“I wish I had been a better Dad and spent more time with my kids.”
These were the words that many men spoke, often with tears, when Dr Bruce Robinson told them they didn’t have long to live.
Dr Bruce Robinson is a respiratory specialist. When people have a lung cancer check they come to see him. In my video interview below with Bruce, he tells how he has told the bad news to over 500 people during the course of his medical career.
Many men said to him, again with tears, “I wish someone had helped me be a better Dad, and now it is too late.”
These pleas from broken-hearted men, who wanted to be better fathers are what inspired Bruce to write his first book, Fathering from the Fast Lane – Practical Ideas for Busy Dads.
This book became a best seller and Bruce followed up with Daughters and their Dads – Tips for Fathers of Adult Daughters, Husbands and Father-Figures. This too was a best seller, making Dr Bruce Robinson the best-selling fatherhood author in Australia.
Frederick Nietzsche’s words come to mind, “What was silent in the father speaks in the son, and often I found in the son the unveiled secret of the father”.
Dr Bruce Robinson is a scientist and Professor of Medicine. He read hundreds of research papers and books in order to write factually about fatherhood. He has also interviewed over 400 people, including test cricketers, Olympians, nurses, students, political leaders, Nobel Laureates, carpenters, prostitutes, prisoners, media personalities, musicians and even five Australians of the Year.
He has left no stone unturned in his study of fatherhood, so his three simple tips come with enormous authority.
Only a clever man can make complex things simple (on a side note, that was one of the great attractions of Jesus). Bruce is trying to follow in his footsteps in more ways than one.
Bruce’s simple mantra to being a great dad is that you have to get on the Fatherhood BUS:
B – Be there for your children. There is no such thing as quality time without quantity time. As the man said, “You have to be in it to win it.”
The B in Being there for your children includes supporting and listening. Bruce tells the story of reading a note from a young teenager who committed suicide. The note said, “I feel like no-one is on my side”.
U – Unconditional love. Bruce tells his personal story about his eldest son who got himself into a bit of trouble in his younger years. Bruce said to him, “I love you no matter what you do. If you get put in gaol, I won’t ring the police commissioner (a friend at the time) but I will come down, bring my sleeping bag and spend the night with you in the gaol.”
Bruce is explicit about Dads telling their children about their unconditional love. His favourite expression is, “You have to say it. You have to put it into words.”
S – Make your child feel Special. Every child is unique and requires special attention. The best way to make your child feel special is to spend one-on-one time, just with them. Give each of your children regular daddy dates. Bruce had a habit of taking each of his children on one of his many overseas work trips. Yes, he was attending medical conferences or speaking at them, but he always found time for fun activities with his children.
Bruce tells the story of Janis Joplin, a famous rock and roll singer of the late sixties, who led a wild and colourful life. The famous saying, ‘sex, drugs and rock & roll’ was extremely descriptive of her lifestyle.
Janis Joplin came back to her small town in Texas for a high school reunion. Her church going parents were so embarrassed by her lifestyle that they left town for the day. One month later, Janis Joplin was found dead in her hotel room in Los Angeles. It was a suspected suicide with high levels of heroin and alcohol in her system.
Bruce postulates, “What if her dad refused the shame of his daughter’s wild lifestyle, brought her home and showed her unconditional love?” We will never know the answer to that question, but Bruce is right to ask it. Such is the power of love.
I have read a lot of books and interviewed a lot of men about fatherhood over the years. The fact of the matter is that Dr Bruce Robinson’s confrontingly simple wisdom is hard to beat. His last words to me, when I asked for his final words of advice were, “Dads. You have to get your diaries out!”
Yours for getting on the BUS.
PS. The registrations are coming in for the Courageous Fathering Course starting online on Zoom, Tuesday 2 May 2023. Booking information here.