Sunday, June 21, 2015

For Fathers

Mother's Day in the United States marks when the most flowers are sent. Father's Day is when the most collect calls are made. --Garrison Keillor

Depictions of fathers in traditional advertising are predictable and pathetic. A bumbling, rumpled man comes home from the store with nothing from his wife's list. He tries to use teenage slang, badly. To their credit, marketing departments recognize that women make 85% of household purchases, but it bothers me to see this persistent depiction in the face of abundant evidence in my own life to the contrary. (A great ad that swims against the current can be found here.)

Mother's Day means putting moms on a pedestal for one day. How we treat them the rest of the year is another story.

Father's Day, though, is a conflicted Hallmark moment. Each year, I read articles about fathers who withhold love and time, who choose golf over birthday parties, who leave wives and children to find themselves or to indulge in whatever they please. I am glad that people can be honest about their disappointments. My hope is that the dads who do the best they can are honored.

Through my love, friendships and work, I have seen a great many engaged, dedicated fathers. They spend time with their children, delight in them, and support them in ways far beyond financial. In some cases their time is split, whether through work or divorce, but they make the most of it and savor precious moments. I have seen my partner, T, and his daughter engage in a most wonderful and close relationship in her adulthood. Seeing them together makes me very happy.

My own dad has taught me many things. Like the caricatures on television, he didn't do so well when he had to cook when my mom was ill or away, which she very rarely was. But from the time I was very young we talked at length, and still do often, about what matters. When I was an adolescent, he gave me a sense that my opinions and drive were positives, even as I developed the sense that the world didn't necessarily appreciate outspoken women. He showed me by example how work could bring purpose to one's life and even improve a community. Best of all, he's made it clear he adores me for exactly who I am. I try to do the same with my own children.

One of my favorite pictures is of my baby daughter after her first bath at home. Her dad is holding her, and the happiness on his face is a sight to behold. He is talking to her, and in her sweet newborn eyes I see the beginnings of deep trust. Despite our differences, I know his love has prevailed in all he has done for her and her brother. Our children at this writing are happy and safe. They are a reminder to me that no parent, mother or father, has to be perfect. We just have to show up. Happy Father's Day.

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