The group counseling class was required in my Master’s program.
The professor, two inches away from retirement, was notorious for student led seminars which allowed him to nod off and dream about his fledgling vineyard. To better understand the group process, we were to facilitate “mock” group sessions with each other on a topic of our choosing. Very early on, a particularly cringe-worthy classmate was selected to run the group. She chose “fathers” as her topic.
Fortunately, I skipped missed the class. I heard it was a wet mess of sobs, regrets, pent up anger and heartfelt memories. My colleague opened Pandora’s Box and mishandled it as an amateur who already made people bristle. I imagine a few classmates ran home that day to a carton of unfiltereds and bottle of Jack.
Whether your dad was in your life or not, today is the day to reflect on what fatherhood means to you. To examine half of your origins. Look on father-child moments with either fondness or discomfort, but look. What did you learn that you will keep? What will you discard? What influence do they have on who you are?
What do you expect from dads? What can they deliver?
I know great fathers and horrible fathers. I know men who are present in their children’s lives and those who could care less. I’ve seen from the irritable to the abusive, passive to downright insane. I‘ve had the fortune to see gentle, patient, vigilant, trustworthy, intelligent and funny. I’ve seen the imprint fathers leave on kids. Most of the dads I know and love are a combo platter, as most human beings are, falling somewhere on the trait continuum depending on the day.
I have friends who have lost their fathers too soon, or are currently in the painful process of losing them. Today can be a very hard day. My heart goes out to them.
What did you learn from him? What didn’t you? What will you pass on to the next generation? If you are or want to be a father, what kind of father do you want to be?
These are tough questions because fatherhood is tough. Parenting is a hard, strange trip and we all experience travel differently. For most of us, it’s constant unchartered territory. The fathers in our lives are no different. And a lot of dads don’t always get the credit they deserve.
So today, examine who you are because of your father. Think about what fatherhood should look like. Identify something about fatherhood that has made you a better person.
Then raise your glass to all the dads you know. They all give us insight into one of the hardest roles a man will ever play.
Happy Father’s Day.