Never sharing a word, just looking blankly through the windshield on an empty road.
We stopped, when we reached the gate of our home.
My dad got out of the car to open the gate, we parked our car — but we didn’t exit.
“What are you trying to prove, kid? What do you want to be? Just let me know, because then I’ll know how to help.”
I don’t know why, still, but I cried.
I was ashamed, not because I did something so wrong — but because my father wasn’t angry at me nor punishing me for it.
He was truly broken up and it was in this moment that I realised my antics weren’t going to cut it.
It was time to grow-up.
Today is “World Mental Health Day”, and I hope to explain how it could’ve gone so very wrong had my dad given me a ol’ slap; which I deserved.
I see now what I was doing, I wanted attention — I felt ignored because I was failing at everything I attempted.
The only way for me to feel acknowledged was through petty behaviour which was received with cheap laughter.
Never realising that people were laughing at me and not with me.
Sure, my father had every right to punish me — shout at me, and discipline me with physical or verbal violence.
He used neither.
Rather, he used an example of himself — a hardworking man who never demanded respect but had earned it, through wisdom and kindness.
Qualities he’d hoped, one day I’d come to encompass.
It took me a while, but eventually I got things together.
It grew me closer to home rather than drive me away.
I stopped running outside the house for attention, and instead focused on improving myself so that I didn’t need to “Seek Attention”.
When I finally got accepted into university to the moment that I received my doctorate; my father still jokes to this day — “Hey remember that time you stole my car, and told the police I was going to come save you and I told them I won’t?”
Well Dad, I always forgot to Thank You — Because You did save me, just not in a way that I understood at the time.