I don’t really have a conception of what Father’s Day is like for dads in two-parent homes. By the time I reached the age where I could effectively understand what it might mean to my own father, he was no longer a part of my life. My son doesn’t know what it means any more than I did at his age. It takes a long time to grow into empathy. I don’t get a lazy day of praise from wife and children. I don’t sleep in or skip church. I make the boy breakfast, take him to church, help clean up his spills and help him make a store for his cars to shop at. I do all the things a father does every other day of the year. Basically, the day is just like any other Sunday with my son — for the most part. Maybe it’s like that for all fathers, Odin’t know. (My god, I think that’s the worst pun I’ve ever made.)
What’s different is that I reflect — and I get a tad defensive. Most days of the year I don’t think about what people think about when they see us out and about, but on Father’s Day I kind of assume that they’re thinking “Dude has his son for Father’s Day,” which, in my mind, is short for “unmarried uninvolved father spending court-mandated time with his offspring.”
Look. I know that’s crazythought. But I’ve heard its echoes from folks I know, who see tons of unaccompanied dads out on Wednesdays (the typical weekly overnight for standard parenting schedule dads), feeding their kids at the Hot Dog Diner or the like. I always feel there’s an implication that these dads are doing the minimum, and that when I’m identified as a single dad, I’m also assumed to be doing the minimum. If there’s one thing that is certain to get me hackled, it’s being thought of as someone who doesn’t take responsibility or do his best. There’s certainly still a stigma to being a single parent, and I’d argue, the stigma is worse for single dads. There are so many single dads out there who do the minimum or less, and it reflects upon the single dads who actually give a hoot.
It’s also a hefty portion of personal insecurity and a little residual shame on my part for being taught that there is something shameful about being a single parent.
Out of all of that internalized roil I sit in a boat above it and reflect. And I think, for me, Father’s Day is becoming, and likely will continue to be, an examination of conscience on what it means for me to be a father. How I’ve been doing. How I can be better.