Anyone who’s listened to Bruce Springsteen’s album Born To Run will know that the American singer-songwriter had a complicated relationship with his father. But after years of exploring his uneasy upbringing through his music, writing about the subject in his memoirs, and undergoing therapy, Springsteen is finally beginning to come to terms with the reality of his father’s behaviour. What’s more, he seems determined not to replicate the same mistakes; ensuring that he’s treating his own children with the respect and love that he so rarely received.
In Renegades: Born In The USA, Springsteen, now 72, revealed how his father’s mental health problems saw him isolate himself from his son, leading to a tempestuous and unloving relationship. What Springsteen didn’t know was how much this would continue to affect his own personality as he stepped into adulthood. “The thing that happens is: when we can’t get the love we want from the parent we want it from, how do you create the intimacy you need?” the musician once commented. “I can’t get to him and I can’t have him. I’ll be him. That’s what I’ll do. I’ll be him … I’m way into my 30s before I even have any idea that that’s my method of operation. I’m on stage. I’m in workmen’s clothes. I’ve never worked a job in my life.”
But Springsteen was lucky. At 32, he realised that he’d been unknowingly replicating his father’s behaviour. By the time he was 40 and his children were born: “I found out about that archetype and it was fucking destructive in my life. It drove away people I cared about. It kept me from knowing my true self. And I realised: ‘Well, if you wanna follow this road, go ahead. But you’re going to end up on your own, my friend. And if you want to invite some people into your life, you better learn how to do that.'” Thankfully, he did, and his children are apparently happier and healthier for it.
So, having learned so much, what piece of advice would Springsteen give to parents? Well, it’s very simple. Speaking to Esquire, he said: “Be present. Be there. If I have any advice to give, that is it. I mean you have to be fully present in mind, spirit, and body. And you don’t have to do anything.” In reality, a new parent can read all the parenting guides under the sun, but if they’re not a present figure in their child’s life, none of those tips and tricks matter.
Springsteen also seems to imply that to raise an emotionally healthy child, parent’s need to acknowledge their own failings. Children soak up everything, even things we don’t notice about ourselves. it’s essential, therefore, that we explore the origins of our own emotional baggage with openness and honesty, because, without doing so, we risk passing it on to the next generation.