Tag Archives: Family

Happy Birthday, Dad⤴

from

The death of a loved one is always hard. With time grief abates, it shrinks and becomes manageable – but it is still there. As time passes, I find that I have more memories of my father when he was in full health – a tune on the radio brings back memories of dad sitting in his favourite chair, singing and conducting to his beloved Mozart.

And then there are anniversaries. Today would have been dad’s 86th birthday, the first since his death. I listen to a Mozart Horn Concerto (the 3rd, always our favourite), remembering vividly the birthday when he bought me the record, and we sat together joyfully listening to it, nearly 50 years ago. I have tears in my eyes, but they are happy tears.

Happy birthday, old man. I miss you.

Goodbye to 2022⤴

from

Dad giving his father of the bride speech.

Some people walk around talking to themselves, the world at large, or anyone who might listen. Others of us blog. I often use this space to work out what I am thinking by writing out my thoughts – as Laurel Richardson says, writing can itself be a method of enquiry. Other times I write out the words that have been occupying my thoughts because they keep repeating themselves to me until I allow them to trickle out into the world. But for the last month I have found myself with sort of writer’s block – whenever I sit down to write, I find I cannot. It seems that my mind will not allow me the space to write until I have said this.

My father died on December 2nd, 2022. On January 3rd, 2023 we go through the final rites of passage. I feel very lucky that I had time near the end to sit by his bed and tell him how much he meant to me, and how much I will miss him. But this end was a long time coming – vascular dementia is a cruel disease that takes people away a little bit at a time.

Father was always a talker – we could, and did, spend many hours talking about philosophy. He loved talking about the books I was reading for my studies, and bought many of them for himself. When I was away I’d ring him on a Sunday at 10pm and we’d talk for an hour, hang up and he would ring me back so we could talk for another hour. But as his dementia progressed he stopped having anything to say, and he would hand the phone over to mother instead. Gradually, I realised, dad was slipping away.

And then he broke his hip, and never walked again. Instead of coming home, he moved to a care home. Then lockdown happened, and … he kept slipping gradually away.

The picture at the top of this post is of father giving a speech at my wedding – you can see from my face that he has just told some sort of dad joke. This is how I remember him – proud of his family and happy to tell the world how proud he was.

Rest in Peace, dad. I miss you.

Christmas 2018⤴

from

Christmas lunch – vege roast and all the trimmings for me, Niall, Niall’s mum and aunt Lesley. Served on mum and dad’s dinner service, reminding me of Christmasses past with family – busy days with everybody piled into mum and dad’s house a surfeit of food, noise and happiness. Today was quieter, but just as happy. Setting the table I felt so lucky for all we have: uur wine glasses were a wedding present from a friend, and the tablecloth was a gift from a student to Niall’s dad. The mats and cutlery were bought with money given to us when we married. So many memories, such good food, and such good company.

Now I am in my study relaxing. I have a new drawing book to inspire me, a new knitting book to tempt me, new pens to draw with, new notepads to write in.

And a cat who thinks it is time for food. She is right.

The importance of Fathers⤴

from

Strengthening Father Child Relationships – what the evidence says
Nick Thorpe of Fathers Network Scotland


WHILE fathers are increasingly in evidence at most school gates nowadays, outdated attitudes about gender roles can sometimes linger both inside and outside the building.

So it’s encouraging to see recent research by the Growing Up In Scotland longitudinal study supporting many fathers’ expectation of increased involvement in their children’s lives – with the finding that father-child and mother-child relationships matter equally for children’s wellbeing.

The report, Growing Up in Scotland: Father-child relationships and child socio-emotional wellbeing, commissioned as part of the Year of the Dad, is based on 2593 couple families from the GUS study, each with a ten-year old child who was asked to grade statements such as “I share my thoughts and feelings with my dad” or “my dad is proud of the things I do”.

Among the results, the researchers found that:
  • ·         84% of father-child relationships are classified as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ in terms of the level of supportiveness.
  • ·         Good couple relationships predict supportive father-child and mother-child relationships

Multiple previous studies have shown that children’s educational attainment and wellbeing is raised when dads are positively involved.

And while this survey did not set out specifically to look at school experience, it did point out educational impacts, as the authors of the report explained at its recent launch at a Fathers Network Scotland seminar in Edinburgh last month.

