Thursday, March 22, 2007
Why I Hate Father's Day
Note: This is a post I wrote on my main blog last Father's Day. There are a few from there that I would like to post here, then I plan on writing new work. I am glad to be on this blog. If you've ever read The Wounded Healer, you'll know that we are in a spiritual crisis because we live in a fatherless society, even among those men who try to be dads and don't know how.
Today is Father's Day, but I find that I am not thinking about my dad. Instead, I am focused on the results of bad parenting. I've never been fond of celebrating this Hallmark created day; I had conflicts with my father most of my life, and I resented that my religion told me to honor him when it was clear than he had no respect for me in turn. Thus, I began a lifelong hatred of hypocrisy in any form.
As some of you know, I made my peace with my father a year before his death. After he died, I found I wanted to learn about the man I never knew. Through conversations and emails with my aunt, stepmother and brother, I was able to piece together the part of his life that I never knew. It helped me to understand why he was such a terrible father, and why I needed to forgive him. Through my journey into my father's memory, I am learning the hard work of redemption and grace: the sins of the father will be passed onto the children and grandchildren unless we discover the path to forgiving our parents.
My dad grew up dirt poor in Chicago. His mother married at age 16; she was wild and promiscuous, a disgrace to her parents and sisters--she married to get out of the house. Her husband was a drunk who beat her regularly and never had any money. By the time she was 22, she had two children she couldn't afford to raise, nor did she know a thing about parenting.
My father went through 14 foster homes. He was brilliant, intense and loving, but he had a violent temper that often got him kicked out of these places. His sister was more agreeable, so she didn't have to move around as much, but they rarely lived together. He adored his mother, but hated his father. I remember as a child when my grandfather died: that moment began the decline in my dad's mental health: he became addicted to drugs and repeated the same behavior with my mother that he saw in his own father. All of my siblings grew up conflicted and twisted because we couldn't reconcile our feelings for this difficult man.
I write this with tears in my eyes because I now know that forgiveness is not enough. The pattern of addiction that began with my grandfather came to my father, then his children and now I see it in my nieces. But it goes further than a destructive habit; it means that the hatred that keeps us feeling self-righteous and invincible soon will visit itself on the children we parent. I am working very hard to ensure that my son will not endure any of this; it is my daily prayer. I see first-hand how one of my nieces has been damaged because her mother cannot face our legacy of abuse, addiction and hatred. For her, it is easier to ignore it and blame others for her problems. Even when our parents die, they still live inside us. I have learned to embrace my father because it was the only way I was ever going to free myself to be a good mother to my son. I still have a long way to go.
So many parents think they can cure their children's ills through money, therapy, better schools, material objects, trips to Europe--you name it. I am not in a financial position to provide my son with most of these things. But my husband and I agree on one thing: our child must know unconditional love. He must see two parents who love each other and face up to their own demons so that he will not inherit those traits as his lifelong legacy.
I write this thinking of my niece who is becoming a daughter to me. Can I help her break the cycle of dysfunctional patterns that became her identity because it was the only thing her mother knew? Am I strong enough? Will my husband, who had to wrestle with the memory of his alcoholic father, find a way to continue to be a healthy male figure in a world devoid of fatherhood? What is Father's Day to most people but a card and an unwanted gift? Why can't we dump these stupid holidays? All year long, it should be Children's Day, and we fathers and mothers must fight the past in order to redeem their future.
Posted by Enemy of the Republic at 10:03 PM