Healing the Wounds of Father Abandonment
Written By: Mark Smith
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Father's Day has me all stirred up about the subject of fathering. Frankly I'm sick of all the candy coated greeting card company depictions of perfect dads. Check this one out...
What a bunch of crap! There is no such thing as a perfect dad - nothing even close. Let's keep it real here. I believe that precious few of us are truly fathered well. Be honest, how well were you fathered? How much genuine, quality, intimate, safe, child-focused time were you privileged enough to bask in with your father? How has the lack of quality fathering affected your adult relationships and your parenting style? Like it or not, the love that we received or didn't receive as we grew up serves as the foundation of our personalities. Almost everybody you know probably has some experience with father abandonment. It is epidemic in our culture. Sensitive male leadership that is loving, consistent, hands-on and nurturing has been tragically rare in most families. There is a little kid in all of us who desperately needed a daddy.
There are so many different ways that fathers can abandon their children. For the most part, in this article I am not referring to men who actually leave the home. Fathers can abandon their children by over-focusing on a variety of both good and/or bad things: TV, work, alcohol, gambling, sports, hunting, fishing, computers, food, pornography, household projects, puttering around the house, reading, etc.
What are the broken branches in your family tree? We are who we came from. In Roots, the classic object lesson in how one generation impacted the next and the next, when Kunta Kinte observed all the slaves around him who had completely lost their African sense of identity, he vowed within himself that he would never let his descendants forget who they were nor what family and tribe they had come from. He passed on a hertitage of identity and pride, which was a rich inheritance.
I certainly would be counted in the ranks of the father abandoned. As I was growing up, my father was a pleasant, passive, distant, depressed, extremely distracted figure who seemed much more interested in playing bridge, watching sports, eating dinner, reading the paper, and avoiding my angry mother at all costs than he was interested in me or my siblings. I was in awe of the Master Sargent stripes on his Air Force uniform. Sadly, I have only one memory of ever going someplace with him alone; he took me with him once to give blood. I felt so special that day to be introduced as "the #2 son," and to be given orange juice and cookies. When we did talk, it was about our beloved Pittsburgh Pirates. Other than baseball talk, he was in a bubble of narcissism twenty-four hours a day.
My father grew up in abject poverty in Butler, Pennsylvania. His mother was only 14 years old when he was born. His stepfather was mean, abusive and alcoholic. When my father joined the Air Force at age 18, he never looked back. I remember only one visit to Butler during the entirety of my childhood. He indicated to me that there wasn't anything good whatsoever with that town. My Aunt gently pleaded with me to be gracious, forgiving, and understanding with my father. She said that he could not be a father because he had never had one. She said that he always wanted just one thing-to be left alone. His need for that never changed.
Our wounds make us interesting. They mold us but they don't have to determine or define us. All of us are more wounded than most of us want to admit to or face off with. Few of us have the skills or the emotional health to maintain a truly connected marriage for decades or to parent any healthier than we ourselves were parented. Fortunately our wounds can heal a good bit with a lot of work and a lot of tears. If we are blessed enough to give our kids a healthier childhood than we received then we are heros. I hope my words stir you to reflect upon and explore your issues with your dear old dad.
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