My relationship with my dad is sort of a strange thing. He's a very angry and harsh man. It was very difficult to be a child around him. We knew we could not please him, we always knew when we disappointed him. We knew not to ask for comfort and to brace ourselves for verbal pummelings. We knew there would never be a word of encouragement given. We knew he had the capacity to do us great harm if we ever pushed too far, not in the healthy respect for an authority figure way but in the cross way over lines of decency way. We could feel it when he'd rough-house with us and we began to get the upper hand. We knew when it had crossed over from fun and games to a serious need for him to make sure we knew who was dominant and to fear him. I didn't realize until I was a parent myself that he must have had some sort of recognition of his ability to inflict pain and that he had actually restrained himself in some ways. It helped me see that there was some shred of affection toward us even if it was only expressed in withholding evil as opposed to blessing us with good. There are some good memories of times with him and for those I am thankful. I have to consciously focus on them.
As an adult I have stood up a handful of times and laid down my boundaries and expectations for how I will or will not tolerate him treating me, my husband and his family, and our children. I've known he could choose to walk away from us when I've done this. Instead he has chosen to respect this. He has also mellowed somewhat with age, which has helped.
I cannot go into detail out of respect for my husband, but suffice it to say he and his family suffered terribly due to his father...in ways you'd expect to see on a soap opera. You probably would not believe me if I told you.
Ok, so I am supposed to be counting the good stuff right? So why am I telling you all of this?
I'm telling you because I am compelled to count the good dads I know and see. I count Mr. Lime because he does love our children and they know he does. He is involved in their lives and goes out of his way for them in many ways. He builds tree houses and steadies wobbly bicycles and plays catch. When he roughhouses he lets the kids win and ends it by rolling on the floor laughing together rather than terrifying them. He may not be perfect but he does immeasurably better than either of our fathers did by us.
I count the male friends I have who hug their children in public, who tell me proudly of the things their kids accomplish, who teach their kids important practical skills and how to relate maturely to the world, who soothe broken hearts and build up rather than tear down, who value the unique individuals each of their kids are.
I count all of you men bloggers who share with such pride, love, tenderness, and humor about your kids that I can feel it leaping out from the screen. And I count those of you who may not be fathers in the technical sense but who I know have nurtured children and helped them grow into healthy adults, those of you who have filled in the gaps for those of us who needed it.
I will count the good memories I do have with my own dad and the good times we can have now.
I am counting all the GOOD dads and men who have meant something good to a child because every act of good fathering I see or hear about is a little piece of healing. Thank you so much and may you each have a Happy Father's Day.