This week I found out that there is no shortage of “World’s Greatest Dad’s.” If I am to believe Facebook and Twitter, the overwhelming majority of my friends and acquaintances were blessed with the kindest, smartest, funniest fathers that anyone could ever ask for. I am happy for them…really.
I saw picture after Polaroid picture of dads on my social media feeds on Father’s Day. Dads decked out in polyester, dads proudly displaying a hard- won catch from the lake, dads hugging kids, young kids, grown kids, their kids. Great words too, dad was an inspiration, dad was a mentor, dad is a hero. I had to disconnect, unplug. I had to remove myself from the endless tribute. It was too much.
There are people who remained invisible to social media on Father’s Day. They did not post loving memories of dear old dad. They did not give words of thanks to the man who taught them so much and loved them so well. Some are fatherless, never knowing the man who is semi-responsible for their existence. Some know their fathers but, after a lifetime of abuses, wish they did not. Some are working through it with their dads, trying to lay pavement to a relationship that has always traveled along very rocky terrain.
For people like that, people like me, there are questions as to how we should feel when Father’s Day rolls around. Is it okay to be a little resentful of friends that seem to have been blessed with a wonderful relationship with their dad? Should I consider myself lucky that at least I did not have it as bad as others who have suffered unspeakable crimes at the hands of their fathers? What is the appropriate amount of pain I am allowed, and when should I just “get over it” and move on?
The thing I have learned about pain, it’s like a fingerprint, unique to you and attached to you. Other people may see your pain but they don’t know it, and because they don’t know they really don’t have the right to tell you how it should be managed. We have a bad habit in our society of putting pain on the scales of justice, rationalizing that because one person’s wounds seem to be deeper than another’s , then the more wounded person deserves more compassion. It’s a false assumption. Compassion and understanding are for everyone, and so is the right to heal.
I have known many people with parental wounds, and while I do my best to encourage them, I know enough not to try to “fix” them with a self-help catchphrase or even worse, tough love. Your wounds are your own, so is your road to healing. For some, it is simply a matter of forgiveness, being able to let go and move forward. Others might require confrontation and justice, an acknowledgement of wrongdoing, an apology. For everyone who must deal with the past, the question of the future also remains. Do we try to repair the broken relationship, or do we build a wall and leave the offenders on the other side? It is unique, a million life circumstances and just as many responses, fingerprints.
As for me, I am approaching peace. I am fully aware of whom my father is, and I know that we will never have the happy, smiling, father-son photo op that social media seems to adore. That is ok. Sure, every once in a while I might mourn our dead relationship but I know what is best for me. That is why on Father’s Day I did the very best thing I could do for myself. I unplugged, put my phone away, and took my two beautiful little girls swimming. We had a wonderful time!