Today is Father's Day here in the US. (and the first day of summer but we won't talk about that since it's raining and the temp is about 10 degrees below what it should be). I haven't seen my Dad for a number of years. We've had a strange relationship since he married my mother when I was 7.

My mom was a single mother for a number of years when she met my dad. When they married, my sister was 5 and I was 7. She was still young enough to be a "daddy's girl" but I was not. Or maybe I was just not inclined to be one, I don't know. It was strange having this person come into our lives. A person with rules and thoughts about how things should be done. My mother let him take over in a lot of ways and our lives changed, mostly for the better.

When I was 10, my brother was born. To give my dad credit, he never made a distinction between my brother who was his biological child and my sister and I. In 1972, he adopted us legally. I always thought we had a good family.(until I made a good family of my own and could see the difference) My childhood memories are not bad ones. As long as we followed the rules and did what we were told, things were good. My dad was not one to cross. He had a wicked temper and tended to yell first and listen later. I made a decision that I would not speak in anger to my children based on growing up with my dad.

When Pk and I started dating while in high school, my dad made it clear he was not happy. He made it difficult for us to have a relationship. When Pk went to talk to him one day, to request that if he had problems he talk directly to him and not put me in the middle, my dad blew his top. And that's the stated reason why he didn't come to our wedding.

Our early married years were tough as I tried to balance learning to be married to a man I loved and keep a relationship with my parents. When the girls came along, it became tougher. My father saw my children a handful of times. He said he was afraid he would become close to them and then Pk wouldn't let him see them. As if I would stand for something like that.

Eventually, after a trip down to see them (they live about an hour away) and my dad left to walk the dogs and reminded me that my mother wasn't strong and we shouldn't stay long, the girls and I decided we felt unwanted and that was the last visit.

I keep up with them through my brother (who has his own tumultuous relationship with them). I know my sister sees them often. They welcome her into their lives. I've often thought it was because she NEEDS them and I just loved them.

Very often when people hear bits of this, they say in semi-accusing tones "but they're your parents!". To which I reply, "but I'm their daughter!". When you hit your head against a brick wall over and over, eventually you end up with a headache and a bloody wall. When the headache got bad enough, I decided to stop. And my life was calmer and more peaceful.

I'm not sure where this came from today. Maybe because I was mentally comparing Pk's relationship with our children and mine with my own father. We were determined to have a happy family and let our children grow into people with their own thoughts and ideas (Boy, did they ever!). I think we've succeeded. My children have a good relationship with their father and know he's there for them unconditonally. I didn't say they don't have their share of fights, what kind of family has no fights? But there is mostly love and respect and caring. And humor. Lots of humor.

I've been blessed to be married to a man I call my best friend. He's the person I think of first when I hear something interesting or have some bit of news. He's the shoulder I lean on and the person I reach out to when I have a nightmare. He gets my jokes and obscure references and for 28 + years, he's been the love of my life. My girls are lucky to have a father who would step in front of a train for them.

So, Happy Father's Day, my love. You're the best.

Comments

amy said…
I tell myself that same thing about the headaches. The way I first read that saying was, If you keep banging your head against the wall, don't be surprised when you get a headache. And I thought, Oh. I don't have to give myself a headache. At the time this was in relation to my in-laws, but it certainly applies to my own family as well.

My father used to spend every Father's Day off by himself. That's how he chose to spend "his" day--away from his family. I don't think he ever stopped to think what sort of message that might send his children. When I consider Father's Day, it's my own husband I consider. He's the best father I know.
Roxie said…
These days designed to honor our parents can be difficult when our parents do not act honorably. But no one ever wakes up and says, "Ah, hell, I'm not even gonna try to be a good parent today. I'm taking care of what I want and to heck with the kids!" Our parents did the best they could with the tools and materials available, - as do we. I think, if we could escape some of the expectations, we could enjoy more of the realities. Your dad doesn't know how to behave around you. He may be jealous of the attention your mother gives you. He may feel he has failed you. He may be turning into an old crank. You are not obliged to love any of those options. Instead you have more time to enjoy your darling PK.
Bells said…
This is such a powerful post Donna Lee. You know from things I've said that I share some of your feelings. It really is empowering to read the head banging sentence.

