Now Or Never

How best-selling author Jesse Thistle is overcoming fears about being a good dad

Best-selling author Jesse Thistle says when he looks back at his family history, he sees a line of broken men who didn't know how to parent. Now he is out to change his family history by overcoming his fears and being a great dad to his new daughter Rose.

'I've been terrified to be a father because I never wanted to be my dad,' says Thistle

All of his life, best-selling author Jesse Thistle was scared to become a dad because of his past. Since the birth of his daughter, Rose, he's become determined to break his family's cycle of absent fathers. (Submitted by Lucie Thistle)
Best-selling author Jesse Thistle says when he looks back at his family history, he sees a line of broken men who didn't know how to parent. Now he is out to change his family history by overcoming his fears and being a great dad to his new daughter Rose. 14:35

Jesse Thistle, 45, sings to his seven-week-old daughter, Rose, as he feeds her a bottle. 

"Baby, if you've ever wondered, wondered whatever became of me, I'm living on the air in Cincinnati, Cincinnati WKRP." sings Jesse. 

"That's the only song I know. Sorry kid," says the first-time dad to his new daughter, after finishing his rendition of the 1980s sitcom theme song.

But as Rose drinks hungrily, Jesse is determined she will never have to wonder what became of him.

He is committed to be the dad Rose needs, and to put an end to generations of broken men in his family on his father's side. 

Broken men

"My great-great-grandfather died in a boat fire. He wasn't there for his kid, Samuel. Samuel went to war, he came back … all messed up from trauma, and wasn't there for my grandfather," said Jesse. "My grandfather, [was] raised in the depression … by his grandfather. [My grandfather] tried his best with my father, and because there was so much trauma, my father wasn't there for us."

Jesse shares his family's story and his own struggle for survival in his national bestselling book From the Ashes

His father, Cyril Thistle, struggled with addictions, often leaving Jesse and his two older brothers alone and hungry for days.

Jesse’s mother and father while they were still together. Cyril Thistle had three sons by age 24. The couple had broken up before Jesse was three years old. (Supplied by Jesse Thistle)

The boys were taken into care by the Children's Aid Society by the time Jesse was three years old, and later raised by his paternal grandparents.

Jesse never saw his father again, and still doesn't know what exactly happened to Cyril. 

"So my whole life, looking at fatherhood, I've been terrified to be a father because I never wanted to be my dad," says Jesse. 

Overcoming fears

"The whole time [my wife] Lucie was pregnant, I had this, like, burning urge to run away," said Jesse.

"It's so strange. I have been married to this woman for like, 12 years. I love her beyond measure. I love my daughter beyond measure …I don't know if that's a normal thing to be feeling, but it is a real thing that I had to fight."

Jesse didn't run. He was bedside when Rose was born via c-section in November and has been hands-on and working to improve his feeding and diaper changing skills ever since.  

"My wife seems to just know all this stuff intuitively," said Jesse. "She gets it right, like, 90 per cent of the time. And I realize how inadequate I am as a male for this. But I'm trying, right?"

"I know that I'm her protector...and like, I'm going to be her like guardian angel...throughout her life and that it's a beautiful, awesome thing," says Jesse. (Submitted by Lucie Thistle)

"I have to accept that I'm going to mess it up, like I'm doing right now. And what's more important is I just have to be here," said Jesse. "As long as I'm here, I'm better than my dad. And that little small grain of whatever that is, is what I'm holding on to."

Written by Bridget Forbes, with files from Trevor Dineen.

 

 

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