Dr Alison Parkes, of the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit at the University of Glasgow, told the audience at the Royal College of Physicians: “We found that fathers’ supportiveness had independent associations with many other aspects of children’s well-being, extending beyond the home to the child’s experiences at school and with friends.”

Parents whose own level of education and income were lower were more likely to be those where the child has a poor relationship with their father. But a calm, supportive family/home climate reduced the chance of a poor father-child relationship, even after accounting for other factors such as socio-economic status and adverse events.

While the vast majority of children felt well-supported by their fathers, the study recommended that that some families could benefit from better access to parent support, including families with low resources, and families who have experienced multiple adverse events.
Health and welfare services – as well as schools - should strive to engage with fathers as well as with mothers, taking account of fathers’ needs and difficulties over accessing and maintaining engagement with services.

You can read a summary of the GUS report, or watch Dr Parkes’ presentation at: http://www.fathersnetwork.org.uk/gus_father_child.

Following the success of 2016’s Year of the Dad, Fathers Network Scotland is this year working to engage fathers in schools by rolling out best practice from the East Lothian Father Inclusive Toolkit  –please join our network to hear more about this and other initiatives later in the year.


For more information, check out www.fathersnetwork.org.uk.

The Importance of Fathers⤴

from

Strengthening Father Child Relationships – what the evidence says
Nick Thorpe of Fathers Network Scotland


WHILE fathers are increasingly in evidence at most school gates nowadays, outdated attitudes about gender roles can sometimes linger both inside and outside the building.

So it’s encouraging to see recent research by the Growing Up In Scotland longitudinal study supporting many fathers’ expectation of increased involvement in their children’s lives – with the finding that father-child and mother-child relationships matter equally for children’s wellbeing.

The report, Growing Up in Scotland: Father-child relationships and child socio-emotional wellbeing, commissioned as part of the Year of the Dad, is based on 2593 couple families from the GUS study, each with a ten-year old child who was asked to grade statements such as “I share my thoughts and feelings with my dad” or “my dad is proud of the things I do”.

Among the results, the researchers found that:
  • ·         84% of father-child relationships are classified as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ in terms of the level of supportiveness.
  • ·         Good couple relationships predict supportive father-child and mother-child relationships

Multiple previous studies have shown that children’s educational attainment and wellbeing is raised when dads are positively involved.

And while this survey did not set out specifically to look at school experience, it did point out educational impacts, as the authors of the report explained at its recent launch at a Fathers Network Scotland seminar in Edinburgh last month.

Dr Alison Parkes, of the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit at the University of Glasgow, told the audience at the Royal College of Physicians: “We found that fathers’ supportiveness had independent associations with many other aspects of children’s well-being, extending beyond the home to the child’s experiences at school and with friends.”

Parents whose own level of education and income were lower were more likely to be those where the child has a poor relationship with their father. But a calm, supportive family/home climate reduced the chance of a poor father-child relationship, even after accounting for other factors such as socio-economic status and adverse events.

While the vast majority of children felt well-supported by their fathers, the study recommended that that some families could benefit from better access to parent support, including families with low resources, and families who have experienced multiple adverse events.
Health and welfare services – as well as schools - should strive to engage with fathers as well as with mothers, taking account of fathers’ needs and difficulties over accessing and maintaining engagement with services.

You can read a summary of the GUS report, or watch Dr Parkes’ presentation at: http://www.fathersnetwork.org.uk/gus_father_child.

Following the success of 2016’s Year of the Dad, Fathers Network Scotland is this year working to engage fathers in schools by rolling out best practice from the East Lothian Father Inclusive Toolkit  –please join our network to hear more about this and other initiatives later in the year.


For more information, check out www.fathersnetwork.org.uk.

The ghosts of Christmas Past⤴

from @ blethers

It's a strange phenomenon, the power of Christmas Eve to resurrect memories so strongly and yet so randomly. As I listened to the first of the closing voluntaries from the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols from King's, there came into my mind a memory of myself, in my late teens, stricken with some inconvenient malady on Christmas Eve and spending that short afternoon in bed with the radio on, drifting in and out of sleep. I can't remember what ailed me, and cannot think it lasted, but at the time it felt unreal and solitary as the day darkened.

