Well, look out everyone! I’m here on my soap box again, with some things to say about fathers that might not be all that positive. Not everyone had or has a good father.
In the beginning, my father was an abandoned child – adopted as an infant by a couple in Salem, Oregon. Within two years he was an abandoned child once more, this time by his adopted father, leaving his mother a single woman to raise a boy child. She doted on him, and as she had no other children, he was her ‘everything’.
Fast forward to his marriage to my mother, also an abandoned child – her mother was killed in a car crash when my mother was six years old. She was removed from her mother’s family (it seems that her mother was more of a free spirit than what was acceptable at the time) and went with her brother to live with her father and his mother. Unfortunately, her father was a seaman – career Navy – and was not at home much. So when she married, what did she know about motherhood or fatherhood?
Interestingly, my mother’s mother was also abandoned by her father. After siring six children he left the family. Although I don’t have an anecdotal story to support my supposition, I suspect that my grandmother got married to get out of an uncomfortable situation – she was only 17, and had two babies right away. Then, guess what? Divorce, and little contact between my mother and her father. Well, I see a pattern here.
Now comes me, the oldest of three girls. As I look at my birth from the distance of several decades, I can see that becoming a father, to my father, was what men did, and what expanded their view of themselves, their ego. With a narcissistic personality, my father was pleased to have the focus on him as ‘dad’, although he was disappointed that neither I nor my two sisters were boys. In his final days he told me he gave up on my youngest sister, and that he’d loved me all my life. After he died, and I had the gumption to inquire at the court house, I learned that I and my youngest sister had been cut out of his will, for some behavior he saw in us on a date unremembered. So much for love, here, folks. You see, if you didn’t do what he liked, he cut you off, and out.
When I last saw my father he was proud to tell me he had two sons. My father was a member of the Masonic fraternity and his step-son, and my brother-in-law (husband to the OTHER sister) had become members of that fraternity. Hence, my other sister was not removed from the will. In my view, she inherited only because she had a husband who was a member of the club.
Well, what did I have to work with then, with this heritage? Not much. So not knowing any better, I replicated the pattern, and married a person who was an only child, with a narcissistic personality as well. I’ve apologized to my children for continuing patterns that weren’t helpful for their growth, all-be-it a little too late, as they were older teens at the time.
I divorced after a very long marriage, within which I gave birth to two wonderful, lovely children. A boy and a girl. The boy seems to be the apple of his father’s eye. And the girl – she feels treated like a second-class citizen, a ‘less than’ member of his family. She even changed her name to extricate herself from a connection that is not felt. (Sorry, my dear, I just had to include this part.)
I don’t know what it might have been like to have a different kind of father. I have friends who might say I chose my parents to learn the earthly lessons I needed to learn, that my father was doing the best he knew how. And yes, I know that fathers are human, too. Regardless of these statements, it doesn’t remove the fact of the pain lived through, the disavowal of my ‘am-ness’ in the family. Not all fathers are created equal. Yes, there are great fathers in this world (I think my son is one of them – I don’t know where he got if from…)
I spent 25 years employed as a social worker. I came to understand that I did so out of my own history and my need to heal from my childhood. It’s interesting to me that I spent a lot of years working to separate children permanently from their neglecting and abandoning parents so they could be adopted. Interesting circle, isn’t it?
What I’ve found so frustrating is the abundance of young single mothers with no fathers for their children. What are we, as a society, teaching our children? As women, what are we teaching the men we date, marry, become parents with? This abandonment is a cultural problem. Where do we find our parents?
I told my daughter once that I was glad she found some other motherly women who could fill in for those places where I didn’t know what to do or how to do it. I had ‘holes’ in my knowledge, my perception. Family isn’t necessarily the one you are born into. Let’s find those dads and moms who can meet the needs of the children. When my children were baptized they didn’t have god parents – the members of the congregation became the god parents – a much larger community that could nurture the children in their parents’ absence.
As a culture we’re also caught up in that ‘feel good’ moment, and the expectations we learn are ‘out there’ for how we should behave in honoring our parents. How ’bout let’s getting real? Do we buy into the commercial aspects of this? The pressure to come across for dad – or mom- on a certain day of the year? If we have living parents we love, do we tell them regularly? And what of those kids who feel they must buy the card and/or gift for dad (or mom) because to not do so would mean ‘banishment’? A lot of kids think that they will be loved if they do this – I was a kid like that. It ain’t necessarily so. I remember buying a card (I was an adult) that asked if my father remembered what he did for me. Well, it was a ‘tongue in cheek’ card because I wasn’t thinking of the good things. Yet I bought the card to say “I remember that you are my father.” Sick…When he died, I said, “The king is dead, long live the queen!”
Tomorrow, on Father’s Day, there is a meal being provided here in this park, to those who sign up, for honoring both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Now, I know there might be some logistical reason for this, BUT as I was here at Mother’s Day, I don’t remember hearing anything about a special activity to honor mothers. Does this make mothers ‘second-class citizens’? Or did all the mothers get taken out to dinner on their special day, and the fathers only get a picnic, making THEM the second-class citizen?
Well, in my book, our thinking has just GOT to change!!! Our views of parenting need to change, and our views of children need to change as well. Generational patterns need to be broken, and our awareness expanded regarding the ways we are led like cattle or sheep in our day-to-day lives.
Okay, I’ve stepped off the soap box for a little while.