“ERM…I don’t love him. If my father died tomorrow, there’d be no attachment. My life wouldn’t be any different than it has been for the past few years. He hasn’t really done anything. He was a bad father and a terrible husband. I have cared for myself for the past two years. I pay the bills at home. I don’t love him. I have never told him I love him. feel pity for him really,” uttered my friend.
I have a group of male friends who, if I do say so myself, are amazing. They are not without their flaws, but they are some of the most talented, comforting, intellectual men I know. There’s a saying that goes “children don’t do as they are told, they imitate what they see.” Some of my male friends, after I have pried and forced them to talk about things like this, admitted that they didn’t have the best fathers. They had physical fathers, but not so much relationships with those men. Based on that and the saying, I began to ponder the kind of fathers my male friends would be to their future children.
I’ve wondered if somehow, based on the notion of children doing as they see and not as they are told, my friends would act like their fathers or were already doing that without knowing it. One of my closest friends comes from a dual-parent home and yet doesn’t really have a relationship with his father.
I asked my friend, who was adamant about having no emotional attachment to his father, if he ever imagined what his father probably felt like. Not as his father, but simply as another random human being. Being a father, having children, and having had a wife he no longer had. A lot of his children being adults now and not living at home. This man was essentially alone. Imagine if he was unsure that people even cared about him. Sure, he may have his friends he drank beer with, or talked about politics with. Ultimately, did these people truly care about him? And why would that matter if he had children who didn’t?
Society conditions us to forget about the emotionality that men can carry and not share. Yet, I feel like based on the saying that children do as they see, the “bad fathers” must have learned the behaviour from somewhere. They must have had crappy fathers who probably also had crappy fathers. There are two general outcomes with a man who doesn’t bond with his father, he either decides to be nothing like him and becomes the epitome of his father, or he becomes the complete opposite of his father.
It’s easy to blame bad fathers and say they didn’t do what they were supposed to. It’s interesting to flip the script and imagine what life may seem like from their perspective.
Our fathers learned not to emote or feel. Or rather not to share those emotions or feelings unless they fell under the umbrella of being “macho feelings”, like anger. They must have also learned the popularly believed notion that simply presenting financial and tangible provisions was a sign of being a good parent. While those things are great, and wanted, they are also things anybody who wasn’t your father could provide for you, if they felt so inclined.
If fathers were providing the tangible things, the missing component has to be sentimentality.
For example, if you decided not to give your child any more food, they could go to the neighbour or an aunt or stranger and find food. Same with paying for their education, putting a roof over their heads, or protecting them. The only thing they really cannot get from someone else is the love only a father can give. Only a father can have the “fatherly relationship” that a father should have with them. That’s something no one else can do. Yet we don’t really try to relate to fathers on an emotional level.
You know how Mother’s Day is such a huge thing? You get cakes and flowers and lunches and brunches and dinners and pull chicken out. But do you even know when Father’s Day is? Writing this right now, I know Mother’s Day is the first Sunday of May. I have no idea when Father’s Day is. (I’m going to Google, because Google is your best friend, but I digress).
We forget to get to know our fathers; absentee or not. That’s ultimately what my friend and I realised once we got to the crux of the issue. You cannot really love someone you don’t know.
We don’t know who our fathers are.
We know what moves our mothers, what makes them smile, what makes them disappointed. We rarely know that about our fathers, or know about their childhood experiences apart from them having to walk to school with no shoes. We only know what makes our fathers angry. We’ve lived with our fathers for our entire lives (usually) and yet we don’t know what makes them sad, or what they would have rather done with their lives, or how they feel about having children.
This isn’t at all to say it is okay to be a terrible father. With few examples of good parenting around them, it must have been hard to try and build a foundation of what a good father was. Not unless you have been able to see a good example of what good parenting is like, do you begin to truly see you’re wrong. I can’t imagine the fathers have just wanted to be terrible fathers and have no remorse whatsoever.
We shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss them when they are incapable of showing something they never quite learned themselves. If we try to get to know our fathers, and show them the love they probably never showed us, we can build those fatherly relationships. Yes, he may have a been a terrible father, but when has acting in love not fixed something like that? Even if it doesn’t, then you can say you gave it your most valiant effort.
Why don’t you go ahead and get to know your father. Then you can love him, because you will know him and you will find things to love. Even if you have to fake it till you make it, fake the care and the love until you actually start to feel something other than just pity for him. He may have been a crappy father, but it’s most likely all he’s ever known.
Maybe we can be the ones to change that, break the cycle of bad fatherhood and create fathers who have genuine relationships with their children.
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