Yesterday was Father’s Day. People worldwide celebrated and honored fathers, grandfathers, uncles, and others. Leisurely breakfasts, lingering lunches, and lively dinners spanned the hours of June 17. For many of us, Father’s Day is joyous and jovial. However, this is not the experience for all children, regardless of age.
This annual holiday wreaks havoc and rips raw wounds. This is a tough topic about which to write, but it must be acknowledged. I have friends who are hurting today. When those I love suffer, I do as well. The shiny, posed pictures slathered on social media sting. Chipper cards and sappy commercials prompt pangs of sadness. Some souls may have lost their dad years ago or recently. I know others who ache because though their father may be living, he is not part of their life now or ever.
And there are some sons and daughters who never had the love and/or physical presence of a father. If you were raised by a single mother, this is for you. If you had a male figure in your life who wasn’t emotionally present or supportive, this is for you. If you are awakening in your adulthood and realizing your dad was not who you thought (or hoped) he was, this is also for you.
I’ve used the terms “father” and “dad” interchangeably. Although the dictionary definitions are the same, to me the heart-centered meanings are not. A father is one who contributes to the creation of a child. It’s easy to father a child. But it takes dedication, commitment, and intention to be a dad. In my opinion, you can certainly be a father but not a dad.
A dad, similar to a mom, is an earned term of endearment. When I hear or use the word dad, emotional images and feelings bubble over me like freshly uncorked prosecco. Perceptions of paternal characteristics are clearly formed based on our individual upbringings. And they can be positive, negative, and quite often, a blend of both.
Dads are not always biological. Stepdads and those generous men who adopt or foster children are dads, too. Father figures may appear in the form of a teacher. Or perhaps another type of personal or professional mentor. A father-in-law, older cousin, friend, or uncle can be like a dad to you.
I told my incredible husband that I wanted to write an entire blog about him. He said absolutely not. His humility is one of the attributes I love most about him. He is both a father and a dad. So as promised, I won’t write an entire piece (yet) about my love. But I cannot publish this post without including a few paragraphs. It would be incomplete like serving a decadent cake that was missing a slice.
My husband is an ethical, loving, loyal, intelligent, and humble man. I am grateful every morning I kiss him hello and every evening when we hug goodnight. My son and daughter, although I doubt they truly get it yet, are beyond blessed to have an extraordinary role model. (I tell them this constantly, which I’m sure is annoying.) But I cannot contain my gratitude for my life’s partner, love, father, and daddy to our children.
Not all of us are born and raised in a nurturing environment. Not all kids have a dad with whom they can share openly and live honestly. Not all people have a dad who is healthy in mind, body, and spirit. I am forever thankful that my husband is a man who loves our children unconditionally. I value and deeply appreciate his significant, positive impact on our family.
Kids and adults can certainly cultivate relationship(s) with others who become like a dad to them. Fostering father figure relationships, like all others, requires continual connection. It may feel vulnerable and frightening. It may be a reminder of what you did not, do not, or never will have. And it will certainly not replace the natural bond of a father/dad and child. I encourage you to open your heart and let others in. It is not easy, especially if you are stuck in the quicksand of traditional parental paradigms.
Rather than wallow in wistful wishing, why not consider how many souls may await you? When we unlock our heart’s protective doors, we may be surprised at who walks through them. My Father’s Day wish for you, no matter where or who you are, is that you cherish the typical father and/or dad relationships. And I hope for you, too, future father-like figures emerge and become unexpected gifts.