Sunday, June 16, 2013

Just another Father's Day

Father's Day. Eh. Just another day. Mostly I ignore it, although I did send a text to my granddaughter Coraline's daddy to tell him happy day and that I love him. He's the closest thing to a father in my life right now.

I've been ignoring Father's Day for many years now, even though I had 2 fathers. One was my dad, whom my mom married when I was 2. The other is my biological father, my sperm donor, the one who didn't show up for their wedding 2 1/2 years earlier. My maternal grandparents -- my grandfather was a doctor -- offered her as a consolation prize an abortion. My mom didn't accept the gift.

The man who showed up for the wedding is the man I called Dad. He died suddenly when I was 24 and he was 46. We had a difficult relationship, although I believe he loved me and I know I loved him. But let's just say I was never his favorite. Red-headed bastard stepchildren rarely are.

It's been hard to ignore Father's Day this year though because of my Facebook addiction. My newsfeed has been filled with people posting photos of their dads. And with dads posting how much they love their kids, how precious they are. Hard to ignore.


I admit it: I'm jealous. I can almost imagine what it might feel like to be cherished by a father. I can't know for sure, but I think it would be pretty great. It's something I'll never really feel though. Not ever.

So, since I can't seem to ignore Father's Day this year, I have a few things to say to you dads with daughters.

If you're a dad who tells your daughter you're proud of her, good on ya. Don't do it so often it loses its meaning, but never stop. I would have given up all the Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill I drank during my high school years if I could have heard those words come out of my dad's mouth. Yes, he came to as many of my basketball games as he could, and he never yelled at me about the mistakes I made on the court. But I never heard those words: "I'm proud of you" .... and I never will. Please keep saying it.

And if you're a dad whose daughter knows you would fight a bear for her, keep it up. You don't weaken your daughter by sharing your strength with her. She may not ever need you to fight a bear, but knowing you will be there to protect her if someone hurts her will give her courage too.

If you're a dad whose daughter knows she can hate you and you will still love her .... just keep loving her. She needs to know she can get angry and you'll still be there. She needs to know she can get angry and you won't knock her down by getting angrier and squashing her too.

If you're a dad who tells your daughter she's beautiful and smart and strong and precious, please keep telling her. Even if she rolls her eyes and says, "Oh, Daaadddd." If the first man in her life adores her, then maybe that's the least she will expect from those who come after. And every little girl deserves to feel utterly precious and adored .... even though some of us never do.

Finally, here's an idea. Make sure you take at least one photo of yourself with your daughter that shows how much you love her so she has something to post on her Facebook wall on Father's Day. And so she has a reminder of how much you valued her. I don't have a single photo of myself with my dad, other than a couple of all-the-family snapshots in front of the Christmas tree. None of just him and me. I wish I did.

(Shutterstock © Dubova)

I don't mean to sound whiny. I put all that daddy stuff behind me years ago. But I see dads who do those things and daughters who remember their dads doing those things, and I think -- just for tonight -- I think how different my life might have been. How different my relationships with men might have been. So I just want to remind you dads out there how terribly important you are to your daughters (and your sons too, of course). You matter. And it doesn't really take much to leave a legacy that you'd be proud to see posted on Facebook in 30 years.

Father's Day. Eh. I'll go back to ignoring it next year.


  1. I do have a dad, and I'm very grateful, but he was none of the things you advised dads to be. I've had to really read between the lines as an adult to see how much he loves me, and he does, and there were rare moments when he sort of said it or gave me a hug.

    I have a lot more memories of being afraid of him as a child, though. Now I know, and he has actually confessed that he didn't have the first idea how to be a loving dad.

    I did have one picture of me and my dad that showed how much he loved me but it got lost. Doesn't matter. It's imprinted firmly in my mind because it was a shock for me to see. (I grew up thinking my dad didn't love me, and that men were, in fact, incapable of any feeling other than anger and indifference.) On my wedding day, though, I'm told my dad cried. SHOCKING! Seriously. And there is a picture that exists somewhere out there of the two of us dancing at my wedding. He held me so close, and rather than feeling awkward as I expected to feel when I was forced to dance with him because that's what you're supposed to do at your wedding, I felt, for the first time in my life cherished by my daddy. It is an amazing feeling, and I'm grateful I have that. How lucky are the girls that have it all the time! I'm sorry you missed out on it. I hope with all my heart you have enough love in your life with your kids and sweet Coraline and your delightful friends to fill you up. I know it's not the same, but I think it's actually sort of rare for daughters to have the kind of dads they deserve.

    1. I did a lot of reading between the lines too, Jen. I'm sure my dad did the best he could. Then again, I think we give fathers a free pass sometimes when they could do so much better with very little effort.

      I'm glad you had that moment with your dad. It makes my point perfectly that it's very small moments that make big memories.

  2. My dad was absent most of my life. After he and my Mom separated when I was 7 I only saw him once in a while during the year and on Christmas. I was never welcomed to his home. He remarried and had a son with her. I've never met them. But, I would get letters from him, not many, but s few, even though most of my letters went unanswered. And he did faithfully pay child support. And I figured out if I wrote him and asked him for money, he would send a check and a letter with it. He helped pay my lawyer retainer when I left my abusive ex. I got letters with those checks, too. They were encouraging. I kept them for a long time. Every year on my birthday I get a birthday card telling me he will be thinking of me on my day. And not too long ago he told me he's "always rooting" for me.

    I was well into my 30's when I finally accepted that my Dad and I would never have a normal, reciprocal relationship. And I accepted that he loved me in his own distant way. But more importantly, after all the struggle and anger and sadness of all the years of trying so hard to cling to a father that didn't want to be clung to, I realized I loved him, too. As is.

    I posted a few pictures of me and Daddy from when he still lived with us. I almost didn't because Father's Day is "whatever" to me. I can't remember much of those times. But saying I love you Daddy is still healing to me. So I did it and the hole was filled a little bit more.

    1. Thanks for sharing your story, Ginny. Acceptance is often the only way to heal those ongoing wounds of neglect. I'm glad you found a way to take care of yourself when your dad didn't.