My mom’s passing away was softened by the presence of other mother figures in my life. Other female relatives stepped up to the plate. Friends shared their mom with me and even my contemporaries deepened their relationships with me. While I still miss her, my life enriched in other ways.
Why didn’t this happen when my dad passed away? Why didn’t friends share their dad? Or, does this bonding only occur to fill the void of the same sex parent?
Thinking about it, few of my friends and relatives had males left in their families to share. I have a very small family, most of which are single females. Most of my older female relatives are widows. Sure, there is some divorce but it doesn’t seem to be a significant amount.
Do we have different expectations on fathers than we do mothers? I mean, if you think about the horrid stores of young children who is left alone and they end up wandering the street in diapers, broiling in hot summer cars or caring for themselves in their own home, all the blame for neglect in these situations goes to the mother, not the father who was never there. Why not?
Do we expect that fathers will not care for their own children let alone those of others?
With the high expectations that my father set, I pretty much assumed when I divorced that my soon to be ex-husband would fit the mold of absentee father. My dad was a hands on dad way before it was in vogue. His days off were always spent taking us to a local cultural institution. When we were little, he held us, rocked us, told us stories, cleaned us, fed us and loved us. He never said the words “I love you” until we were grown and learned to say them to him first, but it didn’t matter because we knew he loved us. The last time my daughter visited me, I slipped her $20 and told her I was doing it because whenever I drove home, my dad would always give me $20 and say “stop and buy yourself a hamburger on the way home”. It’s tough losing parents who you learn to depend upon!
I wanted to blog about men who have been able to step up and be father figures to others. But, who has done that? Ted Kennedy has done it but who else? It’s hard to look at public figures and know what they’ve done in terms of fathering because they have to walk the walk AND talk the talk. So, who do I know? What about educators? Bruce MacAllister fathers and so does Dr. Suggs. Who else?
Divorce is hard when children are involved. As common as it is today, it still tears our babies apart. Hell, it tears us apart! It was more difficult than I’m even going to try to explain for me to separate my mothering emotions from everything else that was riled up inside me and bubbling out through my mouth when I divorced. It gave me pause to realize my child support was being paid on time. Regardless of the details. Regardless of the details! My home, my family had fallen apart but my children’s had expanded. Yeah, we can look at it like that, now. I’m admitting it took me a long time to get here and I cannot even believe I’m admitting this out loud or in public, but when it comes to being a father figures, I have to admit my ex is one. When my children think of all the stuff in which they’ve been involved, their dad was there, not only for them but for their friends. From providing transportation to advice to a place to live, he’s done it. He does it. I honestly think that when he sees the needs of others’ children, he sees it as the needs of his children. Oh, to to the point that it can be embarrassing when it comes to giving out the advice, but it’s sincere.
I don’t talk to my children much about their dad. A long time ago, I decided their relationship with him was between him and them. But, some things you cannot miss. My daughter has blogged several times about him being there for her, doing whatever he could for her, regardless of the appreciation she may or may not have shown in the past. I can’t speak as definitively for my sons, but ‘ve seen things, heard things I know they love their dad and admire where he has sacrificed and what he does for others. If a saint is a sinner that keeps on trying then…
I look at my dad, my grandad, brother and uncles and I know there are some good men out there and I cannot let myself fall into the trap of saying ‘all men are dogs’. What if my sons heard me say that?! In giving up personal issues, I’ve seen the goodness in someone else. I’d like to be preachy and say we have to sometimes let our men be men, give them the room to be fathers, but sometimes we have to open our eyes and see the goodness that already exists. Besides, it’s not about what we give them. Yes, there are monsters among us, male and female, but today, we’re lifting up the good men and letting them shine!
So to the good men, to the fathers who tie shoes, change diapers, pay tuition, discipline, go to the soccer games, pay the lawyers, take the babies to church, nurture communities, build families and support dreams and love their children unconditionally: HAPPY FATHERS DAY!