Today is Father’s Day and as someone who enjoys a close relationship with her father I did what countless others did: I went and selected a small gift and greeting card which I will give to my dad when we see one another late this afternoon.
I realize that not everyone is close with their fathers. I have always known this in the abstract. I have had friends and even been in relationships with people who were not in contact with their dads. I understood this was the case, but didn’t know how that could happen.
I still don’t. I still speak from the priveleged position of someone whose parents are still happily and functionally married and who are her biggest supporters. My work has introduced me to another view than I had previously, however.
Before I knew only the children of the broken relationships. These were the children of the fathers who were absent. As such it was both easy and incorrect to place all of the blame at the feet of these men – when people are characters rather than individuals it is all too easy to ascribe to them any number of motives and behaviors. When you know people it’s not so easy – this is why we put primacy on relationship above all else in my work. The individuals that are part of my community, though many of them are currently without permanent houses, are not “homeless people.” They are my friends and it just so happens that they are currently experiencing homelessness. A large number of my adult male friends are fathers to children now estranged from them.
In the previous paragraph I used the word “blame.” I don’t know this is the best word to use, particularly if you are an outsider looking in on these dynamics. Because I am simply a person looking in; a friend that carries the burdens of my friends as they carry mine for me, I will use the word “hurt.”
I have a father to celebrate Father’s Day with. There is no hurt on either end of our relationship.
I know personally many men who wish their children would call them today. I know many men who do not know where there children are; who have not seen them in years. I know that it hurts them deeply that it is not otherwise.
I wish I had been aware of my own tendency to categorize men into “good dads” and “bad dads.” Things are not so simple. As you are celebrating Father’s Day today (or not) be sensitive not only to the feelings of those estranged from their fathers, which I think we do an ok job at, but also to the feelings of those fathers themselves.