Up until my early twenties I had very little time with my dad, so I got creative and used stand-in dads. As crazy as that may sound, it’s true. My parents divorced when I was a toddler and I don’t actually remember a time when my father was living under the same roof.
By the time I was 10 my dad had left the UK to live in America and I’d experienced almost no nurturing male in my life. My mum was strong in many ways and I’m thankful for that, but nurturing was not one of her strengths (she’s didn’t receive it from her family so it didn’t come naturally). I was missing out on this part of childhood completely. It’s widely recognised that one of the key foundations for a successful adulthood is the experience of unconditional love from a primary care giver.
As a young boy I didn’t know what I didn’t know, so unconditional love wasn’t something I longed for, what I did long for was my father. I wanted him around to teach me how to talk to girls (I was useless at that), how to protect myself against bullies, how to defend myself in a violent situation, and answer questions on what was happening to my body. Also just to kick a ball around or watch cartoons together.
So I read comics, comics with strong male leads. Characters like Batman, Spider-man and Swamp Thing became my stand in dads. I watched a lot of films, mainly Clint Eastwood, Gregory Peck and Michael J Fox. I couldn’t kick a ball around with any of them and they weren’t nurturing me, yet I was inspired by each of them in different ways. Through movies like For a Few Dollars More and Back to the Future I could see how two very different characters survived in a world of bullying and greed. Through comics like Batman I learned that I could choose my own path and be successful as a loner or part of a team. I was learning as best I could at how to be a male in a male run world (thankfully it’s more equal nowadays, yet there is long journey ahead still).
I got by, I definitely had times when I was sad, during those times I would stay in my bedroom listening to music, immersing myself into books and comics. What I’m grateful for is that the sad times became less frequent as I matured.
As the years went by I kept up with choosing influences to replace my missing dad. Actors like Robert De Nero, Dustin Hoffman and Jack Nicholson where key in my understanding of attraction and emotional intelligence, all through the roles they’d chosen to act out in movies. In real life I gained a fantastic group of friends, I was able to have fun without feeling guilty and I began to realise the world wasn’t out to get me, it was full of opportunity, I just needed to know how to feed off it.
I realise I still use the method of stand in influences across all areas of life, from the 5 people I choose each January to help me on my 12 month journey ahead, to the books I read and podcasts I listen to.
You may have all the positive influences in your life already, though have you searched for gaps? Maybe you can use stand in influences, adding or filling a space that would help you grow?
“Rather like Batman, I embody the themes of the movie which are the values of family, courage and compassion and a sense of right and wrong, good and bad and justice.” – Gary Oldman
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