When I was growing up, Father’s Day was a particularly vulnerable time for me. I was raised by a single mother; a fiercely intelligent hard working woman who had me when she was only 17. I never met my birth father, and in the early years of school, this was never more evident than on Father’s Day. In short, Father’s Day for someone raised by a single mom was not easy.
When all the other kids would make Father’s Day crafts and write questionnaires about their fathers, I’d timidly approach the teacher’s desk and ask if I could do mine about my mother. Most teachers were understanding, however some would make comments about how “EVERYONE has a father”, leaving me in the position to explain how mine was never in the picture. Father’s Day began to be an annual reminder of what I didn’t have, however as I grew older and gained a better appreciation of those around me, Father’s Day turned into a time to celebrate some other special people in my life.
Father’s Day exists to celebrate fathers, father figures, the importance of dads and those who adopt a paternal role in our lives. Although Father’s Day for many people is a wonderful heartwarming time to honor the special folks who’ve made a difference in their lives, for me it was always a source of sadness and anxiety. Those moments in the classroom were etched into my experience, that special time of year that I had to explain myself amidst some trivial arts and crafts. Although I no longer feel that same sadness on this date, it’s still difficult to witness the sentimentality about fathers in the shops and on television. Having a father is a shared experience that so many people have and take for granted, and in my case, that experience was wholly absent.
Those trinkets we made in the classroom almost always ended up in the hands of my mother. As a single parent, my mother did double duty and deserved the praise of Fathers Day as well. Truth be told, she deserved so much more than the recognition that two parental recognition days could provide. There was no relief for her, a perdicament that I only began to understand when I grew up and had kids of my own. To this day, Father’s Day is another chance to thank her for her sacrifices in raising me.
If they did not end up in her hands, they ended up in the hands of my grandfather. I remember thinking that he was the smartest man I knew, and although he was reserved, my experience of him was always warm and full of love. Sadly my grandfather passed away this year, and I didn’t fully appreciate the way it would sting again with the approach of this holiday, a holiday that was not meant for him, yet was his in my eyes all the same.
The nuclear family is no longer the norm. With this change, the celebration of fathers day has changed too. That thing that I thought had set me apart in such a profound way is now not seen as quite so unusual. I’m certain that many children in modern classrooms no longer have to answer for their fathers’ absence. As it was in my case, Fathers Day can be a time to celebrate the parental figures who were there, the ones who gave their all in caring and providing. It can also be a day of celebrating those who have tried to take on a paternal role, whatever that might mean in your eyes and in your situation.
With age and with the birth of my own children, Fathers Day has become a time to celebrate my husband. A man who has taken on the role of parent and step-parent, husband and provider. The absence of my own father has made me acutely aware of all the things my husband does to keep our children happy and safe. Likewise, it has made me so aware of all the fathers and parental figures out there who are rocking their roles in their children’s lives.
Fathers Day is for fathers, but it can also be about appreciation. Even for those of us without fathers, it can be a time to show gratitude toward those who are present, loving and making a difference.