The small me in the photo (I think I was two) lived in blue dungarees and had to be coaxed out of them for family Christmas tea. (The yellow duck didn't join us - his red felt beak was too chewed for respectable company). We ate Christmas lunch, I remember clearly, in our top flat in Novar Drive, Hyndland, and went for tea to my grandparents' house in Hyndland Road. The whole extended family - the Stewarts, that is - would turn up there at some point in the day, though as I was the first of my generation I was the sole child for the first few post-war years. Families tended to live close, and there was public transport for those who were beyond walking distance.

I was remembering this morning how in my early married life I didn't do any Christmas food: my parents' house was ten minutes' walk from our flat (still in Hyndland) and we went there for lunch and stayed, stupefied, until it was time for bed. My first ever Christmas cake was made just before I had my first child - I'm sure I've recounted how, having slipped on ice in Clarence Drive, I had such a sore behind that I couldn't sit down, and dispelled my fears by baking. But the Glasgow Christmasses didn't end with our emigration to Dunoon; Cal Mac ferries seem to me to have run on Christmas Day and we headed back to Glasgow with our baby son. I do recall, however, that on the first year in Dunoon I iced the cake just before heading out to Midnight Mass: for the first time in my life I was attached to a church and had singing to do.

The long years of running Christmas myself occupied the greatest part of my life, having ended only five or six years ago. It still seems odd not to be making stuffing on Christmas Eve, and ramming it into a recalcitrant bird before church, odd not to waken to the smell of cooking and worry that the overnight temperature had been too high - or too low if the smell wasn't making it as far as the bedroom. There are no small children for whom stockings will have to be filled. I no longer have the restless wait for all the grown-up family to be safely here, nor the unholy rush between the end of term and the 25th. There is, theoretically, all the time in the world.

Time, in fact, to miss family; to look forward to seeing some and regret not seeing others; to have a suitcase packed and worry about taking the right things or forgetting presents or cooking brandy. Time to think about having dinner so that we can have a proper rest before our midnight sing/play/pray (have I got the intercessions? the music?) Time to wonder how we ever had the energy to drag sleeping choristers from their beds to come with us (really).

Now these choristers are cooking turkeys, looking after young children, preparing for visitors, in different parts of the country, and we are here, with the dark firth calm at last and the rain peppering the windows. Everything changes but the message of that distant birth. Even the carols - tonight our introit will be Advent Song, which is only four years old. And then Advent will be over, the waiting over.

And it will be Christmas.

The ghosts of Christmas Past⤴

from @ blethers

It's a strange phenomenon, the power of Christmas Eve to resurrect memories so strongly and yet so randomly. As I listened to the first of the closing voluntaries from the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols from King's, there came into my mind a memory of myself, in my late teens, stricken with some inconvenient malady on Christmas Eve and spending that short afternoon in bed with the radio on, drifting in and out of sleep. I can't remember what ailed me, and cannot think it lasted, but at the time it felt unreal and solitary as the day darkened.

The small me in the photo (I think I was two) lived in blue dungarees and had to be coaxed out of them for family Christmas tea. (The yellow duck didn't join us - his red felt beak was too chewed for respectable company). We ate Christmas lunch, I remember clearly, in our top flat in Novar Drive, Hyndland, and went for tea to my grandparents' house in Hyndland Road. The whole extended family - the Stewarts, that is - would turn up there at some point in the day, though as I was the first of my generation I was the sole child for the first few post-war years. Families tended to live close, and there was public transport for those who were beyond walking distance.

I was remembering this morning how in my early married life I didn't do any Christmas food: my parents' house was ten minutes' walk from our flat (still in Hyndland) and we went there for lunch and stayed, stupefied, until it was time for bed. My first ever Christmas cake was made just before I had my first child - I'm sure I've recounted how, having slipped on ice in Clarence Drive, I had such a sore behind that I couldn't sit down, and dispelled my fears by baking. But the Glasgow Christmasses didn't end with our emigration to Dunoon; Cal Mac ferries seem to me to have run on Christmas Day and we headed back to Glasgow with our baby son. I do recall, however, that on the first year in Dunoon I iced the cake just before heading out to Midnight Mass: for the first time in my life I was attached to a church and had singing to do.

