This past Sunday gave us all the opportunity to celebrate fathers, grandfathers and those who take on a fatherly role. I am so blessed to say that I have a fantastic father who has always been my greatest cheerleader… literally. I remember playing softball at the Sask. Summer Games and my dad (and mom) had pompons and were dancing to the hamster dance song (don’t pretend you didn’t love that song).
While I know many people are lucky to have fantastic fathers and father figures in their life, that isn’t the story for everyone. As with any relationship, a father/child relationship can be extremely complicated and messy. Fathers play a very important role in child growth and development that can sometimes be overlooked. In past generations, often the role of caregiver fell onto the females. Men were often the breadwinner, preoccupied with putting food on the table and not necessarily as hands on when it came to parenting. Many men (though this is changing) also get caught in the trap society has created when it comes to expressing themselves and their emotions. These roles and stereotypes have played a part in many neglectful and absentee fathers. For many, Father’s Day can be the reminder of a relationship that did not exist or wasn’t positive.
I would encourage anyone who has a complicated relationship with their father to try and take a step back from the pain and hurt and attempt to see dad for who he is. Try to understand him, his shortcoming, and what may have led him to make the decisions that he has. This is not to excuse behavior, but this is also not to point blame. It is simply to try and understand. We are so complex and heavily influenced by our experiences and environments. Did your father lack a positive male role model in his life? How was the role of fatherhood presented to him?
If we can get to a place of understanding, it may not change the past or the present relationship with dad, but maybe it changes our view and expectations of the relationship. Maybe it allows you to love and accept dad as he is and refocus attention on the caregivers who have helped you to become the adult you are.