Sunday, November 15, 2009

Paul and Joe

As everybody who knows both of us knows, my stepson Paul and I get on exceptionally well and always have done so. He is constantly falling out with his father -- and even his mother is disapproving of him from time to time -- but he and I just keep on getting on. Even into his 20s he would ask my advice on various things and would sometimes even take it! Pretty much every father's dream, I think. Why?

You can analyse feelings until the cows come home and not really get anywhere but I thought it might be worthwhile to note down a few stray thoughts anyway.

An obvious thing is that Paul and I are both very assertive. Very few people try to push us around but if they do we push back. And yet that is only a broad similarity. I am in general not much of a talker and Paul is very voluble so we are assertive in somewhat different ways. There were certainly some occasions, though, in Paul's childhood, when he saw me being assertive in some way and he recalls those occasions with great delight to this day. It helped legitimate his own instinct to be assertive. Since both his parents are unassertive, he needed a model that was more appropriate to how he himself felt.

I think another helpful factor is that I am not very judgmental in general. So where others would condemn Paul in some way, I just accept it. He is very much an individual so does tend to do some things that are outside the normal envelope from time to time but I do that too so I see his point of view and don't criticize him.

And I think that is one reason why I am just about the only person Paul listens to. It has been amusing over the years that people who want to persuade Paul of something have often asked me to speak to Paul about the matter. They realize that I am the only one who might influence him. Sometimes I do raise such matters with him and sometimes I just say that Paul has his own way and there is nothing wrong with it.

One thing that is definitely involved is the fact that Paul's religion/hobby is money. He has always been a lover of money and will do lots to get it. And he saw from early on that I was rather good at getting money so I earned his respect in terms of what was/is his highest value. So when we discussed things, my view was always treated with respect.

And we did discuss lots of things when he was a kid. And he seems to have found those discussions helpful. What I told him was congenial to his own instincts.

And I mentioned previously that it has now become clear that Paul and I are both great sentimentalists with an appreciation of the past. But that has emerged only in recent years. Paul and I got on very well before that was evident.

So in the end I can only say that there are important personality similarities between us and we get on for that reason. But just what those similarities are is probably best left for others to say.

A small caveat: Paul is in general a very positive thinker (And I think I am too) so, although he and his father used to fight like cat and dog when Paul was younger, Paul has in recent years developed a more positive view of his father. He sees things in Ken that he disagrees with or disapproves of but he sees a good side too and appreciates some of the things that Ken has done

I probably should mention that my own son, Joe, and I also seem to get on perfectly well and I have been able to help him on various occasions too. Joe has been Mr Independence ever since he could crawl, however, so he seeks my advice and assistance only when he has really hit a rock. But I am perfectly happy that he does that. What would upset me is if he had hit a rock and NOT sought my assistance. And, being very independent myself, I am certainly not going to complain about having an independent son.

And I think that the fact that both Joe and I are born academics means that I can help him in a quite old-fashioned way. In times past it was common for fathers to pass on a trade to their sons and various bits of specialized knowledge would be passed on as part of that. As it happens, Joe seems to do all the basics needed for success at university quite off his own bat but I probably reinforce his ideas in some ways about that and add a few ideas here and there. I certainly know what he is talking about when we discuss academic matters and you need a fellow academic for that.

There is a comments facility on this blog so anybody else with thoughts on the subject can add them. I did of course consult both Joe and Paul before posting this but my comments are my own.

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