Ah, Fathers Day. This can be a…loaded… 24 hours for a lot of us; it becomes a time of reflection. Whether you absolutely love your dad, hate him, or don’t even know him, that third Sunday in June can strike a nerve, nonetheless.
I’ve spent a lot of my life recovering from my first heartbreak: my father. My dad and I have had the highest of highs and the lowest of lows in our relationship; there’s times when I saw him everyday, and there’s been YEARS when we went without speaking. Sometimes, I almost preferred he stayed absent because I couldn’t handle the confusion of the inconsistency.
For a while, I was so angry–I didn’t want any part of a man who, I felt, abandoned their child. It took some serious growth, candor, forgiveness, and my moving 3,000 miles away to even get even remotely interested in repairing what was broken.
Through everything, I cannot deny the lessons I’ve learned from him, because of (or in spite of) his role in my life. The lessons from my experience have not come without struggle but each year, I find more healing than I had prior.
Despite having years without him, he left a great impression on my life that included some life lessons.
Both lighthearted and serious, they are something I hold fast to in my adult life. With the help of a few other daughters, here are some lessons we’ve learned because of [our] father(s):
Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.
This is one of my favorites because it’s basically how I live my life. I believe that how we react to failure is everything; though we always want to receive the best possible outcome in any situation, it’s best to keep in mind that everything does not always go your way…and that’s fine. I try to always have a plan B, C, etc. if plan A ends up failing.
My name is Bennett and I ain’t in it.
As corny as it is, I’ve learned to mind my business over the years. This was one of my dad’s favorite lines especially when it came to my mom bogging him down with unnecessary information. He just didn’t care if it didn’t involve him and I’ve learned to live my life this way.
We all get wrapped up in ridiculous drama sometimes but it’s important to remember if it doesn’t directly affect you it has no place in your life.
Sometimes apologies don’t come when wanted (and sometimes not at all).
Do not be bitter because of this. Many times, we trick ourselves into believing that an apology will bring closure, or even better, begin to mend whatever pain inflicted.
Though accountability is ideal, it is not exactly necessary for you to move on; forgiveness doesn’t always require an apology, since it is more for ourselves than others.
Never let your wants exceed your needs.
Being the baby of my siblings, and the only girl, afforded me more than most. I was pretty spoiled to say the least, but within reason. Whenever I asked to have something unnecessary, I was hit with another one of my pop’s favorite lines.
As I got older, I realized the importance and impact of this statement, especially in today’s society where one’s status and importance are based on material items and superficiality. (Don’t get me wrong) I indulge as much as the next person, but I do keep in mind that not every “want” is needed.
Love Isn’t Enough.
Love is patient, kind, and all of those wonderful things, but, ‘all we need’?? It has never been that.
I never doubted for a second that my father loved me, but it wasn’t enough to remedy the pain and confusion caused by his absence. I didn’t feel my father’s love when I needed it most; what’s the point in knowing you are loved if you don’t feel it? Love is intangible and, can feel, pretty empty.
I treat love as a supplement to things like trust, communication, and respect to all of my relationships, not just with my father, because these things are how we can demonstrate love.
I do not know how to forgive.
This may be the most important lesson of all. For so long, I lied to myself, saying that I had forgiven my father when really, I hadn’t, and I didn’t know how to begin that process.(I’ve often used the “out of sight, out of mind” solution to this problem). But when I finally encountered him, I discovered pieces of the broken little girl still inside of me.
I’ve made it a priority to forgive him–forgive him for not being there, for missing birthdays, for never calling, for empty promises, for lying, for not caring enough about us or himself.
With forgiving him, I must also forgive myself.
I must forgive me for rejecting true self love, for seeking attention that I longed for from my father, for falling for broken men and trying to piece them back together, for wanting to be loved so desperately that I lost who I was, for hurting him, others, and myself.
For many of us, our 20s are the first time we acknowledge how our familial dynamic affects who (and how) we are today. I am thankful that I was able to find lessons and growth in such a difficult situation. My hope is that this helps others realize that, though times and relationships may get tough and confusing, you can still find clarity and valuable lessons.