For Father’s Day, I thought it fitting to ask my dad what he thought the hardest parts about being a father is. We’ve grown very close over the past few years, so I expected some brutally honest answers. The answers he gave me were more honest and real than I could have ever imagined. Here are the 5 hardest parts of being a father, according to my dad:
1. Unfair Labeling
When my son was young, he was joyful and fully engaged in life. His only issue was that he fell often, usually while running. When he started school, one of his teachers wanted to label him with a learning disability because of his difficulty reading and lack of coordination. I opposed such labeling, as such things often become self-fulfilling prophesies even when not true. An eye exam later revealed ambliopia that caused poor eyesight; thus, the falling and reading issues. It was correctable with lenses. He was subsequently placed in a group for advanced students, and has since gone on to graduate from university with Honors and Distinction.
2. Protection vs. Allowing
One of the most difficult discernments to make is when to intervene to prevent harm by someone else’s actions and when to step back and allow mistakes for the life lessons that can be gleaned from the situation (i.e. consequences for poor choices regarding lying, cheating, stealing, or refusing to consider others’opinions —to develop conscience and perspective). Some situations were clear, others not so easy. However, I always managed to keep a good balance. But there was one time when I had no control. My son was arrested, jailed, and sent to court for a hearing. I was devastated and helpless. It broke my heart, and the only thing I could do was cry and breathe. I had to wait ’til later to do damage control. To this day, it is still one of the hardest things I had to do as a father.
There was a time when someone told my son a lie about me. He believed it, and as a result, attacked me physically by shoving me, emotionally by blaming me for his feelings, and verbally by making me wrong without giving me a chance. Ouch! I had been judged and not heard. Misunderstandings can happen, but these 2 fears are actually unresolved wounds from my own childhood. Ouch again! When he learned the truth and had the evidence some time later, all was okay, but the intervening time was hard. Being rejected by your own child is a terrible state of being.
When my daughter was 19 years-old, she had an accident. She fell 30 feet onto her head, causing a massive brain injury. A week later she was declared brain dead. It was the most painful and heart wrenching time of my life. I didn’t know what to do for myself. But, even worse, I didn’t know what to do for my son. I didn’t know how to help him grieve and heal because the pain inside me was too strong. I went on a search for a way to help children grieve in a way that leads to meaningful recovery. It was the greatest growth process of my life. Today, I am a professional grief counselor.
5. Realizing Potential
I always knew who my son was and held that knowledge for him throughout all of the judgments, labels, and messages from others and himself by teachers, peers, etc. I reminded him of this often, through the deep griefs of his parents’ divorce, his sister’s death, and his substance abuse. I held that vision for him until he came home to himself. He could have gone down many destructive paths and gotten lost. Instead, he made the discovery of his ability, and as stated in the beginning, just graduated from University of Denver, which he made happen all on his own.We all go through trauma and grief in our journeys to grow and become.
Actualizing our potential depends on our resolution and the healing of our wounds. This means learning to be in touch with our True Self within and sourcing from that rather than things external. It is from this place where we learn to dream our world into being rather than be the effect of an external cause. Throughout all of these challenges there have been many joyous memories as well. My son and I are the best of friends, for which I am deeply and eternally grateful.
One day I will also be a father. I will be real with my children so they see my authentic and true self, I will always let them know how very much they are loved, and I will remind them of their value and worth when they forget. I will do these things consistently because they are my greatest gifts. That’s what my father did for me. I love you dad.