Today is Father’s Day.. and it got me thinking about fathers and what an incredibly important part they play in the lives of their children. No two fathers are the same, and they all come in different shapes and sizes. I think that fathers are sometimes undervalued and don’t get the spotlight as much as Moms do. That’s not to undervalue Moms in anyway – I happen to be one, myself. Though, in some cases, I just don’t think that Dads get the kudos that so very much deserve.
My own father is a quiet, humble and gentle man. Looking back on my own childhood, there is nothing that he would not sacrifice for his family. Looking at him today, at the age of 68 (ish) – there is still nothing that he would not sacrifice. And, you know… growing up – – I always had that security of knowing that. That, no matter what – he would always be there. It’s funny the things you don’t really realize until you grow up. Through all the small bumps and big events in my life – my dad was always my rock. He is still the first person I call when things go wrong… and when they go right. I don’t think there is a person in this world who can quite make me feel ‘ok’ as well as he can. I’m also unsure if he really knows that, and I’m thinking that he probably should.
I was never afraid or intimidated to try new things. I was never afraid to try, period – because I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, if I faltered in the middle of it – I could look to him and say “Hey – how’s this go again?” or “What would you do?” or “Am I doing this right.. or is there a different way??” – – and, without fail – he would take the time to walk me through it. There is a distinct difference between doing something for someone and providing them with the tools and insight in order to enable them to do it themselves. Regarding my own personal experience – I firmly believe that today, I am a strong, capable, independent and self-sufficient woman because, as a child, I had the confidence of a loving, supportive and encouraging father behind me.
I have only ever really wanted him to be proud of me – – but, much more than that… I want him to be proud of himself for the man that he is, and the father that he has been, and continues to be, all these years.
When I look at my own children, I worry a lot. That painful, mom kind of worry that splits your heart apart because you know there isn’t anything you can really do to fill the void – you can only hope really super hard that what you’ve done for them all these years has been enough to bring them into adulthood as well-adjusted, safe and sane as possible. We’re still working on that, and its a work in progress, to be sure.
Their father and I divorced in 1992 and he is not….involved. I’m being way too nice, but I’ll leave it at that. As a single mom, you try as hard as you can to fill both roles and you don’t really find out until much later that you really can’t. That ‘father void’ is going to be there for them, no matter how hard you try to fill it, through the years. Both my kids have wrestled with it, over the years – – and now, they are 16 and 18 years old – we are just beginning to realize how much of an affect it has had on their lives.
We are working with my son (my oldest) trying to get him to realize that he has so, so many other people in his life who love him, support him and care about him… he doesn’t need to be so angry, sometimes – and doesn’t need to lash out just because this one person isn’t really interested in being involved. With my daughter, we’re working with her, trying to make her understand that she doesn’t need to work so hard at seeking the approval and acceptance of anyone who comes into her life just because there is one person in this world who, she feels, doesn’t accept her. She has so many other people in her life who loves her for who she is – – but she has that void for that one person … and that seems to be where her focus is at, for the moment.
With both of them – we’re constantly trying to make the point that it’s not them… it’s him. None of it is their fault. None of it has to do with who they are, as people or anything they’ve done, said, not said or anything of the sort. I would imagine that sounds a bit empty on their ears, because all they really want, at the end of the day, is the love, support, encouragement, acceptance and approval of their father.
They will both get through it, I am positive. It’s a process and it’s not something that happens overnight. It’s a hard issue to wrestle with and there are no easy answers, or easy fixes. Just love them, support them, encourage them and be there for them every single step of the way and never give in or give up. They will eventually make it through the hard times. They will, eventually, grow and mature and begin to realize that its not their fault and they will get to the point where they are living their own life, for themselves.. instead of victimizing themselves and living in the shadow of a man who just isn’t there….and never has been. They are both wonderful, beautiful people – – it is my lifes purpose to help them reach that point and I simply won’t rest until I do, or die trying. Looking at the big picture – there is simply nothing else in my life that is as important to me as that.
I say ‘we’. “We are working with him”… “We are working with her”… the ‘we’ in this picture is my husband, Chris.
He came into my life in late 2000. He came into their life in early 2003 and he became their StepDad in June 2006. This is a guy who had never been married and didn’t have any children. I kept warning him about what he was getting himself into! Fatherhood, it seems, is something that came pretty naturally to him. Chris is a true father to those kids and I am sometime envious of how, seemingly, effortless it is for him. It wasn’t always a very smooth road… as step parenting always has its unique challenges – but he is patient, caring and very supportive of the kids. He works, with me, to teach them and lead them toward that path of strength, independence, self-sufficiency and confidence in themselves. Ask either one of my kids about the love and support of their Step-Dad and they will both tell you, without hesitation, it never waivers and is unquestioned.
Slowly, wounds heal and we emerge stronger, happier people for it.
I’ve already sent 4 bottles of his favorite wine to my own father for Father’s Day – – I’ll give him a call later today and tell him I love him.
As for Chris, he deserves the moon – – for stepping up in a role in a way that he, simply, didn’t have to. The day he asked me to marry him…he told me that his commitment is equally as much to me, as it is to my kids, and every single day, he lives up to the promise, and then some. I don’t think I can ever communicate how grateful I am for that…for him.
Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers, and step-fathers, out there. I truly, wholeheartedly hope that you all have a fabulous day today!
P.S. – If anyone reading this happens to be one of those fathers who aren’t involved in their children’s lives, by choice – – I just want to plant a seed and say it is never too late. It may feel like it is…but its not. It doesn’t matter how old your children get – – your involvement and love in their lives will always matter…always, always. It may seem like its too big of a hurdle.. or that too much time has gone past..or that you won’t be forgiven – but, believe me, your involvement is welcome. Give it some thought – – you have no idea how fulfilling it will be for you, and for them…just, if you do it – – don’t do it halfway, ok?