Shout out to the dads that are making it on this day. We see you! Daddy-ing in all of its forms is important.
I sat down with my friend and colleague Jess Bielman this week to reflect on being dads, and we found that our paths with our fathers and fathering were quite similar. Here are my reflections, although they reflect both of our experiences and I am sure many of yours as well.
I come to this day regularly reflective of both my fathering and my experiences being fathered. Unfortunately, many of our dads were missing, left, abusive, addicted, or otherwise unhelpful when we needed them. This was especially challenging if our fathers were not supportive during our formative years when we were 12 to 18 years old.
This blog is not unpacking those stories. It is more a recognition that, for whatever reason, you are doing it. You are making it as a dad. You are being who you need to be for those that are relying on you.
I am a dad to six kids. This Father’s Day, I realize that a few factors have made me the dad I am today despite some challenges with my own father. The first is that I was blessed with one stable consistent figure. My mom kept it all together during my childhood. Even as an adult I am not sure how she did it, though I am sure she took it one day at a time. She is a rock that my life and parenting has been built on.
Another important foundation to my parenting was my own embarrassment of losing a dad. This was something I was profoundly aware that I did not want to repeat in my own life. I know there are others of you out there. Many of us have made it from having an unstable father figure to being a stable father figure. I commend the other dads in my life for doing the hard work and not repeating the cycle.
Probably the most important factor that has led to the way that I father is my kids themselves. Having kids was a game changer for me and my understanding of myself. What happened to my heart and mind when I became a father is hard to put into words. I have been deeply formed by the joy I have in their joy, the innocence of their faces as children, the proud moments as they compete or make good decisions, and the priceless talks we have as they mature.
None of this would have been possible if I had not gone through a period of anger towards my dad that I had to let go. My response to my anger and angst was to free both of us from our painful history together. I did this by taking inventory of who I am. I catalogued all the things that people said they admired about me; where I could see places that were positive that I could attribute to my dad, I did. This allowed me to celebrate some things about him, which relieved some of the pain. I also decided I didn’t want to pass on bad feelings about my dad to my children, so I resisted as much as possible talking negatively about him to them, which then released some tension in me. This was not easy by any stretch, and I’m sure there are many other ways folks approach this, but I did not know then how important it would be until I realized the anger was gone. I am grateful for my friend Romal Tune whose book I Wish My Dad is helping people to take similar steps. I see my own son as a dad and I know that a bad cycle was not repeated and that brings me joy. This is so important.
So kudos to all of the dads out there that are doing it. Doing the work in their own lives so they can raise kids, be good dads, stay married if they can, and do all that is possible for their kids. We all have our own paths to fatherhood; we all will live through the sleepless nights and the teenage years. Just know that it is making a difference.
Happy Father’s Day from one dad to another.Previous Post
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