19 June

Reflections: On Father’s Day

by Jon Katz
On Father's Day
On Father’s Day

On Father’s Day, every Father’s Day, I struggle to come to terms with the realization that my heart is running around in someone else’s body, and they will never know it, and shouldn’t.

My own father and I did not know one another, or perhaps even love one another, so it was for me to re-make this idea of a celebration of fathers.

Every father is different, and come to it in his own way.

There is no point in a father having any kind of plan, because it will not happen. Fatherhood is the great crapshoot, we can help launch life, but not to guarantee its outcome.

If we do our jobs, our child will be his or her own person, not hours, free to live their own lives without carrying the dead weight of our selfish expectations.

This year, yet another cast on being a father, I am soon to discover what it means to be a grandfather, even as I come to grips with the acceptance that I will never really what it means to be a father.

I was good at some father things, not so good at others.  That’s life, I think. I will do the best I can for as long as I can.

For me, being a father is about letting go, not hanging on.

I celebrate my remarkable daughter’s independence and freedom, she is deep into her own life, and she has built a good one for herself, and mostly on her own.  She loves, is loved, is accomplished. I had very little to do with any of it. What more can a father hope for than that?

My goal as a father is that she live her life fully, and that is happening, while many people say a father’s job is never done, I don’t share that view.

Life is not predictable, but I think being a father is less important every year.

The measure of a good father for me is not how much my child needs me, but how little. I do not want to be in the middle of my daughter’s life, the highest compliment to me is that she makes her own free and good choices, knowing that I will be there hovering in the ether if I am needed.

Mostly, I am not.

I sit in the grandstands of the great arena that is life, watching in wonder as my daughter navigates her own life. That is a miracle.

Emma has her path and I have mine, we meet in the middle, right where the heart and soul is. And the middle is never the same two years in a row.

What is the best thing I can do for my daughter? Allow her to live life on her own terms, not mine. Allow her to make her own mistakes and revel in her own successes. Let her be a better person in any way she chooses. Help support her decisions for herself, not mine.

There is something uncomfortable about Father’s Day for me, it is one of those forced American holidays, good for franchise restaurants and obligatory phone calls. It seems unnecessary. Thanks, Dad, for life.

Still, a good chance to reflect on one of the most sacred and experiences of life. We never quite know what to say to each other on Father’s Day, or what the point really is.

I thought about it this morning. I never harmed my daughter or frightened her, although I often drive her mad with frustration. I never stopped loving her, not for one day, or wishing for her happiness. I try to support and encourage her in every single thing she has ever wanted to do, and she has made nothing but good, if sometimes difficult decisions, for her life.

If Freud is right about love and work, then I have done my part as a father for my daughter.

I felt good when I thought that, and on Father’s Day, I wish her the life she was meant to live, and I tip my cap to the many good men of the world, whose hears are running around in the body of their children.

And I think also of my own father, and his difficult, often loveless life. In many ways, he gave me mine. I await the next chapter in the fatherhood chronicles.



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