Whenever someone lets their mask slip and I catch a glimpse of the pain and hurt a bad father has caused my stomach lurches like I’m on a carnival ride. The pain of a father’s abuse lasts till the child grows old. It is a wound that only dies when the child passes on. But the problem with Father’s Day is not only abusive fathers, but also many who simply worked too hard to “provide”, and so seemed to fail in caring. So many fathers have caused pain that Father’s Day is a problem.
On Father’s Day, of course, I could feel so grateful for my own dad’s love and care. I could enjoy Father’s Day, because I had a dad I can celebrate.
But for so many friends, for them it is not even a day of mixed feelings. Father’s Day, for them, means remembering what is better forgotten – especially when it can never be forgiven.
We should all boycott Father’s Day!
And yet, I watch my son, a great dad, caring for his children Micaela and Rose with a fierce and tender love. As well as the joys of days spent at Playcenter [a parent-run New Zealand kindergarten], I hear of the sleepless nights (certainly less sleep than is good for parents). I hear the stories of intelligent and willful children demanding what they cannot be given (even angels have temper tantrums, at least human ones do). Parents are often driven to wit’s end. Being a parent is far from easy.
So parents need all the encouragement and support we can give. How could we be so stupid as to think of a boycott of the day when the fathers who try hard to be good parents for their children get a little recognition?
Fathers’ Day is a time for mixed feelings, a time to remember the past with gratitude or sadness, but also and above all, a time to encourage all those men who are trying and, naturally, being only human, failing to be the fathers we want our children to enjoy.
Dr. Tim Bulkeley is the author of Not Only a Father: Talk of God as Mother in the Bible and Christian Tradition.