An overdue message of gratitude this Father’s Day for the dads who succeeded even when their relationships did not.
For all the men who put their children above themselves. You are fathers. For all the fathers who do not seek to possess their children but rather support their lives. You are loved.
For you to know my gratitude you must also know just how terribly wrong it can go for children. Too often the negative conversation about fathers focuses on the fathers who were not there for their children. About the dads who abandoned and neglected their responsibilities. This is not that exact story but rather the other side of the same coin and the story that is becoming more commonplace in modern society. The fathers who force their way, and their wishes, upon their children after a relationship breakdown. Whether a father abandons his children, or forces his will upon them, he is still acting in his own interests only and not much has changed.
My father did not choose either of these self serving routes. My experiences as an adult and a parent have gifted me a new gratitude for my dad, for what he did and didn’t do, and the fathers out there today who are making the same sacrifice for their children. This gratitude is for my father and all the fathers who have suffered the pain of family breakdown, but had the maturity and selflessness to honour their child’s autonomy even at the sacrifice of their own feelings.
I was 12 when my parents separated. It is only from reflecting as an adult that I can see the writing was on the wall. Flashes of memories spent looking out the bedroom window and wondering if my dad would return as he left the house to clear his head. Nights spent sitting on the top stair, still as a ghost, listening to my parents pain.
As time passed, my sadness grew roots of resentment. I was hurt and angry. Though my dad never left me, I turned down a lot of his efforts to connect with me for a long time. What was once a natural parent/child relationship now felt like a duty and a chore. Emotions greater than my ability to express them meant I felt guilty that my inarticulate pain hurt my dad too. My dad allowed me to choose what I needed even though I’m sure it hurt him.
In all that followed my parents departure from each other, my father did not force his love. He did not insist upon his fatherhood or pin all his hopes and dreams on that role. His role in my life, his purpose, was never in question. My father knew that my attachment to my mother was not a threat to my bond with him. My dad also knew that my world was my home, my neighbourhood, my friends, my school, and my bed. He did not insist upon disrupting my world to force his presence or influence upon me.
Nowadays the scene of a family breakdown can be much different and a parents misguided focus on their own equality can result in the vulnerable children being put in harm’s way. It is only by experiencing my own divorce that I can appreciate the choices my father made. For me this is the silver lining in what was and continues to be the most harrowing experience of my life.
Love isn’t forceful and not everyone knows that. I’ve witnessed what happens when a parent’s selfish love, and their focus on their own self preservation causes destruction, pain, and harm. This suffering has gifted me today’s gratitude. To elaborate on this experience further would be to fill a book and risk putting my children and myself in harm’s way.
The bond between mother and child is sacred but not a threat. It certainly wasn’t to my father. My dad valued my wishes without me needing to voice them. He was just there for me. I know now that had my dad taken a more selfish route, our relationship today would be so much less fulfilling and I would be a very different person. And worse, there might not have been a relationship between as at all.
My father did not use his equality as a parent, or his financial superiority before the law, to serve his own needs. If a parent makes this tragic error and finds support in the law, or rather a lack of law, the child is completely disregarded without voice or power. Children born out of love are now enslaved to the servicing of their parent’s emotions.
How a parent treats their child shows that child how they deserve to be treated in life. It is that simple. If my own dad hadn’t respected me as a person in my own right, had seen his loss of standing in his marriage as a threat and sought only to control would I have ever felt worthy of my own voice in my own life?
I have immense gratitude now for my dad’s actions, his love, and his selflessness. I wish to extend that gratitude to the other dads out there who are doing the same. I could not have comprehended this gratitude as a child, much like your own children can not yet fathom the sacrifices you make now.
So for this selfless act of true fatherhood on Father’s Day 2020, I say thank you Dad. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for always being there as you manoeuvred through the trials of your own life. Thank you for valuing my will and my autonomy. Thank you for sacrificing your own feelings to protect mine. And thank you for trusting that the love between father and child meant I was always going to find my way to you on my own terms.
I love you. Always. Happy Father’s Day
Note to the reader: The path to becoming a Counsellor is unlike many other passions or pursuits. It is a position often found or solidified in the personal life experiences of the Counsellor. For this reason our Counsellors at Limitless Wellness will often write from a place of experience and learned insight. We too examine our own lives as we support clients to do in our work together. For the safety of our team and the privacy of their family, our blogs may often appear unauthored.