Fathers’ Day. My dad always said it was an excuse for the gift industry to make money. He refused point blank to celebrate or be celebrated. For a gregarious, friendly man this always seemed out of character to me. And yet, traditionally, a ‘father’ is meant to just be there, the bread-winner, the strong but silent one, the patriarch. Perhaps my dad never expected to be thanked for doing the basics of feeding and protecting his family.
It’s a bit more complicated these days. We’re allowed to say if our fathers have let us down, or been emotionally unavailable, or in worst cases, abusive. Being a parent of either gender isn’t a free pass to respect and love. The pressure is on for contemporary fathers and mothers – to let kids be heard as well as seen, to achieve that elusive accolade: ‘good enough’.
What I do know, from having a father, making someone a father, and having many dear friends who are also fathers, is that our fathers are really important. Whether for good or ill, our father’s influence on us is profound, whether he was absent, or kindly, or strict, or generous. How our father related to us in the crucible of our early childhood plays a huge part in shaping our habitual ways of relating in later life.
As a woman and a mother I don’t really know what it’s like to be a dad. But I would have liked to have given my dad a fathers’ day card. Not because he was the world’s best dad, but because I’m like I am because he was like he was and he was the only dad I had.