The Sweetness of Life With Dad
Father’s Day is here again, and once again we are prompted to reflect on the mysteries and glories of the inseverable bond between a father and his child. This past week or so, the web has been full of tributes that are difficult to top, such as Buzzfeed’s moving pictorial of dads meeting their newborn babies. You can tell it’s love at first sight, and it just might make you cry a little.
Not to brag, but I have an awesome dad. What keeps me utterly humbled and grateful is the awareness that it didn’t have to be this way. This July will mark my parents’ 32nd wedding anniversary–a Rock of Gibraltar in this shifting cultural milieu.
A tribute to fathers is necessarily an implied tribute to mothers, and perhaps more so than the other way around. We ought to keep this in mind in light of hype surrounding a recent study that documented changes in men’s brain activity from active parenting, a study that included homosexual couples. Some outlets managed to report on the facts without irresponsible conjecture, but others took the facts on a joyride to serve a shameless advocacy ‘journalism’ suggesting–in a bizarre but not wholly unpredictable inversion of the single-motherhood-by-choice phenomenon–that Mom is an expendable party. Certainly, humans are adept at compensating when they must. That compensation is needed at all puts the lie to the idea that another man is just as good as Mom.
My mom and I are two peas in a pod in many ways. From her side of the family I get my petite stature, my Catholic faith, and probably my ability to gently but firmly stick to my guns. I’d also be lying if I said we haven’t had opportunities to bond over…ahem…occasional male incomprehensibility, as it appears to women. That said, there have always been things that my dad and I shared pretty much exclusively: our penchant for hard core roller coaster riding (while Mom says “See you back on the ground”), or our appreciation of slapstick and ridiculous comedy. A mere word or gesture can launch us, giggling, into a lengthy, memorized routine.
Dad showed me that there can be fun and levity in politics, and Dad’s example has strongly impressed upon me the value of honesty even when it’s really inconvenient. There are also unanticipated ways in which I have apparently changed my dad’s life. He once credited me, on national TV no less, with getting him to listen to classical music, which according to him would garner him a healthy razzing from his college rock buddies.
I’ve tried, now and then, to imagine life without Dad. My brain short-circuits before I get anywhere; it’s just not something I have much stomach to contemplate.
Some people, in this lovely but broken world of ours, have to imagine life with Dad. HuffPo, one of the loudest voices in the above-mentioned advocacy journalism category, just the other day published this bittersweet piece whose author can finally stop imagining and embrace her dad in the flesh (why, one wonders, can’t HuffPo put two and two together?). Others, like Alana Stewart–conceived via sperm donation, which she speaks from the heart about in this must-read NPR interview–are still searching.
Biology alone doesn’t make a good dad. Even so, the adage “blood is thicker than water” rings true.
This Father’s Day I pray to the Father of us all that we who are close to our dads will never take it for granted, and that those who aren’t will find reconciliation, joy, consolation, and peace.
From all of us at Family Institute of Connecticut, Happy Father’s Day.