Great Dad...or Not So Great Dad?

By Nancy Pollard, LCSW, LLC
Nancy Pollard

As Father‘s Day rolls around, the shelves are full of great masculine Father’s Day cards; ducks flying overhead, blue sailboats, red racecars.  They say something like, “To the Best Dad in the World! My Hero!”

Some of those fathers truly do exist.  Some of us got to be daddy’s little girl, or we were a ‘chip off the old block.’  Some of us can relate to Dad and admire him immensely.  Some dads are truly awesome and wonderful.  To you, Dad, hats off!  You have a place of honor and prestige.

But what if Dad is not your idol? 

  • What if Dad has been a jerk and hurt you time and time again? 
  • What if he ridiculed you and put you down?
  • What if his comments cut you to the core?
  • What if Dad was a loser and did not make you proud, but embarrassed you?
  • What if Dad was passive and did not protect you from your tongue-biting mother?

Or, the Deadbeat Dad, the biggest creep of all; the man who abandons his family.  He pulls away, disappears, leaving the child believing that they did something wrong.  If only they were better, more irresistible, Dad couldn’t possibly walk out!  Rarely is it explained that he believes that he is worthless and of no importance in his child’s life, and is convinced that the child will be better off without him.  What card do you send him then?

It is not important which card you send Dad.  What is important is to understand that fathers are incredibly influential figures in one’s life.  For some, Dad is as powerful as God.  While a mother’s love may gush forth, the love that we often crave is that of Dad.  For many dads, love is something that we have to earn; a test we have to pass and measure up to or be like him.  For some dads, we are never quite good enough.

Why do some dads fail at showing their children love?

Maybe it is because of Little League coaches that believed the words, ‘fat, lazy and stupid’ would make someone lose weight, run faster, be smarter.

Or Army drill sergeants, believing that calling you a ‘maggot scumbag’ would help you perform better and stay alive in the trenches.

Maybe it is the idea that ‘real men don’t eat quiche or cry’.

Maybe fathers begin to pull away from their teenage daughters because deep down they are terrified of their response to their daughter’s sexuality.  And so, in order to keep the proper distance and boundary, they pull away and limit their hugs.  One day little Susie can sit on Daddy’s lap, but the next day Daddy is too busy.

Maybe it starts at birth, when many fathers get pushed out of the love nest because mother tends to be controlling and particular about the way the baby is burped, the diaper is changed, and the bottle fed.  Dad can automatically feel inferior and step away and choose to go out and make money in a world he understands.

Or maybe we don’t understand them and their love because they don’t talk about it.  They don’t explain; they go into their caves and hide, distancing themselves and their feelings.

The above are not excuses but explanations that perhaps Dad did the best that he could.  The sad fact remains that some dads have failed miserably, floundering in a role they may not have consciously signed up for.

If this is your Dad, let go.  Fire him from being in charge of your self-worth.  Be a dad to yourself and give you what you need, whether it it acceptance, approval, or understanding.  At some point you must cut the cord and stop spending your adult life trying to recover from Dad’s brutality and emotionally devastating ways.  Learn from his mistakes.  Make changes, and do not pass that role model on to other generations.

And if your Dad is one of those awesome dads that you can always count on, that makes you feel like a million dollars when you are around him, tell him.  Emulate him.

And if he is a sweetheart, tender, loving and caring without a mean bone in his body, make him a card reflecting his soft side, his musical talent, his gardening skills.  Let him know that he is perfect - just the way he is.

Find the truth this Father’s Day about your own father, love him anyway, and let go if you must.

Just a little Mountain Therapy

Copyright © 2016 Nancy Pollard



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