Here’s to You, Shitty Dads

I’ve sent three “Happy Father’s Day!” text messages so far today, but none of them were to my dad.

This isn’t some sob story.

He chose to be uninvolved in my life.

My dad didn’t perish tragically when I was young. There’s no underlying, deep-seeded reason why my dad is not around. It’s simple, really.

No matter which version of the story (if any) you’ve heard, I lived it, and I can say this with utmost certainty and finality: My dad chose to take off.

So, thanks dad.

Thanks to you I have to remind myself that other people’s dads actually stick around for their kids and are good people. It’s strange. I thought most of the dads just decided to leave. They didn’t though.

When I first went to the fiance’s house, many years ago, I told him after the fact that I wasn’t sure how to communicate with his dad. The fiance’s dad said supportive and genuine and helpful things to me and I just stood there like an idiot. The fiance told me to just talk to his dad like normal. I had to explain – I didn’t know how to normally talk to a dad.

The fiance’s parents and my family recently had dinner together for the first time, and I was talking to the sister about what the fiance’s parents are like. I love the fiance’s parents. I had nothing negative to say, nothing to prep her for, except that I did say this: You will feel uncomfortable because the fiance’s dad will be there and the fiance’s dad will be really kind and you won’t know how to react.

We didn’t really discuss it any further. The sister knew what I meant.

Thanks, dad. Without you, I would never have to learn how to let go of incorrect assumptions about people. All dads are not created equal. Other dads deserve a chance.

Thanks, dad. Without you, I wouldn’t know just how strong women can be. I always knew growing up that we had something special in our mother – she is one-of-a-kind. She gives and loves and forgives and accepts and supports and she was always that way. But without you, I wouldn’t have known that women can be even stronger. If ever I am half as strong as my own mother, I will count myself incredibly fortunate.

Thanks, dad. Without you, I wouldn’t know how to check my own oil and transmission fluid and cut the grass and what a Phillips head screwdriver is. You didn’t teach me these things – the mom did, and the brother did, and the fiance did, and some things I learned on my own time, but without you I might have thought it acceptable to rely on someone else to help me.

Thanks, dad. Without you, I wouldn’t know that some people are just mean people and there’s nothing you can do about it. Knowing your dad makes jokes about your weight and intelligence and everything about you with his friends isn’t super fun. You don’t get warm and fuzzies from it, but you do overcome it, and you learn that most people have their opinions and most people’s opinions don’t matter.

Thanks, dad. Without you, I wouldn’t have been able to end some of my relationships as quickly as I did, because I knew exactly what I would and would not stand for in a relationship. Even though I do believe your worst came out much later in your marriage, I was always on high-alert for any sign that someone might be condescending, or judgemental, or hypocritical, or emotionally abusive. If ever I saw the slightest indication of this, I cut them loose.

So here’s to you, shitty dads everywhere. Without you, none of us would be as strong as we are and as confident as we are. Having your dad choose to leave you and your family and your life behind and start new with someone else is tough. You almost feel like you won’t overcome it, but you do, and you’re stronger for it.

Wonderful dads are, I’m sure, much better than shitty dads. I wouldn’t know this from personal experience, but wonderful dads probably teach their kids all these things in the normal way. Those of us with shitty dads, though, we have a certain bond, and a certain hardness to us, and what else can we do but be grateful for it?

It’s Father’s Day today. If you know of any great dads, let them know they are great dads. If you suffer from the Shitty Dad Syndrome, then find the positive in all the negative, brush it off, and revel in all you’ve done despite him.

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads who’ve shown me that some dads do their best for their kids. Happy Father’s Day to the shitty dads, too. We’ve done amazing without you.


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