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What if you could view your life and actions like a loving parent views their child?

My boy, Gray, is nearly two years old, and he's starting to talk a lot. The cool thing about him talking more is that Ash and I are able to get a much better sense of what he actually wants, whereas before language we were pretty much always guessing.

His favourite toy in the world is a little Sloth that he sleeps with. He frikkin LOVES Sloth, but he is only allowed Sloth in his cot - same thing with his dummy. Over the weekend, when I got him up from his afternoon nap, he wanted to take sloth into the house, and I wouldn't let him.... cue the opening of the floodgate. "Slothy goooone, Slothy gooooone" was his mantra for about three minutes, accompanied by a river of tears. "Sorry my boy, Sloth is sleeping now" was my response while I held him lovingly and let him have his experience. It didn't last long, and then we were on to the next thing, "monkey puzzle!" Sure thing, that's something we can do outside the bedroom.

Later in the day, I found myself queuing at the petrol station to get fuel, and it took forever! There I am, in my comfortable car, wanting the situation to be different from how it actually is, and getting super frustrated about it. As I was getting increasingly worked up, I thought about Gray and his Sloth, and I realised that the mechanics of my situation were no different from his. I want something, it feels important, and it feels like an injustice if I don't get it, so I get frustrated about the chasm between expectation and reality. Does that make it true? Not necessarily, but it feels very real in that moment.

I chuckled to myself because, earlier that day, in my role as a father, I was clearly capable of creating boundaries, holding space, and allowing my son to move through his experience with compassion and love. And yet, later in the day while I’m by myself at the petrol station, I can’t seem to do the same thing for myself. I clearly have the capacity, so why am I so blind when it comes to myself?

As I was thinking about the similarities between Gray and his Sloth and me and my queue for petrol, I suddenly found that I yearned to be a loving father to myself. "How would I treat myself if I was a father to myself right now?"

The first cool thing that happened was that I burst into laughter about the ridiculousness of the situation. With a bit of perspective, what felt all encompassing at the time was obviously not that serious - just like the Sloth. The second thing that happened was that I felt compelled to wrap myself in a huge energetic hug. The sort of hug that feels like there is no time and no space, the sort of hug that is pure love. I pictured the way I hug Gray, and I gave that to myself. There, there, I hushed to myself, you're just trying your best figure things out like everyone else in the world.

The examples above are purposefully small and relatively inconsequential, but the principle can be applied to any area of our lives, and every single experience. It's often really tough to get out of our own head and get a sense of spaciousness from the experience we're having, so to have an archetype (such as the loving father or mother) that we can tap into is incredibly helpful. It's a tool we can use at any moment, without outside intervention, and yet we can use it to counsel ourselves in a way that feels truly bidirectional.

For some people, they get to experience the archetype of the father or mother through their religious or spiritual practice, for others, it might be helpful to have this counsel on hand. To borrow a phrase from Jordan Peterson, "to treat yourself like you're someone worth taking care of."

Happy fathers day to everyone for yesterday, whether you are a father to a child, or a father to yourself.


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