This article by Charlie Capen about his dad and his own experience with leaning into fatherhood made me cry. Go ahead and read it. I’ll wait…
I believe one of the most important things we can do as parents is to try to figure our own parents out.
Which is why Charlie made me cry. I think his son will absolutely benefit from his introspection and drive to be, quite simply, a great, present dad. He learned an important lesson by paying attention to himself, his parents, who he could be. I feel a gratitude towards him on behalf of his son. Too many people my age have repeated the unfortunate decisions of their parents, or believed in those decisions and didn’t try to rise above them in their own parenting.
Fathers Day can be a strange time for me, and I know I’m not alone. I had issues with my father. He was too present. He left scars. Some can easily be seen, others not so much.
Suffice it to say, “celebrating” Father’s Day with him and finding him Father’s Day cards that didn’t make me feel like a total fake wasn’t exactly easy.
It took me over 30 years to be able to see his fathering clearly. It took his death a few years after that to give me the freedom to open my mind a bit more about what he did to me, what he imprinted on my personality.
It took me that long to see that I don’t, in fact, have my mom’s eyes. I have his. I’ve been looking into my own eyes my entire life, and couldn’t see the resemblance until I was 35 years old. The shape, the lid, the size. I was focused on the hazel – mine were blue. I was focused on the violence I saw behind them – mine searched for peace.
I’ve been opening them a lot more since realizing this: what else have I been selectively blind to?
For the past 8 years now, when Father’s Day comes around, I feel a certain sadness. I search for the perfect way to celebrate my husband – a wonderful, present, awesome dad – and wish I had one like him. But there’s no going back.
There is moving forward and allowing myself to see that I did benefit in certain ways by having the father that I had. I can do things for myself. I have a perspective that makes me value little things, quick moments, small joys.
I always knew when he was in the wrong, but lately I’ve been trying to figure out why. Why did he do what he did? I know it was never, ever my fault, but I imagine it would benefit me as a parent to try to understand him better. My kids are already asking me questions about him, and I need to find answers that benefit them, too. Find lessons and good and understanding about who I had as a father, so I can be a better mom. So when my kids are parents, they have a pool of valuable information to help them be the best parents they can be, too.
As long as we’re alive, no matter what paths we take, we will always be our parents’ children. I have to hope that by embracing this and looking for the best in it, we can learn to be better for it.
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