Father’s Day is just around the corner and it comes with a mixed bag of emotions, memories and expectations. Many have fond recollections of their dad, yet in some it recalls disappointment, fear and sadness. This is one of those cultural sensitivities that we have been warned about.
But what about those dads? The ones who didn’t live up to the many faces of being a great dads? The dads that lost their cool, crossed the line and in too many cases, abandoned their kids? What emotions do you suppose are coming to the surface in those men who, in their hearts, know they fell short. The ones that missed out on watching their own flesh and blood grow into adults… do you suppose Father’s Day is a celebration for them?
Let’s be clear, NO ONE condones abandoning, abusing or neglecting kids. But what happened? How did it come that separating from your own flesh and blood became a solution? What triggers a dad to become what our culture calls a “dead-beat dad”?
Being a parent is not an easy task, agreed? And for most of us, parenting is something we assume is “inborn”, like somewhere in our brain are the skills, gifts and knowledge to be a great parent, which just open up at childbirth. Or perhaps it’s a role we learn from the “modeling” we received as a child. Or a combo. Let’s face it… as a culture, the skills to parent are not well handed-down. This isn’t an indictment, just an observation. If we are honest, we become parents with a stark reality – “I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M DOING” and it’s most pronounced in men. Did you ever get that feeling as a parent?
If this is true, perhaps it’s time to look at some opportunities to not repeat the past and maybe even smooth out the present. Here’s what we’ve learned about men over the years – they like to be in control of situations. Becoming a parent and suddenly realizing you have no clue often leaves two options: fight or flight! We’re not making excuses… it’s how we are wired when we are faced with stress. Labeling a dad who (if he were honest) was completely overwhelmed in his new role, as a “dead-beat” just reinforces and deepens the fight or flight state. The behaviors that follow are not ok by any means, but understanding what is happening – a massive dose of overwhelm, combined with a inner sense of failure/remorse/regret… well, these aren’t great conditions to nurture a Dad of the Year.
1) FORGIVE. Let your dad know, no matter what, that you understand the role of a parent is massive and many dads are overwhelmed. If he fell short in some way, let him know you forgive him. Work to rebuild and allow for growth (not more fight/flight). Obviously, there are some case where inappropriate behaviors/actions are beyond tolerable and distance should remain.
2) GRATITUDE. You had a “good dad” but there were some facets that could have been better. Remind your dad of the ways he was a Dad of the Year… he knows where he wasn’t. Celebrate the good stuff.
3) FIND A GREAT ROLE MODEL. If you are a DAD with kiddos in your nest, find a dad who you look up to. Ask him for guidance, mentorship and advice. Men love independence, but here are times we need help. For the sake of your kids, reach out and find a model dad to “father” you!