So…Happy Father’s Day! Right? It occurred to me yesterday, Father’s Day, that I had never said those words to my father because he died before I was three. Growing up, Hallmark card holidays had not been hyped to the extent they are now, so thoughts or memories of one’s father did not attach to one particular day. I was the one in a large extended family who did not have a father, but it did not matter then. Also, I was raised in a matriarchal family where the women were the breadwinners, owned the businesses and ran the households with a little help from the help. Our business as children was not to speak until we were spoken to, always be polite to our elders, do not cry, never ask “why?”, and stay out of sight when the elders gather, except at mealtimes. Being on time was a really big thing with punishment attached if we were late. Not big punishment; things like “we had dessert first tonight and you missed it.”
But as I got older, I began to realize the function of a father. He stood up for you; he provided for you; he taught you things like how to drive and how to camp; and above all, he taught you how to size up people and situations. He seemed to know when someone was teasing you, and when they were verbally hurting your feelings. His arms were strong. His hugs felt safe. He knew how to make you laugh, even when you felt like crying. And he showed you all the different ways to love each other. I never quite got the concept of romantic love because I had never seen it in my home. But there was respectful love, brotherly love, love of work, love of learning, love of country, love of God. I saw this through the actions of all the men in my family and the warm way my aunts and grandmother talked about their ‘menfolk.’ And I saw husbands and wives who were each other’s best friends.
It never occurred to me that fathers might not be considered as necessary as mothers are to a family. Who in their right mind would choose NOT to have a father, given that they were good people? And who in their right mind would choose to be a single parent, a single mother? I knew how hard that road was. My mother raised two children in the homes of various relatives, and even though she had a good job and a support group, it was not the same as having a husband and it certainly wasn’t easy.
As advertising and marketing began to mold and shape us far more than family influences, we learned that credit was easy and facilitated our wants. And we were encouraged to “want” any and everything because we were ‘worth it’. The focus of the family slowly turned inward to the children. Whatever WE didn’t have as children, we were determined to give to our children as their “right.” Divas were cute and tantrums were in. Putting one’s self first was not considered selfish, but an art form to be cultivated.
And when the entertainment industry decided in its infinite wisdom to schedule programs that promote and reward people in situations where the wedding is planned and the baby is planned but the father is jettisoned after the stud service is over, well, I decided to write about it.
I researched the topic. (Google the stats on single mothers.) Yes, good men are hard to find. Yes, women are too picky because they base their requirements on tinseltown values. Yes, the hard-working single moms are to be admired, but learning how to grow within the yin and yang of male/female relationships is mainly learned in the day-to-day ebb and flow of family life. Something is lacking in our children when that element is gone. We have failed to prepare them for the outside world.
One of my friends had 3 sons who were young adults. The previous year one of her sons chose to leave the family and set up housekeeping with his girlfriend. That caused a lot of unhappiness, but not to the extent that the latest problem did. The couple had come to my friend and her husband and told them that they were expecting a baby. And they had no plans to get married. My friend, who was happily looking forward to being a grandmother someday, now saw a situation develop where she might not be able to enjoy the situation they proposed.
My advice to her was to write out her problems in a letter to the one who is causing you the problems. Write it out and take as many pages as you want. Use words you can’t say in public or maybe words you can’t even say in the dark. Get it all out. And then put it in a drawer or on a shelf overnight. Re-read the letter. Then distill the essence of the letter into a single sentence. When you are satisfied that this is THE definitive sentence, take the letter outside and burn it. (Just be sure NOT to mail the letter. ) Here is her sentence:
The best thing you can do for that baby you want so much is to love its daddy more than anything else in the world, including yourself.
The takeaway from writing about an emotion-flled topic is to not get caught up in the emotion. That takes mental discipline and if it doesn’t come out right the first time, if it doesn’t say exactly what you want it to say, keep writing and re-writing until it does. Distill your comments until their meaning is so pointed it cannot be missed or misunderstood. Or put it on the shelf. The day will come when you are in control enough that the message can come through you – as the facilitator – loud and clear.