Photo by Agung Pandit Wiguna
My father wasn’t present in my life for very long. He and my mom had long-standing martial issues that resulted in multiple separations, one before I was born, and two after. The divorce came when I turned six and so began a separation from my father as well. This isn’t something I weep about. I realized long ago that his absence shaped me in more positive ways than negative.
This post isn’t about absent dads. It’s about present ones.
When it comes to mothers, everyone knows there are terrible mothers out there. Violent, neglectful, abusive, absent, or just plain painfully overbearing. Yet, when it comes to mothers the narrative is largely positive. We ignore the not-so-small population of moms who are destroying their children and focus on the ones doing what they are supposed to do.
The opposite happens with fathers. Society assumes the worst until proven otherwise.
I didn’t have my father, but I had a grandfather who cared for me, shared his wisdom and nurtured me like I was his own. I had a step-father who was way more traditional than my grandfather in that he believed his job was to bring home the bacon and step in as an active parent only when the mother is overwhelmed. Still, he took in two traumatized girls who were the product of an abusive, adulterous relationship and tried to give them security. He didn’t talk to me about my day too often, he didn’t cook, clean, or play with us, but made sure our home was stable and safe. And even though they have been divorced for thirteen years and my mother has been dead for twelve, he still checks in. For that, I am forever grateful.
Every day I look at my husband—also the product of a divorce and absent father—and I smile every single time I hear him play with our son. I look at all his friends—fathers who are active in their kids’ life. They are all teachers, so every summer it’s Daddy Daycare for each of them. Right now, my husband is planning out his activities with Monster for the summer. These are not stories people share about dads, but I see them every day.
In honor of his fifth Father’s Day, I asked Coach what it meant to be a father. His answer was simple. “Consistency and being present.” To him, the hardest part of fatherhood is the deep emotional attachment; always wanting to protect and shelter your kid even when you know they need the freedom to learn. When asked about mistakes and daddy guilt, he said there wasn’t a reason to feel guilty or dwell on mistakes. “Just learn from them and move on.” He doesn’t have guilt because of his belief it is important to sacrifice for your family, but not to your detriment.
Lastly, his advice to new fathers is equally simple. “You got to be happy to have a happy family. You got to do some sacrificing, but don’t do too much or you’ll end up out of gas. That’s better advice than what I got. A lot of people give advice and say be there for your kid. That’s not really advice. It should be obvious.” Coach believes (a lesson learned from his step-father) part of the job of fathers-parents really-is to expose their kids to new things and give them opportunities to grow and have different experiences. His final advice was delivered with a chuckle. “Make sure you have a kid with the right woman.”
I appreciate my husband for being such an amazing father. For giving lessons with kindness and compassion. For loving to cuddle with our son and much as he loves to cuddle with us. And even for being the frustrated dad at soccer class because the coach is letting the four-year-olds run wild. Coach, I am grateful to share parenthood with you.
Thank you to the men being fathers and father-figures. Thank you for your time, your love, and your patience. Thank you for sacrifice, consistency, and being present.
Happy Father’s Day!