Now that we have all shared some lasting Mother's Day moments, it leads me to start thinking about Father's Day. Of course the florists will not have the deliveries they so enjoyed this month, but still it gets one to thinking and remembering.
I read somewhere a long time ago that the relationship a girl has with her dad can often affect her relationship with men throughout her life. I believe there is a lot of truth in that. I think it applies to boys growing up as well. If your dad took the time to guide and teach you good things, it does affect you throughout life.
So where then does that leave those raised without a father around? As a single mother, I felt that as long as my son had a strong male influence in his life it would all work out OK. He had my two older brothers around as well as my dad – men who I respected and trusted to be influential in his life.
When he was a young boy, many years ago, there was not a whole lot of homes that did not have the traditional family. There was a mother and father in most homes. In fact, they still had kids making things in school to bring home to Dad on Father's Day. In our case, my son would often gift these things to grandpa.
Even though I was very young, I had the good sense not to bring men around my son. I did not bring dates home, and he never woke up to having breakfast with a stranger at the table. I was careful to never mix my social life with our family life. I really did try to be a perfect mother.
Because I was young and raising a son, I knew I needed to try harder to make sure that all his needs were met. I got him into Cub Scouts as soon as he was old enough. I knew that there would be a man in charge as well as a woman. I did my best to get everything right. I remember feeling that because he did not have a dad at home that I would have to just be a better mother. If I was really good at being one, it would not matter that we were not the traditional family. Things were often a little difficult for us, but I had a lot of moral support from my own family.
Like I said, things were very different back then. He would often bring home papers from school inviting parents to various functions. He never complained, but I know there must have been times that he felt very isolated from some of his friends and playmates.
There was a time, when he was about eight years old that will forever be burned into my brain. I had just seen something on television, or perhaps read in a book, about role reversals. It was about finding out what you really sound like to your children. You would ask them to play the role of yourself, and you would play the child. I thought this was something interesting to do.
When my son came home from school that day, I asked him to participate in this experiment with me. I had him sit in the big chair, and I sat across his lap much like he would do with me. I began by talking about friends at school, and that sort of thing. He started out as I expected, and mocked me word for word. Suddenly, he began to cry. I could not imagine what I had said wrong.
"Why are you crying? Did I say something that hurt your feelings?"
After what seemed like a very long hesitation he quietly said, "I want to play the dad, but I don't know what they say."
It was at that moment that I felt like the worst failure as a parent. I thought I had done everything right, but realized he was still missing having a dad around. I don't know if it was because all his friends at school had a dad, or because he read in books about what a “real family” was.
My little boy is 54 years old now. We are very close. When I spoke with him recently about this role-reversal moment, we both got watery eyes. It is a different world now, and what constitutes a family has completely changed.
I learned a very valuable lesson from him that day. Children will often keep things to themselves because they love you and actually do not want to hurt you. They can miss things that they never had, and sometimes, even when you do your very best as a parent, you don't always get it right.