I can always remember Dr Bruce Robson, Australia’s best-selling fatherhood author, telling the guys at the ‘Good to Great’ Fatherhood Course about Janis Joplin’s father. For those who don’t know her musical history, Janis Joplin was one of the great female vocalists of the late sixties.
The movie ‘The Rose’ released in 1979 was based on her life story. Rolling Stone magazine has placed her in the top 30 female vocalists of all time. She led a wild and raucous lifestyle and became a heroin addict in the process.
The little town of Port Arthur, Texas held a welcome home party for Janis after her chart success with ‘Big Brother and the Holding Company’ band. Her father was so embarrassed by her licentious behaviour that he left town.
Not much later, she was found dead of a drug overdose in her motel, on 4 October 1970. However, Dr Bruce Robinson postulated the question, “What if Janis Joplin’s father hadn’t left town and had found a way to show her unconditional love? Perhaps she would be alive and still singing and using her amazing voice to bring joy to people’s hearts.”
In all honesty we will probably never know the answer to that question. But Dr Robinson, who has made the study of the positive and negative effects of fatherhood his life work, amidst a busy medical career, would definitely argue the case for the power of unconditional love from a father.
Bruce has made a study of suicide notes that young people have written and found a recurring theme. ‘There was no one on my side’ or ‘No one loves me’ were recurring statements that young people wrote before they took their own lives.
Studies show that one of the biggest predictors of youth suicide is fatherlessness, or more particularly, a lack of unconditional love as given by a father.
Dr Bruce Robinson has a simple solution to help fathers become the fathers their children need them to be.
His advice – Get on the good father BUS.
B is for ‘Being There’.
Our children need our presence and our support. Nothing can replace time well spent and being there ‘in the moment’.
‘Being there’ also means being with them in their more difficult moments. Even our father in heaven promises us that he will never leave us or forsake us. He is definitely a hard act to follow, but that is what our children want and need.
U is for ‘Unconditional Love’.
Our children need to know our love for them is not conditional on their behaviour. Even when they do bad things, we still love them. Even so, we don’t want them to do bad things, because they will either hurt other people or ultimately hurt themselves.
S is for making our children feel ‘Special’.
This is the primary role of a father. It is logical that the child has come into the world because of the father, so it is critical that the father of the child affirms, cares for and encourages his child to the best of his ability as a father.
Bruce encourages men everywhere to get on the good father BUS and put these life changing principles into action.
When Bruce’s son was growing up, Bruce would often tell him that if he were to ring Bruce late at night to say that he was in jail, Bruce would not try to get him out of jail, but would grab a sleeping bag and go spend the night in the cell with his son.
Bruce points out that he would not let his son evade the consequences for his actions. To do so would be foolish, but by joining him for the night in the jail cell he would be following his own BUS advice to the full degree.
(Thankfully Bruce has never had to do this.) He was showing his son that he would ‘be there’ for him, no matter what. He was showing his son ‘unconditional love’. He was showing his son that he was ‘special’.
What more can a child ask for and what more can a father give than his own life.
Check out the Fatherhood Project website for more resources from Dr Bruce Robinson. Get on the Fatherhood BUS and always remember that it is love that makes the wheels go around on the Fatherhood Bus.
Oh, and another thing, make sure you enjoy the journey.