By Cait Collins
This past Sunday, Fathers’ Day, I watched Dads interact with their children. Some were very attentive to the kids. Other ignored them. A few were stern disciplinarians, while others allowed the kids to run wild. I wondered how their attitudes might affect their kids in the coming years.
I was a lucky kid as my folks managed to strike a balance between too strict and completely permissive. I had my share of spankings and my Dad’s I’m so disappointed in you looks, but the discipline was offset with lots of love. Their influence on my life helped me become the woman I am today.
So how much of a role do our parents play in our lives? Let’s look at the way we write our characters. A boy grows up without parents. Lacking the family relationship, he looks to the gangs to supply the close associations he thinks he’s missing. On the other hand, another young man who has no family aligns himself with a church group looking for brothers and sisters. He accepts that true love may not be part of his life, but he continues to hope for happiness.
Then there are the characters that have been abused and abandoned. Without proper guidance, they have no self esteem and seek acceptance wherever they find it. Or worse, become abusers themselves. Some take a higher road believing they have worth and work to better themselves and find fulfillment.
What about those who do have good parents? Let’s face it; a proper upbringing is no guarantee of happily ever after. But great influences can help. What if the child rebels? Perhaps he takes up drinking or gambling. There are endless possibilities for writing about the family unit and how the influences play on the lives of children. The manner in which the characters develop in the story makes the difference in an exciting attention grabber or a cliché/