Saturday, June 15, 2013

To My Son on Father's Day

Yes, Isaac, I mean you, even though you are only seventeen, even though you are not a father.  You're a good kid.  For that I am grateful.  It makes me proud when you behave maturely and when people comment on what a considerate, kind, respectful, and hardworking guy you are.  But you are seventeen and you do have your moments.  We all did at that age.  Yes, your father and I did too.

Which brings me to your father.  When he was a little younger than you are now his world was completely rocked, turned upside down in ways that seem inconceivable.  If you saw them on TV you'd laugh at the implausibility, and yet, this was his reality.  You've grown up knowing it was his reality but really only in a theoretical sense.  To you it is just a fact that carries no real emotional weight and that's understandable.  For your father it is the great and overwhelming sadness that colored his world forever.  It destroyed some of the people he should have been able to rely on, leaving him bereft of support when he needed it most.  It damaged him, but it did not destroy him.  That is important for you to understand.  It did not destroy him.  And he did resolve to do better than what was done for him.

You and your dad go head to head sometimes, in ways you never have until recently.  I know this is not unusual for fathers and sons, though please understand I also lacked an example of "normal" and "healthy" where fathers and sons were concerned so sometimes I am unsure of how to respond.  I know you are a sensitive young man.  You are quiet and always thinking, always processing. I know that the conflict is painful.  I know you want things to be better.  Your dad does too and so do I. 

Here is what I want you to know and remember.  Your dad and I both had fathers who let us dangle in detrimental ways as we were growing up...but we both actively sought to be at peace with them, in spite of their imperfections and in some cases, willfully harmful decisions.  We didn't do so by enabling bad decisions from them or being willing to be subjected to continued harm.  We did set some boundaries and we did find ways to forgive and to build something better.  In some cases the response we got was a similar effort.  In other cases, not so much.  Sometimes people can change, sometimes they opt not to.  But we have to be willing to do our part in seeking and creating peace.

You and I have discussed how to make peace.  I am deeply grateful that you trust me when you are feeling hurt.  I have seen you try to put into practice things I have suggested.  I have seen you enjoy some fruit in so doing.  I've also seen bad days when you and your father just continue in stubbornness. 

I know you alternate between despising and being perplexed by some of your father's exhortations.  I admit to being surprised by some of them.  Understand they are sincere because they are hard won lessons he has learned.  Some of these lessons are recent to him and so you are inclined to judge him as hypocritical because it's not what you grew up seeing demonstrated before you.  He is trying very hard to pass those lessons on to you now because he realizes the mistakes he has made in the past. 

On this Father's Day I want to encourage you.  I want to remind you he loves you and wants a relationship with you even if his way of expressing it is clumsy. He has worked hard to redeem the name his own father besmirched so you need not be ashamed of it the way he has been.  He has given to you things he himself never received.  Your dad has already chosen to do better by you than his dad did by him in a myriad of ways. 

11 comments:

Bijoux said...

Men.....and they think we're complex! I think many of us would like to express some of the thoughts you have written here to our own sons, that despite outward appearances, their Dads really do try their best and have good intentions.

(not necessarily your) Uncle Skip, said...

Thank you!

Stephen Hayes said...

A wonderful, heartfelt post. I read it twice. Thanks.

Craig said...

Thanks for this, Lime. All us dads are well aware of the tension between the love we hold for our kids in our hearts, and our own all-too-evident sinful human nature. . .

And God bless yer hubs. It's a good man who's willing to do the work to do better than he was done by. . .

Leave It To Davis said...

What a lovely letter to your son.

Because of what I have witnessed in my own house, I predict 6 years from now, there will be complete turn around....and they will be best pals. My older son and hubby used to butt heads, but now, my older son has such great respect for his dad and comes to him for answers. It just took time and some life lessons for both. :) You just make sure you're still around to witness this. Hugs.

Daryl said...

that is so beautiful so straight from the heart

Logophile said...

wow
well-said.

Kat said...

This is such a beautiful post. What a wonderful mama you are to help that relationship along so.

Fathers and sons are so complicated. From my past posts about my father you may think he was a saintly man, but that is not the case. He had a very tough life, no relationship with his own father, and I suspect he had issues with depression. But he tried his best. He showed he loved us. He made mistakes, as all people do, and I understood my father and loved him for who he was. Two of my brothers had a much harder time accepting that my dad was not a perfect person. And for years they were not close. I'm thankful they were able to get closer as years went on, but I think that if kids could just try to see their parents as people it would be so much easier to get along. Kids sometimes think parents have all the answers and are supposed to be perfect.
I love this post. It is honest and loving. It exposes you and your husband to your son to allow him to relate to you and be closer to you. That's love. :)

Beach Bum said...

This was an awesome post. All seventeen years old kids should read it.

Maria said...

I love your honesty and true faith that your son is up to being on the receiving end of it. You honor him as well as his Father.

Hilary said...

Your children are destined for success because both of their parents do the work required to turn out fine adults. Beautiful post, Michelle.