The long years of running Christmas myself occupied the greatest part of my life, having ended only five or six years ago. It still seems odd not to be making stuffing on Christmas Eve, and ramming it into a recalcitrant bird before church, odd not to waken to the smell of cooking and worry that the overnight temperature had been too high - or too low if the smell wasn't making it as far as the bedroom. There are no small children for whom stockings will have to be filled. I no longer have the restless wait for all the grown-up family to be safely here, nor the unholy rush between the end of term and the 25th. There is, theoretically, all the time in the world.

Time, in fact, to miss family; to look forward to seeing some and regret not seeing others; to have a suitcase packed and worry about taking the right things or forgetting presents or cooking brandy. Time to think about having dinner so that we can have a proper rest before our midnight sing/play/pray (have I got the intercessions? the music?) Time to wonder how we ever had the energy to drag sleeping choristers from their beds to come with us (really).

Now these choristers are cooking turkeys, looking after young children, preparing for visitors, in different parts of the country, and we are here, with the dark firth calm at last and the rain peppering the windows. Everything changes but the message of that distant birth. Even the carols - tonight our introit will be Advent Song, which is only four years old. And then Advent will be over, the waiting over.

And it will be Christmas.

The ghosts of Christmas Past⤴

from @ blethers

It's a strange phenomenon, the power of Christmas Eve to resurrect memories so strongly and yet so randomly. As I listened to the first of the closing voluntaries from the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols from King's, there came into my mind a memory of myself, in my late teens, stricken with some inconvenient malady on Christmas Eve and spending that short afternoon in bed with the radio on, drifting in and out of sleep. I can't remember what ailed me, and cannot think it lasted, but at the time it felt unreal and solitary as the day darkened.

The small me in the photo (I think I was two) lived in blue dungarees and had to be coaxed out of them for family Christmas tea. (The yellow duck didn't join us - his red felt beak was too chewed for respectable company). We ate Christmas lunch, I remember clearly, in our top flat in Novar Drive, Hyndland, and went for tea to my grandparents' house in Hyndland Road. The whole extended family - the Stewarts, that is - would turn up there at some point in the day, though as I was the first of my generation I was the sole child for the first few post-war years. Families tended to live close, and there was public transport for those who were beyond walking distance.

I was remembering this morning how in my early married life I didn't do any Christmas food: my parents' house was ten minutes' walk from our flat (still in Hyndland) and we went there for lunch and stayed, stupefied, until it was time for bed. My first ever Christmas cake was made just before I had my first child - I'm sure I've recounted how, having slipped on ice in Clarence Drive, I had such a sore behind that I couldn't sit down, and dispelled my fears by baking. But the Glasgow Christmasses didn't end with our emigration to Dunoon; Cal Mac ferries seem to me to have run on Christmas Day and we headed back to Glasgow with our baby son. I do recall, however, that on the first year in Dunoon I iced the cake just before heading out to Midnight Mass: for the first time in my life I was attached to a church and had singing to do.

The long years of running Christmas myself occupied the greatest part of my life, having ended only five or six years ago. It still seems odd not to be making stuffing on Christmas Eve, and ramming it into a recalcitrant bird before church, odd not to waken to the smell of cooking and worry that the overnight temperature had been too high - or too low if the smell wasn't making it as far as the bedroom. There are no small children for whom stockings will have to be filled. I no longer have the restless wait for all the grown-up family to be safely here, nor the unholy rush between the end of term and the 25th. There is, theoretically, all the time in the world.

Time, in fact, to miss family; to look forward to seeing some and regret not seeing others; to have a suitcase packed and worry about taking the right things or forgetting presents or cooking brandy. Time to think about having dinner so that we can have a proper rest before our midnight sing/play/pray (have I got the intercessions? the music?) Time to wonder how we ever had the energy to drag sleeping choristers from their beds to come with us (really).

Now these choristers are cooking turkeys, looking after young children, preparing for visitors, in different parts of the country, and we are here, with the dark firth calm at last and the rain peppering the windows. Everything changes but the message of that distant birth. Even the carols - tonight our introit will be Advent Song, which is only four years old. And then Advent will be over, the waiting over.

And it will be Christmas.