How Not to Screw Up Your Kids: Lessons Extracted From “This Be The Verse” by Philip Larkin.

Personal Development for Dads Who Want to Excel in Life and Parenthood

How Not to Screw Up Your Kids: Lessons Extracted From “This Be The Verse” by Philip Larkin.

One of the things I love is life and truth as expressed through art. That is not to say that all art tells the truth, but occasionally, you find a piece – be it poetry or painting; musical or mosaic – which speaks a truth. I find that those expressions are so often deeply insightful and regularly unique in their perspective. 

Philip Larkin is a poet that most British children study in high school. I should say that I don’t know any kid that learned this poem at school, but his name and poetry should be familiar to many. 

I found “This Be The Verse” to express a particularly blunt truth about parenthood. Its not flattering and its not something many of us will want to hear, but I find this opening verse to be largely true. Not true of every parent of course, but of a great many. I want to explain, but first I had better let you read the verse!

They f**k you up, your mum and dad.   
    They may not mean to, but they do.   
They fill you with the faults they had
    And add some extra, just for you.

There is nothing subtle about Larkins writing. The meaning is clear: that parents screw up their children. The second verse makes it clear that this happens on account of their own parents. With the third verse making a plea to the reader not to continue the cycle by not having children.

It’s bleak and pessimistic. And there is truth in it. But that is not to say that its true for all of us. So who is cursed to damage their children and grandchildren on through the generations?

Who and How are Children Screwed Up by Their Parents?

Most people live their lives following the paths of least resistance. They fail to grasp the impact that their choices and actions have upon those around them. This failure to appreciate their impact is what causes this chain reaction of damage.

The natural alternative is to live intentionally; to be aware of the potential impact of your choices and to make sure that you live your best life.

Children are like sponges, soaking up all the input that surrounds them. Lack of intentionality is a recipe for allowing flaws and failings to grow and multiply. Exposure to that way of living is almost certainly going to impact any children.

These flaws and failings are what Larkin had in mind when he talked about filling children with the faults that the parents had.

This train of thought is like the negative expression of the poem which acts as primary inspiration for this project – the Henry David Thoreau passage:

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived…”

Living deliberately as a father is the cure to Larkin’s tragic cycle of damage. Its not a guarentee of a cure, but it is the best (and only) shot that we have.

Every right choice, every time you step up as a man and as a father, every moment that you spend investing in you and your childrens future, is one more step away from Larkins prophecy and towards the vision of Thoreau.

This is how you protect your children, this is how you shield them from your failings. This site is dedicated to helping you achieve that goal through self-development, appreciation of your identity and pushing you to step up to your responsibility.

The help is there, we can lead you to the water, but we cannot make you drink. Should you choose to, then please take advantage of this site and the resources that we provide.

They f**k you up, your mum and dad.   
    They may not mean to, but they do.   
They fill you with the faults they had
    And add some extra, just for you.

But they were f**ked up in their turn
    By fools in old-style hats and coats,   
Who half the time were soppy-stern
    And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
    It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
    And don’t have any kids yourself.

This be the verse, by Philip Larkin

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