Once upon a father…

Father’s Day blows. Growing up without a father I hated the sappy stories, themed songs and anything presented by Hallmark that proliferated as Father’s Day approached.

Fathers, I was told, are the rock upon which the family rises above the floodwaters of life.  It is his strength – moral, emotional and physical – which keeps the world turning.  Anyone growing up without a father was to be pitied.

I used to actually believe that crap.  I was certain that my fatherless childhood would render me unable to make my way in the world.  Who would teach me to throw, ride a bike, make a campfire, fix a flat?  I came to accept that I wouldn’t know how I was supposed to be treated by men because I didn’t have the example of a father caring for and fussing over “his little princess.”  That I would be preyed upon because there was no shotgun wielding father to tell those evil boys not to mess with his daughter, was a given.

I went out into the world certain that I was damaged goods, and perhaps I was.  Not by the absence of a testosterone driven parent but by the father-centric propaganda I’d been fed.

I was determined not to perpetuate the cycle.  Thus when I realized, five years into my marriage and three months into my daughter’s life, that I’d made a huge mistake, I didn’t pack up and leave.  I was determined that she would grow up with a father in her life.  I convinced myself that to do otherwise would be to straddle her with the same handicap with which I’d grown up.

Instead I weighed her down with a different burden.  She wasn’t lacking a father but she was lacking all that I thought a father should have offered to her.  He made no effort to establish a relationship with her when she was young.  He was impatient and often lost his temper if not at her then around her.  He was hypocritical, using as his excuse the outdated “do as I say not as I do.”  He broke promises.  He burned bridges.  Her expectations of men are so diminished by the example of her own father that she might be worse off than if she’d never had one.

I’ve realized that nine out of ten fathers don’t measure up to the fairy tale picture of fatherhood perpetuated most likely by men who have neglected their duties and abandoned their children to be raised by women.

If you are that one in ten – congratulations!  If you’re married to or fathered by that one in ten – bravo!  I have no hope for the other nine.

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