This picture was taken when I was a toddler. I don’t really remember it, but from the look on my face and my father, we looked happy. He’s looking at me with adoring eyes. I have the biggest smile. Then somewhere life got really complicated. I didn’t see him that often.
In fact, throughout my childhood I never celebrated Father’s Day. I cannot even remember one single Father’s Day memory.
And I know I wasn’t the only one. Many girls struggle with this disconnect. In our all girls high school in Jamaica, out of a class of 21 girls, maybe 2 had a father in the home. Others like me had mothers who migrated to America. That meant their grandmas or aunts raised them. With many fathers uninvolved, it became the norm for women to wear many hats–breadwinner, protector, and caregiver.
Women were front and center from home to school. At one point while growing up, I remember thinking it was standard for women to raise children alone. I didn’t really have the marriage dream–where I’d meet Prince Charming and ride off into the sunset. Instead, I expected to have a son, but never imagined a father in the picture. Crazy how kids adapt to their experience.
One of my friends from high school, celebrated and still does, her mom on Father’s Day. She argues that for pulling double duty, she deserves the credit. Who can blame her?
For me, I left the door of my heart opened for sometime and when the distance grew greater, one day it just slammed shut. Decades later after I became an adult, Dad and I had a “where were you” cleansing conversation. He explained that his lack of money kept him away. His dad taught him that money makes the man. If you have no money, then you have nothing to offer he reasoned. I explained to him that from my vantage point all I wanted was a connection, a regular phone call, us spending time to get to know each other, him passing on his wisdom to me. All I valued was his presence, not his possessions. I saw the light turn on in his eyes.
That conversation pivoted our relationship from flatline. I’m not saying that it miraculously fixed everything. From the conversation, I realized that his explanation didn’t match the stories I told myself for years. Stories like:
- He’s not here because he doesn’t love me.
- I am not important, to him.
- I am the forgotten child
Now, I just have to make a conscious effort to continue those conversations and work on it. Since that conversation, he’s never missed calling me on my birthday. Baby steps right!
In my book, I write about my unusual childhood. It’s not from the vantage point of male bashing. It’s a daughter’s account of wading through early life without a father. But it also explores research validating the major significance of a father in a child’s life.
Dads, if you think it’s all about the money, you’re mistaken. You add value to your children, by sharing yourself, your essence, your wisdom, your experiences, with them. Fatherhood is the only time you get to pass on who you are, to them. Time is ticking, start now!
Dear Lord, we have one life to live. I pray for fathers. Give them the courage to share their lives, their ideas, their essence, with their children. Give them the courage to be open, vulnerable, so they can connect on deep level with their children. Strengthen the bond between them and remove negative thoughts that separate them in Jesus name.
When was the last time you called your child and asked him/her about their day?
Examples of questions to ask:
- Setup: I want to get to know you more and I’ll start by asking your about your day, then telling you about mine. I apologize for not being around but can we pick up from today? Are you ok with this?
- Get to know you:
- Describe your day to me?
- What was your favorite part of your day?
- What was the worst part of your day?
- What was your lunch menu? What did you pick?
- Share your day
- Here is something about my own childhood…
- Here is what I liked about school…
- Here is a lesson I learned later…
- Three favorite things I like to do…
Making an effort, always brings a payoff. You have one opportunity to make your mark. Don’t delay. Start today.
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