Please read part 1 first – http://www.simonmacbeth.co/autobiography/simon-macbeth-an-early-memory-part-1-of-3/
As an adult, Simon Macbeth wanted to put something back and help youngsters in similar situations to mine. When I started volunteering at ChildLine I had real difficulty relating to other counsellors. I’d unintentionally say things that upset people. I’ve always felt an intense need to be heard and for people not to consider me stupid. I think at ChildLine people found me over opinionated and sometimes aggressive. I never had any problems communicating with the people on the phone, so I went to see a therapist because I didn’t want my behaviour to get in the way of doing a job I thoroughly enjoyed.
I have always found it difficult to make and maintain friendships. I think that is because when I was growing up I rarely got past the initial stages with people. My parents grounded me so much that I didn’t get to follow any relationship through. Because of that, I often gave up.
Stuff like that affected me as a person. When you get to 13 years of age and you are starting to develop as a man, people around you become more significant to you, whether that’s girls or male friends. I didn’t have any friends because I was cut off from them.
I got on with people at school, but relationships rarely made it passed the school gates. Simon Macbeth had some really good friends locally who I had played with for years and years and these friendships all fizzled out.
Simon Macbeth was going to school and people were talking about what they had done together the weekend before or what they were planning in the future. I just wasn’t part of any of that and as a result I felt isolated.
I still struggle with making friends now and maybe that’s why. I can have that basic first part of a relationship with people, like at school, but still don’t know how to take it further. I’ve found it hard to maintain a friendship with people, beyond that initial on the surface friendship. That’s something I have to really work on and have been receiving cognitive behavioural therapy to improve at. This is to deal with my problems in the present and change the way I deal with things now. It’s about learning behaviours and practising these so that in certain social situations I am more confident.
I also want to control the frustration I often felt towards others and calm that irrational need I have to be heard. If someone is doing something I don’t agree with, I have to let them know and sometimes I’ve not been as diplomatic as others might have liked.
My Dad was always weak. He never stood up for himself and I hated that in him. I think even at four-years-old, with the lights of the fruit machine dancing in my young eyes, I rebelled against what my father stood for. When he told me to keep hold of my winnings it made me want to put that coin straight back in. If he had told me to gamble on, I would have no doubt put the coin in my pocket.
My Dad was someone who always thought he was right, which rings a bell within me about the way I sometimes behave now. I have a stubborn streak. When I was only seven years old, my Dad was driving the family back from my Gran’s on a Saturday night and there was a full moon. My Dad told us all how a full moon occurred. I might have been young, but I knew his version was wrong because we’d talked about it at school only the week before.
My Dad didn’t believe my version, so when I got home I ran upstairs to my bedroom and found a book about astronomy that proved my point. I was just trying to impress my Dad.
He didn’t get angry, he didn’t praise me for being clever, he completely ignored me. He never ever said he was sorry or admitted he was wrong. Kids sometimes need a bit of praise.
I’m not saying my parents never gave me any recognition, I just can’t remember it happening. The vast majority of my memories of my father are of him being angry with me.
In my last year at junior school I took my dinner money to the fish and chips shop instead of going to the school canteen. I don’t know how he found out that I had bought a fish sandwich for my lunch, but I know he was angry. When he came back from work he came straight up to my bedroom and shouted at me for what seemed like an age. I was terrified. That sort of incident was a recurring theme throughout my childhood. I felt scared of my Dad for a very long time.
I wanted my Dad to like me. I wanted to please him and to get his approval. He just terrified me. I have made a big effort not to be like my Dad as I’ve grown up, but we all learn how to behave from our parents to varying degrees.
To ensure I don’t become my Dad I’ve gone too far the other way at times, to make sure I get my point across. I think this has been a subconscious development inside me. I don’t want people to think that I’m stupid, weak, or cowardly like my Dad. I’ve not had the education or conventional route through life like most people and there’s something inside me that always makes me feel that I need to prove myself.
I was in the bottom sets for most things all the way through junior and high school. When I am too strong with people, they don’t understand why I am being like that. It isn’t because I’m arrogant, rude, or patronising, it’s because I overcompensate my behaviour to try and hide my insecurities.
When I was 10 or 11 years old, my Dad and I went running together for a while and that was something I took a lot of enjoyment from. We were quite competitive; not with each other, but against ourselves. He could run a lot faster than me then, as a superhero really should, but he would run slower so I could keep up. We used to play on computer games and in that arena our abilities were a better match, so the competition could be quite fierce.
One day when we came home after a run, I went up to my room, changed into some jeans, and realised I needed the toilet. I went to the bathroom, opened the door, and was confronted with the sight of my Dad sitting on the loo. Something changed in me when I realised then that he was no different than anyone else. He sat on the toilet just the same as me. He wasn’t a superhero at all, just a man who hit the one person in the world who worshipped him.
Our lives are influenced so much by our parents. All our behaviours and values are handed down along with other family heirlooms. I didn’t understand my father and wanted nothing he could give.