The Big Picture: A sense of belonging

David Cameron has voiced his concern about deficiencies in relationships ­between fathers and sons.

Social workers are aware that children’s development owes most to their relationships with parents. However, like Cameron, often they do not take community into account.

As Father’s Day approaches, I wish to reflect upon my relationship with my dad who died nearly 40 years ago.

At the outbreak of war in 1939, my sister and I – later joined by our mother – were evacuated. For the crucial years of three to eight, I saw little of dad.

Returning home, I had to get to know him. He did not show his emotions easily and sometimes I longed to be cuddled and praised by him. He expected to be obeyed. If not, I might get a clout. Today these attitudes might not be considered good fathering. However, they were a part of working-class behaviour of that time.

Importantly, I knew that he cared for me. He was not able to help with homework but was delighted when I got to grammar school. “You’ll never have to work with your hands like me,” he said with a grin.

Sport drew us together. He took me to watch his beloved West Ham. A different dad emerged as he cheered, questioned the referee’s paternity and told me about the players he had met in his job as a removal man.

Dad was well-known in the area. When my best friend was trapped under a bus, neighbours called for dad who dragged him out. My friend died. Nonetheless, I was proud of my bloodstained dad.

He was heavily involved in a working-men’s club. I never went on holiday with dad but the club had outings to the seaside where we played cricket together before the men went to the pub.

The club was important because I went in the company of dad and because I enjoyed the encouragement of other men. Dad drew me into community life which became an essential part of my adulthood.

As a child I was socially rather than emotionally close to dad. We drew more together after I married. There are policy implications. Yes, some fathers may need help to communicate their feelings. There is also a need to back neighbourhood activities where parents and children can be together outside the home. Cameron should take on board that community is important to family development.

 Bob Holman is a community worker associated with the Easterhouse area of Glasgow

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