Thursday, September 5, 2013

A little truth: The benefit of a relationship with your father

Recently, I was talking about my relationship with my Dad.  He wasn't perfect, but he was a great father.  People don't see what happens behind closed doors but in a family, you get to see it all.  The fights between the parents, the struggle to raise a child, issues with money, and the list goes on.

For all those things we went through - and we went through many - my father was pretty consistent with all three of his children.  Even if he was annoyed from work or mad with mom or tired, he was still our Dad.

I give my mother credit, for the most part, she managed to not tear him down to us even when things were bad between them.  Oh sure, there were times she vented about him and sometimes it was TMI - especially since I was the oldest by 8 years and more mature for my age.  But overall, she encouraged us to build a relationship with our father.  Good, bad, or otherwise - it was on us and not based on anything else.

As I grew older, I learned to appreciate some of the insights only my Dad could impart.  He and I communicated in a different way than I did with my mother.  It filled other parts of my development.  As an adult, he was one of my best friends - even when he was telling me stuff I didn't want to hear (like all good best friends do!).

Anyway, during the conversation, it was mentioned to me that a family close to mine was struggling with a divorce.  The children seem to have decided the mother was right and the father was wrong (long before the divorce the kids had made it clear they were "on their mother's side no matter what") - so now that they are divorcing, they have basically written their father off.  Partially because they feel it's what their mother expects and partially because, in their lives, that's what loyalty is...

This made me so sad.  Even when my mother and I were at our worst (ant there were many years of "If we never see one another again, I don't think either of us cares") - we still had SOME sort of relationship.  Begrudgingly even, because SHE IS MY MOTHER!  When things healed, I learned to appreciate the relationship we managed to maintain, rebuild and strengthen in a way I never would have thought possible.

These three kids are risking losing out on the chance to have whatever wisdom, laughter, and memories they can with their father by getting caught up in something that has nothing to do with them.  My Dad died unexpectedly, reminding us all that there is no promise of tomorrow.  Squandering what time we could have to love one another, despite the situation, seems like a huge waste to me.  I'd give so much to have one more chance to talk, argue, hug, or just say, "I love you" to my Dad.  

So, I've been considering what the benefits of having that relationship could be - and let me state clearly, if you're in a non-traditional family this still applies because sometimes the single mother, uncle, other mother or other dad fills the same role I'm describing here.

Your parents are two halves of a whole entity as a child.  Usually one is the emotional ground and the other is the logical process person.  One might be the disciplinarian while the other is the one who teaches flexibility and mercy.  Knowing and embracing a relationship with both halves gives us the ability to turn that around in our lives.  To embrace all parts of not only ourselves, but the people we let into our lives. 

I think it helps you love deeper, be a better friend, and a more well-rounded person in general.  All in all, I think it's worth fighting for and protecting.

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