This year the third Sunday of June was the Summer Solstice. For some people, it was Father’s Day.
The only thing this day does for my kids is remind them that they had a father who didn’t really know how to love them.
On Twitter, people used to hashtag #girldad to talk about all the fathers with daughters. Some of the tweets I read showed how much those dads loved having daughters.
It made me sad. Not because my daughters don’t have a dad to celebrate with, but because they never had a dad who knew what unconditional love was.
My late husband didn’t know what to do with girls. I always wondered if he harbored resentment that we didn’t have any boys. His own father made it clear after both girls were born that he was disappointed “the last name wouldn’t continue.”
With our firstborn, he berated her if she acted like a girl–she had to be tough and sporty and perfect at everything–and then he’d yell at her for not dressing “girly” enough, for not wanting to wear makeup (when she became a teenager), for having breasts. Seriously. I can’t even begin to describe all the inappropriate, misogynistic things he said to her. The contradictions of his behavior and demands with her were like experiencing whiplash.
Our secondborn loved pink and frilly things, and she was not sporty or rugged as a little kid. He didn’t know what to do with her either. Rather than helping her get over her fear of learning how to ride a bike, he gave up trying to teach her after one session.
It wasn’t long after that failed bike lesson that he began disassociating from us and was drinking heavily. And then not much more time before he began his decline from terminal liver cancer. Rather than building relationships with his daughters in his last few months, he distanced himself further so they wouldn’t remember him as weak and frail, as if they couldn’t see what was happening to him.
For my kids, Father’s Day is a reminder that he didn’t try, that he didn’t make an effort. They don’t have good memories of him. They have no reason to be sad about the third Sunday in June.