Who are the father figures you celebrate in your life? Are you celebrating dad today?
As I consider the father figures in my life on this Father’s Day, I feel both grateful and proud.
My own father is an amazing man who I have grown a deeper appreciation for as the years pass. To be honest, he is complicated, much like the rest of us. And our relationship is complicated at times both because of our similarities and differences. We are both deeply passionate and loyal. It just so happens that we are occasionally passionate about opposing ideas. Or at least that is how it has always seemed. And we both can be incredibly stubborn, which has not bode well through portions of history. But with the passage of time, I see the gap between our beliefs shrinking and our shared values becoming more obvious. I feel we are at an ever increasingly good place of give and take which has been a journey of trial and effort.
I remember in my mid-twenties as I was preparing for my own role as a parent that I had a coming to terms with my relationship with my parents. I was attempting to transform into a better, more balanced, and caring person. As part of that transformation, I needed to heal the wounds of my childhood and repair dysfunctions in my relationships with my family. We all have some wounds from childhood and dysfunction in our family dynamics; its a rule, not an exception. As I mentioned in this post, change is both deeply personal and a community affair. Unfortunately, I was still learning this lesson at this age and the dynamics with my father started to go downhill as I changed. So I wrote Dad a letter expressing a need to work things out with him so that we could move forward in a healthier way. I was so scared that he would grow more angry or worse yet ignore my request for time to get together.
However, as he has time and time again over the years, Dad stepped up to the plate. To my stunning surprise, he asked if I wanted to join him on a multi-day road trip from Rhode Island to North Carolina and back. I jumped on the opportunity. Very quickly I found myself locked in a car traveling at high speeds for an extended period with my father talking about the most contentious issues possible; what drove us nuts about each other. There are so many ways that this trip could have gone horribly askew, but it didn’t. Instead, we both listened deeply, heard each other out, and agreed on rules of engagement. We even agreed to the flag system used by referees. In future interactions, if one of us said “that’s a yellow flag,” it was a warning to the other that the first was starting to be pushed too far. A red flag meant the line had been crossed; interaction over and apology due.
Wow! How things changed after that over time to the point where the flags haven’t been thrown in years as we have learned each other’s cues and buttons. I give immense credit to my father, a man well entrenched in his ways by the time of that road trip. He followed through on his commitment and made a conscious effort to change the way he contributed to our interactions. Twenty years later, I look back with such gratitude at that crazy, intense road trip and how it changed the course of our relationship. I see this man, my father, with a heart of gold who has dedicated his life and work to enriching the lives of his wife and kid. Thanks Dad!
So, what does your relationship with your father look like? Comment below! I’d like to hear all shades of your story!
For those of you with deep respect and enduring love for your fathers, I hear you.
For those of you with complicated histories with your fathers, I see you.
For those looking to improve the quality of connection with your fathers, I cheer you.
May it be so!