“Everyone has a father, right?”
The question came from a little boy. Age 7. A usually cheerful child. Subdued this time.
“What do you think?” (my standard response to children’s queries, figuring they have a working hypothesis already)
“I guess. Sort of. But not exactly.”
“Hmm … want to say more about it?”
Fidget, spin a top, twirl it, drop it, lean precariously out of the chair to get it, spin again. “I think you need one. To get born.”
“Yes, that’s generally true.” I pause. I sense there’s more.
“But I think you also need one to grow up better. Kind of. I’m not sure. Only if you have a good dad, though.”
“That makes sense.”
He looks up at me, tolerant of my very vague responses. I am certainly capable of being more verbose, and he knows it. However, my sense is that he is seeking an audience to bounce ideas off of, more than he wants my actual input. At least now.
He plays with the top another minute. Tries spinning it on the handle, upside down. It falls. He frowns. “I don’t like Father’s Day.”
“I hear you. I understand. It is a great day for many but it can also be a tough day for some. Can be confusing, too.”
He nods. “Yeah …”
Fidget, spin the top, drop it, pick it up. “My mom says that my dad is the kind of person people warn their kids about.”
I know … My heart breaks for him. It should not be reality for anyone.
“I’m so so sorry.”
Words don’t quite suffice, and yet I hope he feels it comes from true compassion, that he hears I get it (even if he doesn’t need to know how well I understand).
The father lost custody because of “serious issues” that led to the mother’s sole custody for “the child’s safety.” The boy’s dad spent time–or still may be–in jail. Something to do with child pornography. The mother got custody when the boy was still an infant and he doesn’t remember his dad. The mother reassures me that the boy had been “protected all along.” A warm and caring mother, she works hard to not vilify the boy’s father even as she tries to ensure he understands enough about why he does not see his dad and most of all that it does not have to do with him not being worthy of a father’s love.
He is a happy child overall, but not without a loss. Father’s Day can be tough.
He twirls the ornate wooden top between his fingers. “Sometimes I wish I had a better dad.” His voice is matter of fact.
“I know. I wish you did, too.”
“My mom says there are many kinds of father people. That they don’t even have to be your real dad to be a little like a dad.”
I love that mom! “She’s very right. I agree with that.”
His nod is reassured. He brightens some.
“My uncle is a little bit like my dad.” His mother’s younger brother. I’ve heard the boy wax poetic about this uncle before: He idolizes the man. His eyes light up.
“He’s already in my family, right? So maybe this makes him even more like he could be sort of my dad. I mean, not really really, but in my heart …”
You betcha’, little man.
Your heart is an excellent place to collect fathering. You deserve a dad as fully as anyone!
On this Father’s day:
To you who are plentifully fathered–may it be a Father’s Day to celebrate the gift of love. The miracle of true parenthood.
And to you who seek a father. Who lost theirs. Whose fathers lost their way or lost their lives or lost their soul–may you know a sense of fathering regardless. May you recognize its quality and accept its salve into your lives. Be someone’s prince or princess. May you find the fatherhood that grows within you: the knowledge of strength, the acknowledgement of protection, of strong arms, stronger heart.