I have Father’s Day mixed feelings.
I married a man who has been a great father—no, not perfect. But he’s been steady, sacrificing, protective, hard-working, generous, committed, always there for the kids through their many stages, phases and challenges. When they’re in trouble or need, it’s him they call. Recently they both flew in from California to honor him on his 60th birthday, and the toast they gave him (along with a crown and sash) over the birthday cake, brought tears to the whole assembly.
Being with him has shown me how amazing the relationship can be between a daughter and her father. Watching the security my daughter has, the solid sense of worth, self-esteem to reach for her wildest dreams, literally among the stars—has shown me how important that bond can be for a woman. A lot of research backs that up, too, showing that women with solid relationships with their dads wait longer for sex and have stabler relationships with men overall.
This beautiful thing has, at times, magnified the problematic relationship with my own father. What do you do when you’ve done all you can, and it’s lacking, even wounding—and you have to be reminded of it annually by this holiday? What do you do when your father’s passed away, or never was even there at all in your life?
These holidays are hard for many people: for my clients, and for me too. Every year I struggle with what to do. What card (or no card) to send, whether to phone or not phone. What to do with my mixed feelings of longing, anger and heartbreak. I celebrate what my kids have with their dad and appreciate my husband, while trying not to let the contrasts rub salt in the wound between me and my father.
This morning I started by saying the Serenity Prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” I’m also using some EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) affirmations to calm my emotions. Using these tools, I feel ready to go to church and deal with the honoring of good dads that’s taking place there, without it making me sad about all that isn’t what I wish it was. I’m highly aware that it’s unmet expectations that create unhappiness; that by accepting what is, I can still be happy.
I hope that everyone for whom Father’s Day is a conflicted occasion can find a way to heal themselves a little this year. Father’s Day can be an opportunity for healing and freedom, if you’re willing to let go of expectations and practice gratitude for what is.
Thank you for honoring the harder side of it. The flood of Father’s Day greetings, sappy quotes, etc in the media and online can be overwhelming for those of us with more complicated stories.
It feels wrong to me to just be swept along by that flood, when I struggle and work on it all week with clients. Thanks for the support!
Thank you, for putting all those conflicted emotions into words!
I’m glad you broached this tough subject. It wasn’t until you mentioned it that I realized what a hard time I was having today, seeing at all the FB posts about Father’s Day and trying to find something else that would hold my attention. Like you say, my relationship with my father was “complicated.” He passed away 10 years ago and not once have I missed him. Truth be told, I don’t think there is one person who misses him. What a sad legacy to leave behind. Despite all my efforts to marry a man who would be a good partner and good father, my husband turned out to be my father all over again. Well, not as physically violent. But full of rage and emotionally distant. At least 2 of my 3 kids hate him already. They certainly have not mentioned Father’s day. Will they miss him one day when he’s gone? I have my doubts.
I’m so sorry to hear that, Laurie. I hope you will get support for your marriage and find some joys within it…Or move on from it, if you need to. Sad legacy indeed, and falls in the “things we cannot change” category. I work out a lot of my feelings in my writing, even essay writing helps me sort things out, as I’m sure you do too!
Aloha and friendship
I grew up without my biological father, my parents divorced when I was 2. I had loving male presence from my grandfather & uncle (husband of my mother’s twin.) When my mom remarried, he was emotionally abusive…to her & to me.
Father’s Day, for me, is a mixed-bag, too. Always feeling the lack, but able to celebrate the day because my husband has “been there” for me & for our son & daughter from day one.
I’ve always thought you should let your loved ones know how much you care about them & how grateful you are to have them in your life. I’ve never been a fan of card holidays.
Amen to that, Penny, and thanks for sharing your story! I found some peace today doing a round of EFT and releasing my feelings, I was able to really enjoy everything with my husband. And I know I’m blessed in my marriage too though it took a lot of work to get to where we are… Sharing the journey means a lot!
My Dad left my mom and 4 kids/me to be with another mom and her two kids when I was 11 years old. Later in life I forgave him and various problems like his verbal abuse and alcoholism came full bore. I realize I had a better life without him. When he died 10 years ago he said he made peace with the Lord. I hope he did so I can see him again in Heaven some day. Thank God for husbands like yours for a good example for your children. : )
Thanks for sharing, Dava. We feel lighter when we carry these burdens together.
You’re the first person I’ve heard day something like this. What an eye opener. It must feel really good to have been able to give your daughter a great father. To have been aware enough to pick a better partner.
Going to think about this tonight and bring it up at family dinner.
Thanks so much for the encouragement! I hate to be a downer for all who have so much to celebrate… but for all those, there are the hidden ones who mourn. If it helps anyone, if it brings a little sensitivity, then it’s all worth it!
You know what, Toby, as much as I try to be sensitive to where others are, in this case I say they can suck it up. 😉 They have all of society celebrating with them. They can handle one less-than-partying blog post in the flood of “yay, father’s day is great and all dads are perfect” in the rest of the world today. They can even see the title and choose to scroll by. It’s not going to harm anyone who doesn’t need it – and it is a huge benefit to those of us who do.
Thanks dear. *hug*
Toby, thanks for the honesty. I have told few of the difficult relationship I have had with my father because an awful lot of people don’t get it. I just smile when they praise their dads. I accept their offered condolences when they learn of his passing, though it was a relief to me. I can honestly say I haven’t missed him one day, one hour. I am working out the relationship in a novel I play with on occasion. It’s hard to write of the manipulative abuse.
Thank God, I married the anti-daddy who is the most wonderful husband and father on Earth. I CHOSE to marry the opposite and am grateful every day for what I have. But miss Daddy? Nope. A great post!
Thanks Sharon, it’s great to know I’m speaking for others.
My father died when I was 10. I have had two step-fathers, both of whom are now gone as well. Even at the age of 58, I still miss my daddy. You words resonate deep within, Toby. Thank you.
I’m so sorry for your losses… <3