Many years ago, my father had a small brain tumor near his temple which was discovered when he had a seizure in his living room, kicking over the coffee table and scaring my mother half to death.      The day before the surgery to remove it, I spent several hours sitting by his bedside, talking with him about life.    Talking about life was not a common occurrence with Dad but the outcome of the surgery was uncertain, so we were visiting the unexplored territory of my childhood through his eyes.    He was telling me how impatient he was with me when I was little and that he didn’t know how I survived some of the things he said to me.   Truthfully, I didn’t remember the events he was describing and I distinctly remember telling him, I have no complaints about your parenting.  And it was true because I always knew he loved me.

My point is this: I know a lot of men.   I know a lot of men in an environment where we reveal more about ourselves than men usually do in the company of men.  I know that there are many who didn’t know they were loved by dear old Dad or hear those magic words, I’m proud of you, son.  And for all the talk about Father Wounds inflicted on boys by fathers who are absent, uninterested or abusive, there’s another kind of Father Wound that’s even more prevalent, one that fathers inflict on themselves when they look back on their own fatherhood and find it wanting.  Like my Dad, we look back on times we wish we’d acted differently.  Or look at our kids lives and wonder how we could have guided them differently.  Let’s face it, most men face fatherhood in their arrogant years, before life has worn off their self-protective armor and made them teachable.   I think I learned most of the things I wish I’d taught my children after my fiftieth birthday, when they were pretty much grown.  How could I teach them what I didn’t know yet?

For those of us who doubt our own adequacy as fathers, Father’s Day can feel like salt in the wounds of our own self-doubt.  We know we did the best we could, but as men, we’re results oriented and as fathers, our results are our kids.  We smile bravely when we read You’re the Best Father in the World … or even To My Wonderful Father … on our Father’s Day Card but what we really want to hear is, I really appreciate what you’ve done for me … and everything you tried to do.  I’ve always known you love me.  I love you.

Is that too much to ask?

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4 Comments on “Dads”

  1. Wolfbernz Says:

    Hi Bud

    Happy Fathers day.

  2. Cheryl P. Says:

    As always, you bring up such interesting points. My father had major regrets and confessions of remorse on his death bed but by that time I had put some things behind me anyway. Still I suspect that my childhood, left me as a bit of a loss as how to be a great parent. My kids assure me that I did it right but I think your last paragraph could be applied to both Mothers and Fathers.

  3. Lovely to get such a perspective. It makes me wonder what things my father wishes he had done differently when we were young. I hope you had a happy day of joy untinged by uncertainty.

  4. Jeni Hill Ertmer Says:

    I think the same happens to women too on Mother’s Day when your kids give you these sweet, syrupy cards extolling your virtues and you think back about all the not-so-great things you did when they were in their formative years. (Oh, who am I trying to kid -my kids, ages now 45,almost 39 and 36, are STILL in their formative years!) But a cousin of mine -three days my junior -and I were close growing up, then due to geographic issues, grew apart for many years but with the computer, e-mail and instant messenger, came back together in a sense about 12 years ago. We spent a lot of hours online, chatting, about our childhoods, our teen years, our parents -his dad and my mom were siblings -and how we perceived our parents then to how we view them now, long after they passed on. We both felt our parents loved us and that on some level, we recognized that back then but probably due to the way they were raised, they weren’t prone to hugs and such and definitely not parents who paid any praise at all on us! As such, I know I tried to change that aspect with my own kids but sometimes, things are so ingrained it’s really difficult to master that! My kids are still trying to build and keep a decent relationship now with their dad who was absent completely during their youth and thankfully, in his own way, he is also trying to reciprocate but for him, it’s really difficult to acknowledge the role he played (or didn’t) back then but he does try from time to time now to reach out and tell the kids he has a great deal of pride in them today.Old habits do die very hard, ya know.

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