Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Losing the Dad of the Year Award

With Father’s Day approaching, I want to point out that this day for dads does not just have to be for the awesome men who are there for their kids every second of the day. While I applaud these dads, I just want to recognize the dads who get blamed for never being around (but who want to be); the dads who don’t think they deserve their children’s time; the dads who think they aren’t worthy of the title “Dad”. While I believe that these dads should work harder to be around more for their children, I give these guys a lot of credit. It’s not easy being that kind of Dad. I’ve watched it firsthand, and although it’s simple for everyone to call these men “dead beat parents”, that really isn’t the case at all-at least not in my home.

On Father’s Day, a few years ago, my fiancé was getting ready to meet his girls for lunch. As he was leaving, he looked at me with sad eyes and said, “I feel bad to make them give up their day for me. They probably feel obligated to be with me today.” In that moment, my heart broke for him. He wasn’t making an excuse; he really did want to see them. But he truly felt that because he wasn’t around in their lives growing up, he didn’t deserve a place in their lives at all…especially on Father’s Day. 

I want to be able to tell you about all of the times he spent with his girls growing up, and the unique bond he has with them. But unfortunately, my fiancé is not that Dad. The Dad of the Year award will never be given to him. Due to divorce and hefty alimony and child support payments, my fiancé had to work constantly in order to keep up with those payments, leaving little time for his precious girls. Even though his thoughts were always with them, he didn’t have time to be there for them when it counted. After years like this, his lifestyle became habitual, and though the alimony payments ended and he was able to create a decent relationship with them as they grew older, the time he spent with his daughters was still minimal. 

Recently, when a slew of poor decisions on his daughters’ parts tore a large gaping hole in his heart, he was unwavering in his love for them. And that is what makes him a great father. Loving his daughters even though he is incredibly hurt and disappointed in the choices they have made, is inspiring. Being able to love them, even though they cannot be in his life the way he wishes they could be, is truly remarkable. Wishing them well, even though they have wronged him, is one of the best qualities a human being can have. But even with a heart full of unconditional love, he still gets a bad rap for not being around enough.  I agree with the girls to a certain extent, as I believe that when they were children, he should have made a bigger and better effort, regardless of his circumstances.  But I also believe that once children become adults, everyone is then on an equal playing field.  As adults, we are all responsible for every relationship we have, especially those with our parents.

I don’t believe that a father’s greatness should be based on the number of hours he shares with you, or the number of times he calls you each year. I think a father’s greatness comes from his love, his ability to guide you, and from his ability to be honest, loyal, sincere and accepting. These are qualities I have been witness to during my fiancé‘s interactions with his daughters over the years. In addition, he is thoughtful, caring, smart, and funny. One of the best things about him is that when he loves you, he would go to the ends of the Earth and back for you.

Is he the best Dad ever? No, but his girls have made and are still making some awful decisions that are causing him a lot of pain, so no one in this family is going to be receiving any awards this year. All I know is that if my Dad asked me to compromise or told me that I caused him pain, I would do everything I could to make it right again. With that said, rather than continuing on the destructive course they are on, I hope they find a way to truly listen to each other without defending their past actions.  I hope they find a way to understand and move through the pain they have all caused each other, both in the past, and more recently.  Mostly, I hope that they will be willing to do whatever it is that needs to be done to make sure that the relationship can begin to grow again. 

The father I know in my fiancé (and the fathers who are in similar situations), will always love his daughters and will always want their happiness, even if he can’t be a part of it. And to the children of Dads in similar situations, although he may not have earned the Dad of the Year award, he is your Dad; he is your blood; and he loves you more than you will ever know.

Happy Father’s Day to the awesome dads who go the extra mile, and for all of those Dads who don’t, but wish they could.