"I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren't trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom." -Umberto Eco
Previously published on Family Fusion Community.
This time of year always makes me reflect upon dads, their role in our children's lives, especially my girl's dad, stepdad, and my own father. My father passed away in March, so I often reflect upon our relationship around this time. Sometimes it seems the men's role in children's lives are overshadowed or minimized, especially by the media and television. In the blended family role, many dads are made out to be the bad guys (which I understand every situation is different and sometimes poor choices and questionable behavior leads to such conclusions). I also know in many cases even if a dad isn't the best, even if he does not always do what he says he is going to do, a less-than-perfect-dad is still better than no dad. This is something I realized after some rough years with my dad. I know not everyone will agree with me and I'm okay with that.
My parents divorced when I was 14 years old, and I was given the choice to live with whoever I wanted. Since I was an only child, they thought it would be fair for me to choose. I know they felt it was the right thing to do at the time, and it worked out for the best. There was no question in my mind of where I wanted to live. I was a teenage girl who needed her mom, but one image replayed in my thoughts, and I have never forgotten. The day my dad found out my mom wanted a separation and I would be going with her, later that night I had crept down the stairs and peered around the corner. My 6'1" father who rode horses, and never cried sat folded in on himself, trembling with sobs. I cupped my palms to my mouth to keep from calling out, as I leaned against the wall. I immediately questioned myself and my choice. Was I doing the right thing? Would I regret choosing my mother? Would my dad be okay? My gut twisted in knots and I wished I never would have witnessed my dad's breakdown.
Trish and Her Dad
I wanted to live with my mom, but I worried about him. What would my decision do to him? Would he still want to see me? Once it was official, there were several months to a year that I rarely heard from my dad. I think he felt hurt and rejected by my choice to live with my mom, so he rejected me back. This being at a critical time during my adolescent development, in addition to some other significant life circumstances, I became an extremely rebellious teenager. My grandmother passed away around the same time, and life got really tough for me. I needed my father, and I could not understand why he did not want to be there for me. Then I would think about that night... the tears, and I would question my decision.
For many years my dad and I did the back and forth dance of shoving one another away, tucking the issues in the distant corners. I was pretty good at throwing his poor choices back in his face, which he remembered differently. I understand why he remembered my childhood differently than I did, now that I'm a mom of older kids. In each moment we all do our best, but our best changes with our environment. I also know now that not everyone is emotionally capable of the same situations -- the unexpected twists and turns life brings. Don't misunderstand, I am not excusing poor behavior. I am saying that in some cases, expecting someone to be on an equal level emotionally is like presuming a turtle can become a giraffe, some people are just incapable of handling the same issues we are. I am so glad I moved beyond all of my own relationship blockage between me and my dad. I found a way to forgive him and I think he forgave me. I really hope so. He suffered from a stroke several years before his passing, and the dynamic of our relationship shifted. I told him I loved him often, and I tried to be a good daughter. Walking through life with anger and bitterness are like swimming with weights on. Eventually you just can't do it anymore if you want to move forward or you will wear yourself out, and possibly drag others down with you.
So if your children have a father in their lives, no matter what may have transpired, even if you are going through the most bitter divorce you can imagine, try to think how this will affect them and their relationship for the rest of their lives. The things we do and the choices we make ripple out for years, and sometimes they have the power to knock others over. Is the anger worth it?
We all do the best we can with what we have and my dad did his very best. I know he loved me and he knows I love him.
"I'd love to know how Dad saw me when I was 6. I'd love to know a hundred things. When a parent dies, a filing cabinet full of all the fascinating stuff also ceases to exist. I never imagined how hungry I'd be one day to look inside it." -David Mitchell, The Bone Clocks
Wedding photo of me and my dad by Spilker Portraits.
Feature Photo by Trish Eklund, Abandoned, Forgotten, & Decayed.