Today is Father’s Day, and it is probably my least favourite day of the year. My father was, in all honesty, a pretty crappy dad. No, he wasn’t a drug addict, and no, he didn’t abandon me when I was an infant. Yet simply staying married to my mother, going to church every Sunday, and holding down a job did not make him a good father. He thought it did, though. He thought he was a decent father, for the most part, who just made a few mistakes along the way like every other parent. He never saw his abuse as abuse; he saw it as “discipline.” He believed that physically living in the same house as me constituted ‘being there for me.’
As I am not a father, I do not know how to be a good one. However, I do know what a bad one looks like. A bad father will place their own interests before his or her – because not all fathers are male – children’s. S/he will care more about controlling his/her children than loving them. S/he will rather have her/his children do what they are told than learn to be independent, intelligent, free-thinking, productive members of society. S/he will blame his/her mistakes as a father (at least partially) on her/his children. S/he will never truly apologize.
My father was all of those things. He never cared about what I was interested in, but rather wanted me to be interested in what he liked. It took me years to develop my own interests and hobbies. My father cared more about indoctrinating me with his religion than he did about simply raising me to be a kind and healthy person who knew what it was like to be loved and cared for. Even into adult hood, he would insert himself into my life (whether I wanted him to or not) in order to control it. Often under the guise of taking an interest or giving advice. But his interest was always short-lived once he realized he couldn’t manipulate me into doing what he wanted. Not once did he ever support my decision or respect my autonomy. There are also stories of abuse – emotional and physical – but I am not ready to discuss those online.
So why am I talking about how shitty my father was on Father’s Day? Am I bitter and spiteful? I do not think so. Am I angry? Yes, but who wouldn’t be? The reason why I am bringing this up is to show fatherhood has nothing to do with shared DNA, staying with your children’s mother (or other father), indoctrinating your children, controlling them, etc. Being a father is about loving and protecting your kids, and then knowing when to let them be their own person. I hope a few fathers out there will take this to heart; love and acceptance really are the best things you can give your children.