Apparently, I have a deep, subconscious need to celebrate Father’s Day even though my own Dad hasn’t been an active part of my life for over 20 years. I imagine that some fatherless daughters just carry on with life as usual, ignoring the holiday or doing whatever they can to get through the day.
There are many reasons we don’t all love the third Sunday in June. Some people struggle through the seemingly endless, “Happy Father’s Day!” Facebook feeds or they avoid social media altogether—while trying to reconcile the loss of a beloved father or grandparent. And others, like me, will always have a difficult time being reminded of the bittersweet absence of an unhealthy relationship.
To be fair, I know that my childhood was better off with one stable, engaged parent than it would have been if my Dad had been more involved. His chronic, disabling mental illness could never have withstood the long years of drama that my siblings and I put our mother through. I don’t even blame him anymore for not being there. He truly wasn’t capable of the balance and commitment needed to guide us through childhood and into our adult lives. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think about him every Father’s Day and wish that it could have been different. Why don’t they make a Father’s Day card that says “I know you did the best you could, and I still love you” or even just “Thinking About You Today”?
Probably not the heartfelt tone Hallmark is going for though, right?
As a child, I remember decorating a chocolate chip cookie cake, “Happy
Father’s Day Mom!” in honor of the double role she played in our lives (and also because I knew she would share!). As a teenager, I searched for the perfect Grandfather’s Day card, and this was almost enough to fill the void. My Grandad was a loving, patient, hands-on person who taught me how I deserve to be treated by the men in my life. He was the strongest, most caring man I have ever known, and my mom is still a confidently self-professed Daddy’s Girl. But he wasn’t my father. Now that I am married, my husband is the lucky recipient of a lifetime of misplaced Father’s Day enthusiasm (fortunately he also really deserves it). He gets seriously spoiled. From a new charcoal grill to Bose wireless speakers, I don’t mess around, because I am genuinely proud of the father I chose for my children. He plays catch for hours, laughs at fart jokes and reads bedtime princess stories. He also yells when he needs to and installs car seats like the safety examiner of a NASA space shuttle. Every year, his Father’s Day card includes some variation of “Thank you for being exactly the kind of Dad I wish I would have had.” Don’t worry, I know he is not my Dad, but I am infinitely aware of what my children’s lives would be like without him.
Awareness: All fathers are important, even the ones who are not there. Take a moment to think about someone you know who might be missing their father this week and reach out to him/her with a word of support or encouragement.
Action: Support fatherhood in greater-Cleveland and share this message with someone who takes his parenting role seriously. The Healthy Fathering Collaborative of Greater Cleveland keeps an online directory with updates on local fatherhood resources and community awareness events such as the upcoming Fathers Walk and the White Ribbon Campaign. They also provide resources for non-profit organizations to prioritize fatherhood in their service model. The Cuyahoga County Fatherhood Initiative provides support geared toward low-income fathers and hosts an annual conference, taking place June 17-18th 2016. Registration is available online.
Advocacy: More than ever, fathers are taking an active role in all aspects of parenting. Dads should be included in the conversation when we talk about family-friendly polices such as parental leave after the birth or adoption of a child. History was made just a few months ago in Newburgh Heights, Ohio – where city officials voted unanimously to become the first city in Ohio to give paid leave to their employees (both men and women) and the first in the nation to offer 6 months paid leave. Like the sound of that? Share this news article with your local representatives and tell them that that supporting parenthood and family is important to you.