The celebration of Father’s Day and Mother’s Day can be really triggering for people. When you can’t find a Hallmark card that you can sign your name to (without gagging) or you are in grief over an absent parent, these holidays can be tough. Some people don’t even know who their fathers are.
Since I have written about mothers who fail in parenting, some might think that I am putting all the weight on them. Fathers fail at least as often in my observation. They fail for many of the same reasons, which are a combination of situational factors and their own personal wounding.
There are, of course, countless variations on the ways that fathers fail, but here are the most common types of problematic fathers I hear about in my therapy practice:
• The tyrannical father, who must have absolute control
• Narcissist fathers who can’t see their children or attune to their needs because their own needs take up all the space
• Passive fathers who fail to protect children from volatile mothers who rage and verbally or physically abuse
• Fathers who are either physically or emotionally incestuous
• Absent fathers gone from home most of the time
• Critical fathers whose stinging remarks last a lifetime
• Alcoholic fathers leaving a trail of broken promises
• Drug addict fathers lost in their private world or erupting in violent outbursts
• Ineffective fathers, boys who can’t take care of themselves, let alone anyone else.
• Deadbeat dads who don’t financially support their children and may not even keep contact with them
• Fathers so caught in a restricted masculine role that they can’t let their sons be vulnerable human beings
Fathers often have an additional disadvantage in parenting as boys do not learn the relational and caring skills that girls seem to more naturally absorb. Good parenting is nothing if not emotional intelligence and skills in communicating.
If this Father’s Day you don’t feel like honoring your father, don’t feel bad. My perspective is that when parents do a good job, we naturally appreciate and want to honor them, so when we don’t, it is a reflection of a failed relationship.
The Good Father
Good fathers are sorely needed. Not the father who always “knows best” but fathers who can help their children find their own answers, think and problem-solve, and consider the needs of others. The Good Father helps guide the child out beyond the orbit of mother and into the larger world. He shows the child how to navigate and succeed in the world.
Writing about Good Father energy in The Tarot of Transformation with co-author Willow Arlenea, we say, “He can empower others because he is secure in his own power and thus not easily threatened. He holds his authority lightly and leads by example rather than command…He can nurture, guide, and protect as well as provide materially.”
This Good Father energy is part of the archetype of the Green Man. We continue: “Because he is attuned with the Earth and natural resources, he doesn’t support wasteful consumption, but rather keeps the greater good in mind. He does not rely on material goods to substitute for more important emotional sustenance.”
Quite a contrast with dads I hear about who see their children infrequently and shower them with stuff to make up for it.
Just as we are left with a “mother hole” when we don’t get enough bonding with a Good Mother figure, we are left with a “father hole” when we don’t personally receive the benefits of a Good Father.
There is a collective “father hole” too. We need more positive masculine models providing able, caring leadership to replace the rigid patriarchal systems that are falling apart.
Celebrating Good Fathers
Let’s celebrate those men who have been able to step beyond their restrictive conditioning and learned to nurture and protect. The father who can show humility, who can say I’m sorry. The father who can say “you’re important to me.” The father who doesn’t need to always be top dog.
If not your own father, perhaps there is a man in your life—a grown son, a friend, your partner, a colleague—who you think is working really hard to be a good father. Perhaps this is who you can wish “Happy Father’s Day.”
PS: My last post was for those having a hard time at Mother’s Day. If you enjoyed this article and want to receive others like it, please sign up for more. If this piece sparks something in you, please let me know by sharing your thoughts below