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.