It’s not for me to question why some people carry such anger and I am not naïve enough to think that everyone has a father who is a force of good in their lives. I can’t help but worry though that sometimes we don’t really give people a break until it is too late. It can’t be easy being a parent, I’m sure it’s quite possibly the toughest job in the world and, even when they don’t get it right, I’m sure that most parents try their best.
It goes without saying that there are a small minority of parents who should not be let anywhere near children, who cause only harm. The rest though, I’m convinced are just muddling through. I have worked with some of the most dysfunctional families you can possibly imagine but I never met a single parent who didn’t love their kids.
In some ways I have had a charmed life, an unashamed daddy’s girl; my father was a pretty amazing man. He didn’t always get it right but I was never in any doubt that he loved me and would do anything for me. He had children young, he was only twenty when I was born, but the role suited him. Quite simply, he loved being a dad and the gift that he gave me and my brother and sister is that he genuinely believed that we were the most special children in the world. Even as an adult, whenever I managed to royally make a mess of everything, he somehow always found a way of seeing me in a good light so that things never seemed quite so bad.
I realise then that I am probably biased but it makes me sad when people are so unforgiving towards their dads. Maybe they were feckless deadbeats but surely they deserve your pity rather than contempt. After all, they have missed out on the joy of knowing their children and in some cases grandchildren. Why slam the door in their faces, is it not wiser to leave it ajar just a little bit? People can change and the only time it is truly too late is once we are dead.
I also recognise that lots of people have more than one father figure and your dad doesn’t necessarily have to be the one who gave you life. Although by keeping your options open, there is the chance of having more than one father and can you ever have enough people in your life who love you? Surely none of us can afford to squander whatever love comes our way.
Although I adored my dad, like everybody, I went through many phases in our relationship. As a little girl he was my superhero, who could do no wrong but through my teens and twenties, he was the scapegoat for everything wrong in my life. All I could focus on were the mistakes that he had made and I measured him unfavourably against some idealised image of what the perfect parent should be.
The one thing I am grateful for is that by the time I reached my thirties, I grew up and recognised him for the man he was. A man who worked double shifts when I was growing up so that I could have all of the things that I wanted, who dropped everything and came to the rescue whenever things went wrong and who loved me unconditionally no matter what.
He died when he was sixty three, which I think is far too young but I suppose he made his mark on the world in all the ways it matters most; a man who was loved dearly by his family and friends. I hope that if your relationship with your own dad isn’t as strong as it might be, you can find it in your heart to keep the channels open so that before he dies, your dad might get the chance to be the man you need him to be.