My father wasn’t like other fathers

Recently around the dinner table some friends, all 60+, were discussing fatherhood. We reflected on the sort of father we

Recently around the dinner table some friends, all 60+, were discussing fatherhood. We reflected on the sort of father we were: the hands on type, the absent father always at work or the aloof, unable to connect, father.

We concluded that for each of us our fathers were our role models and they in turn, looked to their fathers.

The question then arose as to how many of us actually thought about the sort of father we were or did we simply copy the behaviours of our own fathers? From our discussions I wrote this poem reflecting the thoughts we shared.


My father wasn’t like other fathers

He didn’t like to play tag

He couldn’t swing a bat

Or throw a ball

His jokes were always stilted

He was no Atticus Finch.

To be safe he stayed away

From us kids when we played

I think he was afraid

Of us, our noise and all our toys.

We’d find him hidden in his study

His head buried in some book

Far more interesting than any of us.

His books were all in foreign tongues.

He prided himself that all around

He was known as a man of letters

A man who read Greek and Latin

In large impressive volumes

He kept up high, well away

From our sticky fingers and prying eyes.

I stood in his office the day he died

And wondered who he was

This man we were called our dad

Who rarely uttered a word to me

Other than correcting me when I ‘spoke all wrong’.

His voluminous books sat in prominence

Having only known his tender hands.

I knew from that day they’d gather dust

As we had no interest nor understanding

Of the classics or scholarly books.

When we buried him we did so a mystery

As I couldn’t think of a word to say

Other than,

My father, wasn’t like other fathers.


So the question is what sort of father were you and do you have any regrets about fatherhood or are you now reaping the benefits of being a connected father and enjoying the connection you have with your adult children?

  1. I loved my father & I know he loved me.. But..he was not a hands on father, I don’t have memories of being close to him or of me being a priority in his life, but then again that’s how things were back then, I look at my sons & the sort of fathers they are, & am so proud, they are so hands on, their life revolves around their kids, they show their love & pride in them, I could not ask for them to be better fathers, how times change & in this case I think for the better these days

    • Thanks Lyn I would agree the role of the father is far different to that I our fathers, in so many ways i think they were caught up in an image that their own fathers gave them as the result of them working so hard to provide for their families which ogten were not small.

    • Glen  

      My story exactly, Lyn. My father never played with us or took much interest really. My husband was a better participating father than my dad, but still not very involved. My sons are absolutely brilliant, from the day their children were born they were and are full on dads, sharing and caring every step of the way. I love it! Thank goodness our generation made the transition from aloof to full on.

  2. Excellent post portraying many fathers of those of us in our 60’s. Their role in the family back then was mostly: pay the bills. And so many children wondering who their father was, what he thought…
    As Lyn points out, most of the young fathers of today are very different, sharing the responsibility of the children. Great article.

    • Thanks Mandy my own father mellowed a lot in later life we always saw him as a far better grand father than he was a dad….but later in life he stood up and was counted in terms of his support for me.

      • It’s really special when an “absentee” parent and adult child can reconnect before it’s too late. It means everything to both of them I’m sure. I’m glad that happened for you and your dad.

        • So am I Mandy he turned out a pretty good man especially where I was concerned, I miss him a lot.

  3. Phylor  

    Excellent piece, Michael. Sad but true in so many cases. Not necessarily books versus children, but fathers who were aloof, cold, disinterested. As their fathers may very well have been.

    My mother was raised by her single father; my father left home when he was 14 to escape his mother. So, neither had a “normal” childhood. Both found parenting, especially parenting a child like me, challenging.
    The last 10 years, especially 8, of my dad’s life, we re-connected from when I was very young. He died suddenly and unexpectedly. So, the fact I had a father at the end is even more special.
    The last few lines of the poem are particularly poignant. I can’t say that my father was like other fathers, either.

    • Thank you for that input, so often circumstances dictated how people lived, survival being such a first priority…..thanks for sharing your story.

  4. Frank  

    my father had a study and was a scholar – the last thing he did before he dropped dead of a stroke was try to hug me – I shrugged it off awkwardly because he had never done this before in my recollection, it felt so strange.

    A common problem in men is fear of revealing their weakness – so they don’t learn to communicate their feelings – and end up alone and lonely, wondering why women have friends and they don’t.

    • I agree Frank so many men of our parents era were concerned about their image and they wanted to exercise the authority they thought was necessary. My dad was not very demonstrative either but he loved having his grandkids around him…..and in the last week of his life he held my hand each day until he died.

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