Facing Father’s Day.

Father’s Day has always been a difficult day for me.  My relationship with my own father has gone through many different phases and ups and downs.  I have fond memories of my early years of childhood – family vacations, Saturdays where we all spent the whole day in the yard, movie nights, and more.

When I was 15 my parents got divorced and my dad left, and overnight my life became unrecognizable.  What followed in the next few years was private, painful, and damaging.  While I have tried hard to find a way to hold onto the pleasant memories of the first 15 years of my life, sometimes emotions are too fragile, and forgiveness just doesn’t feel possible.  I hope that someday that changes.

The concept of a father has been one that has felt very uncomfortable to me.  For years and years I have dreaded and avoided any sort of event that centers around dads – father’s day, father daughter dances, card and gift displays at holidays.

I hate that any time there is a celebration of joy in my life, there is also an accompanying moment of sadness.  I hate that I even allow myself to feel it.  My graduation day, my wedding day, the day I found out I was pregnant.  While I have worked very hard, particularly in recent years, to move beyond the anger and resentment, it is hard to find true and final acceptance.

The first few weeks of pregnancy brought a huge roller coaster of emotions to our house.  In addition to the expected feelings of excitement, anticipation, and worry, I was dealing with one more – revisiting the long-buried concept of fathering and what that truly means.

I can remember one night in particular driving home after a late movie with Casey.  I found myself sitting in the passenger seat with fat tears rolling down my cheeks, and heavy sobs coming from my chest.  It was the same day we had (unexpectedly) found out we were having a baby boy.

I don’t know why this information was so significant to me, but I knew that I felt relieved.  For weeks leading up to that I had been thinking about what it would be like for us to have a little girl.  A little girl that felt loved and safe with Casey as her father.  I know that the relationship between fathers and sons, while different, is just as important.  But for me, confronting thoughts about dad and daughters was just something I simply wasn’t ready to do.

The greatest gift I will give my kids will not be the shiny new crib, the home-cooked meals, or the safe roof over their heads.  It will be the absolutely unparalleled love of their parents, and a dad in particular who would do anything for his kids.  

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I sat in the nursery a few nights ago watching Casey assemble his baby’s crib, and finally, instead of feeling sad for my own losses of a father figure, I felt overwhelmed with gratitude and excitement for what lies ahead for our new family.  My kids will never feel that same loss.  They will only ever feel loved, and safe, and protected.  This little guy isn’t even here yet, and already he is the center of our world.

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And so today, for the first Father’s Day in a very long time, I don’t feel the need for resentment or avoidance.  Casey fills the image of a father now, and the redefined version of a dad that I subconsciously searched for for years and years, finally feels like it has fallen into place.

Happy (almost) Father’s Day, Casey! Thank you for bringing life back into a holiday that deserves to be celebrated.

I have no doubt that the first time I see him hold our baby will be one of the more emotional experience of my life.  But I can look forward to it knowing that the emotion will not be sadness, but rather pure joy.