It’s that wonderful day each year when we celebrate Fatherhood.
First, I would like to say how proud I am of a very dear friend who became a father eight months ago. He has overcome many obstacles thus far in his journey and has become an amazing father. Charlie is a very lucky little girl. Happy Father’s Day, Matt.
I honestly can’t tell you the last time I sent a Father’s Day card but it’s been well over 32 years. No connection. I would not recognize the man if I saw him walking down the street. I know he wouldn’t recognize me. He is still my father and I remain hopeful that one day we will make contact but that ‘one day’ is running out because he is going to be 81 on October 20, 2020.
Nothing I’ve done I can assure you.
I came to terms years ago that it wasn’t me and realized he was incapable of being the father he could have been. I saw no effort on his part after many attempts on mine.
In my young adulthood I discovered that his father was absent from his life without any effort put forth in getting to know him. How tragic.
When I learned of my biological grandfather I was 17. He was dying of cancer and I wanted to let him know he had a granddaughter. I did not have a chance to go knock on his door to reveal myself before he passed. Even at his funeral no one knew that my grandfather had a son and a daughter much less any grandchildren. My aunt spoke to the minister who was a good friend of my fathers after the service to let him know about her and her brother, my father. The minister said had he known he would not have been able to officiate as he did. She said he was shocked and dumbfounded. How could someone have children and not speak of them let alone not communicate with them? How much do we really know our friends and family? Not very, apparently.
My father was a choir director and we were very involved in church until my parents divorced when I was 13. I honestly don’t remember much about my father even prior to age 13 as he traveled for work. Perhaps I have suppressed much of his memory to protect me over the years. He saw me and my brother on weekends until the summer I turned 16. He announced that he remarried and the father daughter relationship would soon vanish.
I continued my journey. I started working at the age of 15. I finished high school. I married and had four children. I divorced. I have always worked multiple jobs. I ran a small residential cleaning business, finished college with a bachelors degree and went on to obtain a masters degree. I have accomplished many things in my life while enduring the pain from not having the guidance of my father. It has not been the journey I envisioned when I was a little girl. Girls do need their father.
I do not fault my father on some levels as his journey was similar to mine. His father left when he was only 5. I had a step grandfather which growing up I always thought was my ‘real’ grandfather. I loved him dearly. He treated me well but I don’t truly know the connection he had with my father. I also don’t know the impact on my father after his father left him as a small child.
We have to understand that there are family patterns that continue generation after generation and at what point do we change direction? I think, at best, if he had continued in my life he would have been there financially but I doubt very seriously he would have ever been there emotionally. He did not possess that quality.
To all the fathers who are out there who provide financial AND emotional stability for their children… you are fortunate to provide both. Your kids are the lucky ones. Those who can’t be there financially…that is OK because possibly you can be there for your children emotionally which is actually more crucial for a child’s upbringing and needed for a healthy adulthood. If you can’t be there emotionally but can be there financially, it’s really important to work on the emotional piece because that is the piece that is missing in so many children’s lives. Without emotional stability in developmental years, children grow up to be adults with emotional INstability. Money doesn’t make things better. Money provides affordability but not emotional stability and ‘things’ do not contribute to emotional stability. As a mental health professional, I see this day in and day out. Tugs at my heart strings.
In all of my years working in mental health and even before, I’ve never met anyone who said “I wish my parents provided me with more money”. Instead, I have heard, “My mother/father is not emotionally there for me”. “My childhood was lacking in affection”. “I was taught not to show my emotions”. “My father/mother never asked how I was doing”. “My father is always working and doesn’t have time for me”. “I’ve never met my father”. The list goes on and on.
The things I CAN lay fault with him: the fact that no effort was put towards building a relationship with his daughter or his son, regardless of how his father treated him. He did not tell his wife (my stepmother) to stay out of his business with his children and he didn’t confront my stepmother when I sent Father’s Day cards year after year saying he never got them. One day on the phone when I was still a teenager my stepmother told me “he has a family now“. What kind of human says those words to anyone let alone a girl who loves her father? Cruelest words I have ever heard. He never corrected her. Luckily for me I never had to reside in the same household with her. For that I am thankful.
My father was a very passive individual. People who are passive do not like confrontation therefore they allow other people to make decisions for them. Many feel guilty and have regrets later in life that they didn’t stand up and be a little more assertive. I can only imagine that my father must have regrets. He has missed out on knowing a great person…ME! 😊
Please do not wait until a child or even an adult child reaches out. Parents should be the mentors and start the conversation, however, we only know what we know….if we need assistance in being the mentor we should seek education to build that skill. Often times when we’re unable to do something it’s because we don’t have the skill to get it done. Learn the skills…get it done! I reached out many times with no reciprocation.
It’s interesting how we will spend thousands of dollars obtaining an education in order to make money so we can wear a CEO, VP or other title on a badge and buy things we DON’T need but we won’t spend the time, money or effort to learn the skills that we DO need to build relationships and foster human connection to fulfill one of the greatest accomplishments and ‘title’ a man could ever achieve…..that of being a father.
We often think, “there’s always tomorrow”. “I’ll do it tomorrow”.
Children grow up fast. There’s not a whole lot of time to get it right. We can’t go back to that first soccer game. We can’t go back to that first T-ball practice. We can’t go back to that spelling bee. We can’t go back to that first band performance or dance recital. We can’t go back to that football playoff season. We can’t go back to that play/theater performance. We can’t go back to that high school graduation. We can’t go back, ever.
Excuses get in the way of effort and they take very little effort or none at all. As my high school band Director once said, “excuses don’t get the job done”.
I wish no pain or ill will towards my father. For many years I put blame on others including myself and then came to realize my father had choices to make and for whatever the reason, he chose the path he did. I hope he has been able to sleep at night knowing he has a son and daughter that he chose to ignore. He has also missed out on four amazing grandchildren. We have to live with the choices we make and I’m hoping he’s been able to live well with the ones he has made.
Knowing I have a father that wants nothing to do with me has affected every area of my life for many years and even though I still sometimes cry about what could have been I am at peace with what is and what will be. I love Me! I have enormous compassion and empathy for all.
I think today and the days to follow until the next Father’s Day and beyond should be spent looking in the mirror and asking ourselves “what do I contribute to my child’s life and how can I make it better?”
Cats in the Cradle by Harry Chapin is a song that I’m sure you’ve heard. Please take a moment and look up the lyrics. It is one of my favorite and if listening to this song ‘strikes a chord’ that things could be better… worried that you aren’t there for your son or daughter and they are going to grow up just like you and that scares you …..then TODAY is the DAY to make a call and a change in a new direction and leave the past behind so that all of your tomorrows will be days to REMEMBER instead of days to REGRET. 💞😊
Happy Father’s Day.