I texted the words, “Happy Father’s Day” to him. No exclamation mark or “hope it’s a good one!” or any other such nonsense. Our family history precludes any other such nonsense, but he is the father of my children, and we text now. Ignoring the occasion would have proved harder than the simple sentence.
He thanked me. Said he hadn’t heard those words in a while. This is true.
He may have received similar texts from his kids today, I don’t know. I don’t pry in that area or try to lead them toward or away from him. They are big now and the damage has been done already and he buys them nice things and sends them cash from thousands of miles away.
I did announce, “Father’s Day tomorrow…” yesterday, followed by explaining to the kids that my brother had posted a picture of our dad on Facebook just then.
I felt it was important to explain why I had suddenly begun to cry.
(To use the Facebook parlance: It’s complicated.)
My almost-teen daughter came over and looked at the photo of my devastatingly handsome dad in his prime, all silk suit at a nightclub looking like a gangster (back when that meant of the “Rat Pack” variety.)
“Looks like Dad,” she said. I could not disagree.
“We all marry our fathers,” I tell her. She gave me her patented look for tolerating idiots and exited stage right.
The rest of what I want to tell her is the why of making peace with who our fathers are—really are. To not focus exclusively on the complicated and impossible ways a father can become a riddle to be solved. Instead, see him as a mortal man. As a fallible and flawed character who did not inflict injury from a place of decision but rather as the end user of his own childhood experiences (and their parents and their parents and ...)
To try to focus on his better qualities so that when the time comes, daughter, you will spot these attractive elements from across a crowded room instead of sparking up a laser beam on someone who cannot give you what you need because he doesn’t have it himself.
Maybe the reason I want so badly to give my children permission to love their dad is because hating him means they will also hate an integral part of them.
Any warm feelings I had for my father as a child was an act of treason. Of course I attached too fast and too hard to someone who embodied all those elements my mother constantly banged the hate drum about.
My children are already keenly aware of their dad’s shortcomings. Mine, too. There is little danger in self-delusion about him — or me — for them.
All kids want to love their daddy. Better to focus on how they resemble the best in him because they favor him in so many ways. Think and act and move like him in so many ways. All the very best ways.
Love that, kiddos. And love yourself.
Note: This is something like a journal entry I wrote last year and shared with a select few. I was told it was a helpful perspective to some who didn’t know how to feel about “Father’s Day.” I hope this remains the case.