By Dr. Dean Beckloff | Contributor
For many, this day to celebrate fathers truly is a special day. To remember and honor the men who helped not only guarantee we came into this world, but also helped raise us with our mothers. For many, those men were gentle, noble, strong, caring and loving, compassionate and good. Men who not only brought home food for the table, but were there, really there—present for their sons and daughters. Many have stayed up late helping with homework, holding young children who are sick, tucking into bed and reading that bedtime story. And most importantly, many have been a dad who has expressed his love to his children over and over and affirmed them into adulthood with his expressed words of affirmation. For this dad, honoring him comes easily and with gratitude.
However, what if we did not have that dad? For some, Father’s Day is a painful reminder of loss, loss due to death or a father who never stayed around. Others had a dad at home, but he didn’t stack up. Perhaps this dad never really lived in his kids’ hearts because they never made it to his heart. And still others had a dad who brought harm and abuse and trauma.
For those who were and are truly fatherless, remember the timeless wisdom of Mister Rogers—look to the helpers. Perhaps there was a man, or woman, who stood in for you and stood up for you. Perhaps a relative who saw your plight and stood up and stood in. Perhaps help came from an organization like Big Brothers. Whoever those helpers were, identify them and be grateful for what they brought on this day that commemorates fatherhood. Whoever stepped up and affirmed you, celebrate their life and their love.
The same goes for those of us who had a dad who did not really measure up. Look again for the helpers who stood up and stepped forward. For some of us, perhaps we can try to get unfocused on what has been wrong and focus on some of the positive that might have been present. Sometimes we can be so focused on what was wrong that it crowds out what was positive. Maybe he helped get food on the table. Maybe you learned something from him. Little by little, focus on the good and what was indeed right about your dad.
Perhaps this focus will lead to ultimately forgiving the shortcomings. For some the shortcomings were grotesquely huge. But always remember, forgiving does not mean forgetting the hurt and loss. It does mean allowing yourself to step over the loss and moving on to living life in gratitude. And learning what it means to be a father, a real father. Then doing what most parents want to do in this world—be resolved to be the parent they did not have—a parent who does show up, who gives of himself or herself to their children. To bring to your own children something better and deeper and richer. To be resolved to not pass on to your own children the legacy of anger and pain and loss, but a new legacy of living life with gratitude and hope. So, on this Father’s Day, you can celebrate the gift you bring to your own children. The gift of the new legacy of life and of love.
Forgiving does not mean forgetting the hurt and loss. It does mean allowing yourself to step over the loss and moving on to living life in gratitude. And learning what it means to be a father, a real father.
Editor’s Note: Dr. Dean Beckloff is a pediatric therapist and is the founder of the Beckloff Behavioral Center in Dallas. If you wish to contact Dr. Beckloff with questions, comments or for a consultation, he can be reached at DrBeckloff.com or 972.250.1700.
ABOUT DR. DEAN BECKLOFF:
Dr. Beckloff maintains an active counseling practice in Dallas, specializing in treatment for children’s issues and families going through divorce. Dr. Beckloff has extensive experience, including teaching, working as a school counselor, providing teacher training, and working at the Center for Play Therapy at the University of North Texas. He is also active in his community, working with child-focused community groups; his desire is to see kids and families thrive despite the stressors of life.