The In-Between Dad

There will be a few of you who read this who have a dad that the greeting cards describe. You know, the perfect dad, the dad who was always there, the dad who supported you, the dad who protected you, the dad who didn’t traumatize you, abandon you, come late into your life, impact your life negatively in some manner or tear your family apart. I think that is amazing if you do. I truly do. But, then there’s the rest of the world and their experience isn’t quite the same.

So, what do you do when it seems the whole world is celebrating and you have nothing to celebrate? I honestly don’t think anything has quite the same impact on a person’s life as a broken or strained or abusive relationship with a father. It is a unique kind of pain and can cause trust and relationship issues enormously. Shame is a huge factor. As a matter of fact, I have no doubt that many of the sentiments you will read this weekend are simply not true. Yet, some people will gush about their wonderful dads and their wonderful memories to make what isn’t so appear so. It brings them comfort to pretend otherwise. I believe in keeping it real. But, that’s me. Maybe that’s you too.

Please don’t misunderstand, there are some wonderful dads and they deserve to be celebrated. Then there are the abusive, mean men who don’t even deserve the title of dad. There are men who have committed crimes and inflicted terrible abuses upon their children. Those dads fall on the extremes of the dad measuring scales. But, then there are the in-between dads. That’s who I’d like to discuss with you for a few moments as we approach Father’s Day weekend.

If you are the child of an in-between dad, you already know that I imagine. You already know all about his faults and his failings. The first thing I’d like you to consider is forgiving him. Forgive him for not being there, saying the wrong things, forgetting important dates, being overbearing or cynical or critical. The beauty of offering forgiveness is you benefit more than the person you are forgiving. Let it go and set yourself free from the heaviness of carrying a grudge all these years.

In-between dads are far from perfect but, they often have a good heart and good intentions. They also often have their own issues and don’t follow through on those good intentions. So, this Father’s day instead of buying him a pair of slacks, how about just cutting him some slack? Here’s one of the fringe benefits of that plan, you’ll find that it’s easier to cut yourself some slack if you do so for him. Let’s face it. Those of us who are parents now ourselves have learned a few things and one of those is that we aren’t perfect parents either. Oh we tried, we intended to do all the things right that our parents did wrong but, well, we tried.

The second thing I would like you to consider is celebrating in earnest by celebrating the good and doing so truthfully. You don’t have to dwell on what he didn’t do right. You can focus on what he did do right. If, as an adult, your relationship with your dad is strained, recall better times and hope for their return. If your relationship now is at a better place than ever before, focus on the now. There are good things, good moments, good to be celebrated.

Never knew your dad? That’s certainly the case sometimes. Then celebrate the other dads in your life. There are many men who step into the shoes of dad when the man who should have worn them left them empty. Perhaps there is a coach, a mentor, an uncle an older brother, a Sunday School teacher or family friend who was like a father to you. And let’s not forget step-fathers, foster-fathers, grandfathers and father-in-laws. For many of us there’s a lot of celebrating to do when we stop and think about it.

For those who will face Father’s Day with grieving hearts you are in my prayers. Some of you may be mourning the loss of a dad. Others may be waiting for their chance to be a father. There are some who are separated by many miles or oceans from dads. Even so, there is love to be celebrated and as for me, I intend to do so.

I will celebrate my own dad who calls me his little girl and likes to discuss the Bible with me. I will celebrate my step-dad who has a huge heart and is generous and giving. I will celebrate the memory of my grandfather who loved me and filled in the shoes of dad many times. I will celebrate the memory of my father-in-law who called me ‘Girl’ and loved my homemade pickles. I will celebrate my husband who father’s my children and is giving them what so many never experience, the joy of having an in-between dad.

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