I’ve been reflecting on the meaning of Father’s Day for a week or so, and have been trying to figure out what I wanted to say about it. I have been blessed; I happen to have an incredibly supportive, gentle, honest, involved, kind, smart and caring father. It would be easy for me to write about him and what I have learned from him, but then my mind skips ahead to all of the people who may not have had that kind of father in their life, and it makes me hesitate and think I should write about something else.
I also happen to be blessed to still have him in my life, which makes me think about my friends who have lost their father at too young of an age. Again, without really understanding why, my fingers stop as if someone has hit an invisible ‘pause’ button, and I question the focus of this post.
Trying to take a different tactic, I think of my children, and the fathers they have in their life. Yes, I’m divorced. Yes, these kids have two fathers, two families. Do we get along? We do. It wasn’t always the case, but over time, we have managed to make our new family unit work. My children’s experiences are radically different than mine and they have been exposed to more upheaval than I ever imagined they would be. It’s uncomfortable to think about, let alone publicly share, but it’s our collective reality, one which we have all managed to embrace and support.
What I’ve realized is that there is no straight line when it comes to parenting, to families, to marriages, or even to holidays like Father’s Day.
As a daughter, I want to thank my father for all he has done for my family and me. While he did not happen to genetically share his gift of business acumen or math with me, he showed me firsthand how to be a hard working, dedicated, driven person. He taught me to be tolerant & patient, and demonstrated the value of listening first, speaking later. He gave me the gift of being reasonable, rational and calm, which has come in handy more times than I can believe.
As a mother, I want to thank my ex-husband for all that he has done for our children. There is nothing easy about divorce, and I think divorced parents of young kids are truly put to the test. Time and time again, divorced parents have to push their emotions about their ex aside to do what is best for their children. It involves smiling when you want to scream, biting your tongue and listening instead of continuing to engage in a fruitless discussion over who has a better idea, and relentlessly searching for compromise instead of trying to always ‘win’. I cannot talk about Father’s Day without acknowledging what my ex-husband has sacrificed and endured for our children. We definitely take different paths when it comes to parenting, but we have always shared the common bond of wanting what is best for our children. We may disagree about what that means, but one way or another, we have figured out a way to make it work. If that doesn’t define what it means to be a good father, I don’t know what does.
Finally, as a wife, I want to thank my husband for being an incredible step-father to our children. Being a step-parent is not for the weak of heart. There are few single men who would willingly enter into a relationship with a woman who has three young children and do so without raising it even once as a potential issue. Eddie dove in, always did whatever he could to help, and continues to do that to this day. He never questioned whether he would rather be someplace else, and has truly relished being able to be a father. He has helped shape our children just as much as the other adults in their lives, and they would not be who they are today without his input, assistance, tireless support and 100% commitment to them.
I definitely didn’t go into writing this post expecting to end up in my basement, digging through boxes to find a picture of my ex. Nor did I anticipate writing about divorce or step parenting. The term ‘it takes a village’ has taken on a whole new meaning in my life, and to not acknowledge the whole village on Father’s Day wouldn’t have felt right.
I want to wish all of the father’s out there a relaxing day filled with lots of laughter, love, and compliments said with meaning and eye contact. For those who no longer have their fathers with them, I hope you find peace and comfort knowing that they were here long enough to give you the skills you needed to thrive.