There are countless reasons as to why a person's father is not present in their life. One has two moms, another arrived into the world with the help of an anonymous sperm donor, some have strained relationships, or their fathers have passed, or they never knew them to begin with. Some people's fathers are incarcerated, addicts, ill, the list goes on.
For me, Father’s Day has always been about celebrating my mother and step-father, equally. Like so many others, my biological father is not a large part of my life. I am one of the lucky few to have an incredible stepfather who has paid for ballet lessons, never tried to be overbearing (okay, maybe a couple times), cooked nightly dinners, and always supported my creative endeavors. I am also very lucky to have an incredible mother who is endlessly generous, smart as hell, super funny, an amazing listener, and makes great fried eggs at any hour of the day.
For a lot of people, Father’s Day can bring up a bag of mixed emotions! I like to think of it as a day to give thanks to those in our life who have provided for us in one way or another. Many mothers must play the role of both mother and father, and it is not an easy task. My mother is both soft and tough, fearless but vulnerable. She is concerned with both kindness and justice. She gets down to the bottom of it, she takes no emotional short-cuts, she is committed and strong; and fun, too. As M. Brooks put it, she’s a bitch, she’s a lover, she’s a child, she’s a mother. I was a happy accident when she was of a young age and she figured it out. She always encouraged financial independence regardless of relationship status, reading books, spending time in nature, and being gentle with yourself. I actually don’t know how I got so lucky with a mom who is an amazing role model and so entertaining after two glasses of wine.
But, what I really want to talk about are "parental roles". The super old-school and traditional role of the American father is heavily based in performing hyper-masculinity. It revolves around the stereotypes of being the provider, the rule-maker, and the disciplinarian. Quite the opposite case with the traditional role of the mother, who fills in the second half of this well-worn and antiquated duo with pure warmth, compassion, kindness and household duties. In reality though, all of the many wonderful dads I know (and there are so many), have possessed a good balance of these values combined. Same goes for moms. Little by little, I think our society is progressing into a space where performing a gender in order to meet the roles of a masculine or feminine construct is becoming less and less. On the other hand, while it isn’t 1950 anymore, I do think that many of us, parents included, still cling to these roles whether consciously and unconsciously. It still happens that we hold each other, and ourselves, up to these social inventions.
Now that we’ve covered moms being dads and bad dads being bad dads, let’s move on to talking a little about loving and present step-fathers, the unsung actual heroes of the world. The harsh reality is that a lot of dads bail. Whether its due to fear, financial pressure, unstable mental health, or plain shitiness, it happens too much. I even saw a government funded billboard the other day that said “take time out to be a father today”. That being said, there are many mothers who are left to care for children on their own, usually doing a terrific job, but with all of their hard-work and sacrifice, it plays out to be totally unfair. But! Sometimes, families straight-up luck out and get a great step-dad. Someone who just steps right in, gives what they’ve got, loves with all their heart and sticks around. They are volunteer fathers and truly deserve medals! My step-dad is just that!
He made samosas for my tenth birthday. He loves crystals and fly-fishing. He is super into conspiracy theories, za’atar, sweat lodges, and rescuing animals. He is a kook and I love him. While we’ve had our differences and it is not perfect, he has never compromised his constant care and support toward me. And for that, I am truly grateful, and lucky.
So this post is for everyone who feels weird about fathers day. Don’t! Or do, but remember that love is available to us from so many people, so many angles, it wears many hats and can come in surprising forms. Don't let any holiday make you feel bad!
I just wanted to share my definition of being a father, for you, who it resonates with. Regardless of your gender or your blood relationship with who you are "fathering", I think the most important things to remember are having an open heart and an open ear, while also sharing what you have, and what you know. It means effort, honesty, and humor. It means being there and showing up and giving love.