Father’s Day – A Day of Reflection and Thanks
Today is Father’s Day. I have been spending the weekend alone because my kids went to D.C. to visit their Dad for Father’s Day. The quietness around me has given me pause to do a lot of reflection and wool gathering.
My kids didn’t see their Dad a lot when they were growing up. We divorced when they were four and two years old. For reasons not necessary to discuss here, there was little or no contact. I am sure that as much as I tried not to ever talk about him in a negative way, I did slip up at times. However, for the most part, I tried to refrain. At times throughout their childhood, there were questions and the never ending hope we would get back together. Of course this is probably what most kids of divorce hang onto as they grow up without a Dad [or a Mon] in the home.
When they were about twelve and ten, I found out they were trying to call their Dad from friends’ houses. So I allowed them to call from home as long as the calls were kept appropriate. As they approached their eighteenth birthday, I encouraged them to have contact with their Dad. I also cautioned them that once the “honeymoon period” was over, issues would come up that would strain their new relationship.
I suggested they make two lists, one with things he did that upset them, the other with all the positive things he did. Then I told them to put the negative list to one side and focus on the positive list. I don’t know that they actually made the lists; but, I think my idea did help them build on the present without the past bogging them down.
At times issues came up about me. I advised them to tell their Dad they were there to visit him, not talk about me. I also advised them to address issues as they came up and not let them ride and get out of proportion. However, I also told them that at all times they should use respect as they did this. Slowly over time, my kids have built a nice relationship with their Dad.
He may not have been there for them when they were kids growing up. There were reasons. Irregardless, he is still their Dad. They owed it to themselves if nothing else to have this chance to build a relationship with him. They have had their little issues. But, mostly, they have built a nice relationship with their Dad. It has been hard at times for me give up, so to speak, that part of their time and lives they now share with him.
But I am very thankful to God that I handled things as I did. I chose to put aside bitterness and anger and instead allow my kids an opportunity many kids never get, a second chance for a relationship with their Dad. It was not an easy thing to do; but, it was the right thing to do!
Why did I work so hard to help my kids build a relationship with their Dad? I guess, truthfully, I would say there were several reasons. The obvious one is they deserved this opportunity. Both my parents were from broken, dysfunctional homes. They both worked very hard to give us a home with two loving parents. I won’t say things were always great because they weren’t. We had our share of crisis’. But, we always knew we were loved. There was structure, discipline, two parents who loved us, food to eat, and a decent home.
We were taught manners and good morals. We were taught about choices, consequences, and self-respect. We learned that hard work was important. Though we didn’t go to Church, we were taught about God and the Bible. We also were taught to respect our Country, respect the Flag, and to say the Pledge of Allegiance. I wanted to teach my kids these same ideals.
I also saw how much my parents both missed because they never had their Dads around much and in my Mom’s case, her Mom was also not around. But, I also realized that this was not just about me and what I felt. It was about the kids and what was best for them.
Few people get second chances with their parents. Sometimes, a person does get that chance and doesn’t pursue it. One of the hardest lessons to learn in life has to do with forgiveness. It is also one of the hardest things to put into practice. Once our Mom or Dad is gone, it is too late. In some cases, it is best to leave things as they are. But, on the whole I think that is not the case.
One of my biggest regrets is never telling my Dad I loved him and having him tell me the same. We both knew we loved each other; but, feelings were not easily discussed. Now I tell my Mom openly I love her and she has learned to say the words too. My kids Dad always tells them in his cards and letters to them. If I am not mistaken, he tells them out right too.
On this day of celebrating our Fathers, have you taken time to tell your Dad, “I love you?” Have you encouraged your kids to do likewise? If you and Dad are no longer married, have you put aside your feelings and allowed your kids to build their relationship with their Dad? [whenever possible] If there are no extenuating circumstances that prohibit doing so, please rethink your reasons and allow them this chance with their Dad [or Mom].
In closing, I am not some wise person who just came up with all of this by myself. There are probably even better ways to handle similar situations as we experienced. The most important thing is to remember parents may get divorced but the kids still love both parents. I am so glad I was able to give this gift to my kids. When they come home from a visit I know I did the right thing.
Dad, you may not be with me in person; but, your spirit and all you gave me is always with me. Happy Father’s Day. I love you!