Tomorrow is Father’s Day.
For some it’s a great day to celebrate their dad. Some folks have been parented by men who have risen to the challenge, who have provided support and structure and love. Some may identify as a daddy’s girl, or feel like their dad is one of their best friends.
This is so beautiful. I hope you can honour your dad well tomorrow.
For others, it may be a day that reminds them of a dad who has passed on. Father’s Day may be a day of reflecting and remembering, of lamenting and longing. To those who have had to say good bye to your dad, I think of you tomorrow as you remember what was and is no longer within reach.
And for the last group of folks, tomorrow may be a day intended to celebrate a very alive father in your life. But perhaps you have a dad who hasn’t done the work of parenting in a way that warrants celebrating. I stand with you on this day. Because this is really a confusing space to be, where our corner of the world markets and encourages the celebration of fathers – which you have – except to celebrate a dad who has failed to father in a meaningful way feels inauthentic and incongruent.
It can be a tricky space, having a uncelebratory dad. Part of you may feel a sense of obligation to celebrate based on sociocultural expectations or family pressure. Part of you may feel the need to caretake for your dad’s feelings, and not offend him by letting the day go passed unannounced. Part may want to hide under a rock and wake up on Monday, while another part may also grieve the experience of a sort of living loss. Where you have a dad in physical terms, but lack the emotional relationship that indicates the presence of a parent-child bond.
To those wrestling with the paradoxical nature of feeling compelled to celebrate an uncelebratory parent, here are a few things I’d like you to know.
- You have the right to celebrate or not celebrate Father’s Day in whatever way you choose. If you want to find the most generic Hallmark card (or a blank card) that allows you to speak truthfully, you can do that. If you want to make plans with friends and avoid family engagement, you can do that, too.
- You are not responsible for the feelings of other people. Your mother/sister/brother/aunt/grandma/dad may be disappointed in how you choose to engage (or not engage) Father’s Day. You are not responsible for the disappointment of other people.
- You are, however, responsible to be a respectful human being. Having an uncelebratory father is not an excuse to shame, to blame, or to be an asshole to him/others. As you take care of you, please do it in a way that is kind, compassionate, and respectful of the humanity of other people. Because people matter. Even if they’ve been less than you hoped for.
- Lastly, I’m sorry this is your experience. My hope for you is that you would find ways to take care of yourself this day, and that perhaps you can look for a sliver of goodness in your own experience of being fathered – even if it means being grateful for what you’ve learned not to do.
To all the engaged dad’s out there? Hats off to you. Your support and presence and love that you give to your children is literally shaping the next generation. You are needed. You are important. We are grateful for you, even if our own dad’s have let us down – it’s reassuring to know that there are examples to look to and learn from out there somewhere.