Father’s Day was never something I looked forward to. Our strained relationship always made it kind of awkward. I used to spend hours looking for a card that I would feel comfortable giving him. I always defaulted to humor, because those heartfelt Hallmark cards never felt quite right. He wasn’t always there. He didn’t always support me. I felt like a fake giving him a card that professed all of those sentiments that I never felt. I hated my father for not giving me cause to shower him with those kinds of compliments.
When your dad isn’t physically there – hate, bitterness and resentment come easy. It wasn’t until after he died that I was able to see him as a human being – with flaws. It wasn’t until after I became a mother myself that I was able to understand why it pained him so much to be around me.
My father and mother had a terrible relationship. Our house wasn’t filled with screaming – it was filled with silence. Sometimes, that can be worse. When I was twelve, my mother took my sister on a trip to New York to celebrate her high school graduation. My father took his opportunity to pack his bags and leave. The small detail – that he was leaving his twelve-year-old alone for a week – seemed to escape him. My father left that day and never came back. Being twelve and alone – I thought it was my fault. I started hating him that week – and cultivated that hate for the remaining years of his life. It was easy to do – because he avoided me so expertly.
Now, as an adult and parent myself, it is easy to see that I reminded my father of all of his parenting pitfalls – the biggest mistakes he probably made in his life. It was easier for him to avoid me than to face those things. As a parent now, I can’t imagine letting my children down like that. It must have been excruciating. He was a human being – with flaws. I can finally see that and forgive the man. Father’s Day doesn’t sting like it used to, especially since I can spend it watching the father of my children be present with his kids. He’s not perfect either – but his kids would never know it.
I’m not a father, but I can tell you that motherhood is hard. What I’ve learned in the short time that I have been one, is that you don’t need to be perfect. You just need to show your kids that you love them. I’m sorry you had such a hard time doing that Dad. I’m sorry you were flawed. I’m sorry I was, too. Too bad there are no do-overs, because I sure would love one.
(photo: Dubova/ Shutterstock)