'but they're your parents' is something so often said to me and I want to, but rarely do, come back with the statement, 'and they are also human beings, first and foremost, and they are not human beings I would have actively chosen to have a relationship with' - the truth hurts but it's better than pretending and being constantly disappointed.

Well done to the two of you on building a family of such strength and love together.
teabird said…
Roxie, I'm not sure that parents act honorably, usually. It wasn't my experience, either with my mother or father. Using one's daughter as a go-between to perpetuate a fight, for example, is one of the most dishonorable things one can do. Knowing something dangerous that could or has happened between your child and your spouse is not honorable.

My mother is quite old, and my version of "honoring" her is to assist in true emergencies, and to allow her to natter on the phone once a week. She has told me that she loves me but doesn't like me. She lies.

My father and I were estranged for 25 years, but re-connected in the only way comfortable for us, via e-mail -- but still, as old and sick as he was, he managed to put me in the middle of yet another fight with his 25-years-divorced wife.

Both Mother's and Father's days are nothing more than guilt-prods from profit-greedy entities. The true way to honor anyone is to honor the best possible relationship you can have with that person, with grace and compassion, and without self-loathing.

Congratulations, Donna, on the family and the relationships you have built. May I say that I honor you for your honesty?

namaste.
Bezzie said…
Aww...that's a great post. Dr. MS has a weird relationship with his biological father and now it's getting weird with his stepdad...so I can sort of see where you're coming from. ("sort of" because it's not my father--I'm just the other half.)

I'm glad Pk was/is able to show you what a real dad should be like.
Jeanne said…
Family is complicated and its never just an easy answer, is it? Sounds like you took what you wanted to take and applied it to your grownup life - and I think that's a good thing. My Dad has been gone for 20 years this year, and I miss him - but I can totally relate to complicated feelings. Hope you had a wonderful weekend!
TinkingBell said…
What a great post.

Being a father is ALMOST as hard as being a mum (so I tell Kim)LOL!, but the good ones are definitely keepers - and I always believe humour and fun and friendship are the most important things!
dr k said…
great post. i would write one like this on mothers day if i could stand the inevitable headache. you made the right decision, as hard as it feels sometimes.
Rose Red said…
It always puzzles me when people say family should always come first - I really don't believe that just because you are related to someone means you must automatically drop everything to please them or help them or whatever. I'm not saying that it shouldn't happen, but that sense of entitlement is somehow to me problematic. You have to work at being a good family, and not take relationships for granted. And I think this is what you and PK do, and it is the secret of your success.
Alwen said…
I think family relationships are hard work, more often than not.

I didn't have a great relationship with my dad growing up - he had an explosive temper, and I was a young teenager before I was socially aware enough to see those blow-ups coming.

It took me a while as an adult to look back and see some of the stresses he was going through (a lot of lay-offs, peculiar uncertain housing, and a smart-mouth daughter) and forgive some of those scary explosions.
Amy Lane said…
I completely get why you'd just stop doing stuff that's painful--and I also know how lucky I am. When my parents split, my dad actually wanted to keep me--considering how little we expect that today, the fact that he was a single FATHER, 35 years ago, still blows my mind. But I grew up with the expectation that any man I married would be with his children and not call it babysitting--and that laughing with your children was more important than yelling at them. Good for you--you created that expectation out of thin air, and a very solid, amazing P.K.
Jejune said…
This post really resonates for me too - like you, I didn't think I had a stressful childhood until I created a family of my own, and made decisions on NOT doing what my parents (especially my mother) did.

Parents are just people ... they had kids, but that doesn't magically make them good or even decent people.

Your Pk sounds very much like my hubby - we've been together since we were 17, and are still best friends. So glad you have such a great person in your life! And I totally support you in your decision to keep distance between yourself and the negativity in other sections of your family. It makes sense, and is very wise!!
Sheepish Annie said…
Some relationships just aren't meant to be. You can't force them to be something they're not and it makes everything worse if you do, I think.

If you've made yourself happier and healthier by staying away then it was the right choice. It isn't always a specific "thing" or "event" that causes the need to walk away, but that doesn't make it any less valid to do so.
Dianne said…
I'm blessed with wonderful parents, but I know what you mean about some relationships not worth the extraordinary effort that you have to put into them. At some point it hit me that not everyone is going to live up to my expectations, even though my expectations are just that they be civil. So now, when I have to go to family get-togethers with these relatives, I chant (to myself!) "zero expectations...zero expectations".

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