Sunday, June 19, 2016

Father's Day - The Complicated Holiday

We were talking tonight about Father's Day, my wife and I. She's taught 3rd and 4th grade for many years. Each year she scans the fresh young faces sitting before her, doing a quick assessment of their home situation each Mother's Day and Father's Day. Is there a Mom at home? Is Dad in the kids' lives? A proactive measure before doing anything as reckless as making a card or a gift for the holiday. Not everyone has an active, present, or alive Mom or Dad. If it's too complicated for even one child, she'll skip making the cards or gift.

There was only one year in all her years of teaching that Mother's Day had to be shelved so as to not bring attention to the fact that a child's Mother was far from "Best Mom in the World" material. Only one year. In fact, some kids have had to make two cards for their two Moms who are their parents.

But Father's Day? I hate to say it guys, but our gender isn't representing so well. It's a lot easier for a man to walk away in one form or another.

She looks over her class each year and sees the ghosts of men that some families have for a father. There's the drunks; the missing in action fathers; the inactive ones; the ones in horrific, hateful battles with the mother; the dads who have a restraining order on them and are court-ordered to stay away from the family -- and the men who don't need a court order to stay away because they left long ago on their own.

There was the year that a child's father, who was also a heroin addict, overdosed right before Father's Day. The boy was told by family that he died from taking too many vitamins. Oh, the stories we tell ourselves and our children to explain the men who've disappeared. It's complicated.

She said to me tonight: "Thankfully Father's Day comes the last week of school and there's so much else going on that we can ignore it entirely. It's too complicated for too many kids in class."

There hasn't been one Father's Day in all her years with 8 & 9 yr olds that she could look out over her class of kids and naively take them down a warm and fuzzy path that would lead to their fathers. That path is too riddled with landmines for far too many.

It's too easy for men to 'hit and run' - leave some sperm and carry on without looking back or forward, hitting the door running, escaping - leaving their sperm donation and children behind. They make us look really bad, fellas.

Of course there's some very good Dads out there, too, and today we honor them. Many of them will get a bit of recognition - a favorite breakfast, a card, a hug, a day off... But the Fathers who deserve that recognition? They don't need any of that; it's not about what recognition they'll get. For them, it will be another day of giving just like every other day, filled with the daily sacrifices it takes to earn that title of Father.

So, for you men who have earned that title of Father, the faulty, imperfect, very human men teaching their kids by example how to rise above our collective brokenness, still trying your damnedest every day to simply show up and be present - We salute you. We recognize you. This is for you, your kids, and our future: Michael Franti singing 'Forever By Your Side" -- Yes, indeed. 

Recognition also to the Grandfathers, Uncles and Other Men who step in when a Father is absent. It's all about the love and making a little patch of this earth and our human family better.

Happy Father's Day, gentlemen. You know who you are.

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