Sunday is Father’s Day and there will be those who will spend a great day with their fathers. Maybe they’ll be a card with a sailboat on it and a present of tickets to a sporting event or of course, the old stand-by of a tie. Maybe there will even be barbecue to honor the family Grill Master.
But as with any holiday, we tend to think only of the uncomplicated way the day can go. The Christmas with lots of family. The Ramadan free of anti-Muslim rhetoric. And the Mother’s Day and Father’s Day with the present parent and the tender, loving relationship.
I recently saw my younger cousin graduate from high school and her father was moved to tears at her graduation party. He talked about how having a daughter had changed him in ways having a son had not. He said that she is someone he’s had deeper conversations with than he has with a lot of people. He said he was going to miss her so much when she goes away to college.
My sister and cousin and I marveled at how self-assured our young cousin was, more comfortable in her own skin than any of us felt at 17, than any of us sometimes still feel! After her father talked about their relationship, my sister said, “Maybe that’s the reason why.”
We see ourselves reflected in the eyes of both of our parents, but for girls, how her father sees her can carry its own weight. Our fathers teach us how a man might one day treat us and he is (for better or worse) often our model for a future partner.
In my own relationship, I can see how I chose based on my father. A partner who is deeply intelligent, passionate, with a keen sense of right and wrong. And also a partner who like my father doesn’t like to say where he’s going when he leaves the house.
Over the years, I’ve had girlfriends who were bona-fide Daddy’s Girls. They would do anything for their fathers and he for them. I’ve also had girlfriends who were Daddy-less, who never met their fathers until they were grown women or who barely saw their fathers after their parents divorced. And then, there’s those of us, like me, who are somewhere in the middle, who love and value their father…and also know that love can be complicated.
It all feels so simple when we’re little girls, a father who swings us around while we laugh and smile. The father who tells us that we are both pretty and smart. The father who proudly tells everyone that we are his daughter.
And then we get older and all the ways we were loved and all the ways we weren’t take on lives of their own, shaping our view of ourselves and our view of those who love us.
My love for my father may never be uncomplicated and on Father’s Day maybe your love won’t be either. Adulthood is realizing that nothing is as simple as when you were a child.
But on Sunday, I hope you’ll enjoy whatever love you do have, from a father, a father figure, or a mother who was both.
Have a love-filled Father’s Day.