Father’s Day is for Bad Dads, Too.

Via elephant journal
on Jun 15, 2013
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“How true Daddy’s words were when he said: ‘All children must look after their own upbringing.’ Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.” ~ Anne Frank

The True Meaning of Father’s Day.

An article about a Father’s Day that we all can celebrate–whether we had great Dads or…otherwise.

If you were lucky enough to have a real father, appreciate that today. Hold that close. And tell your father, if he’s still with us, how much you appreciate him.

But if, like many of us, you weren’t so lucky…well, either way, we appreciate so acutely the preciousness of a good dad.

The great thing about parents is—whether they were good or bad parents…we can learn from their example.

For example: my grandma is an generous, sweet, caring, fun grandma. I remember walking with her one time, and asking her advice about marriage {here’s her advice about marriage from another time we sat down together}. At the time I was madly-deeply in an adolescent, shallow sort of love with this lady. And loving this lady made me think about the nature of love, and commitment, and wonder: what does one look for in a life partner? And I asked her, and she replied with a smile:

“Well, don’t ask me. You can learn from me, but only from my mistakes.”

Something like that.

But she wasn’t being humble: she really meant that we can learn from our family’s mistakes just as well as we can learn from their virtues.

fatherhoodIf your father was a jerk—immature, a drunk, abusive, absent, selfish, lying, useless—or all of the above—that’s actually fine. Let go of resentment. I’m not suggesting you forget, or forgive—that’s up to you. But move on (after, say, three seconds).

Remember that plenty of amazing people came from tough situations, and plenty of lazy, selfish people came from amazing situations.

Our success and joy is up to us and no other.

So Father’s Day should be a reminder to cherish those true dads, who did so much more than help create us. They raised us with love and patience, humor and wisdom. But it’s also a day to appreciate all the regrettable qualities in those dads who made for bad dads. Take a minute to think about all the ways your father might have failed you, if he did—and let go, by resolving to do better.

For me, that’s a meaning of Father’s Day that we can all celebrate.


“When one has not had a good father, one must create one.”
~ Friedrich Nietzsche

For more:

elephant’s best posts on Father’s Day: #1.

elephant’s best posts on Father’s Day: #2.

elephant’s best posts on Father’s Day: #3. 

Louis CK on Father’s Day.

“This is the kind of father I want to be.” {Video}

Unhappy Fathers’ Day.

father son baseball love tenderness fear fearlessnessVintage -Father & Daughter


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7 Responses to “Father’s Day is for Bad Dads, Too.”

  1. Cal says:

    Doesn't anyone at EJ have a good dad? Surely EJ writers can do better than choosing Father's Day to impose a counseling session.

  2. Kate says:

    Speaking from the perspective of someone who has a mediocre dad (not chillingly awful, but not good), sometimes Father's Day is a hard/weird day for me. Maybe it bugs Cal that he feels like EJ has "co-opted" Father's Day to talk about not so rosy dad-child relationships, but this is something I need to hear. It's always hard to feel pressure to "celebrate" and thank my dad for being my dad when I don't really feel that way in my heart. Thanks for letting Father's Day be three dimensional instead of the Hallmark caricature most of society makes it out to be.

  3. elephantjournal says:

    Someone sounds like they need a big huuuuugggggg…come heah youuuuu!

  4. elephantjournal says:

    I hear you, and Cal, both. We've posted 20 articles on great fathers and father's day traditions and gifts and recipes…but, like Christmas, say, it's also a day that leaves many of us feeling…sad, not happy, and all the sadder for feeling like everyone else is happy and we should be, too. So I wrote the above at least as much for a dear friend of mine who has had a bad dad, and the others like him and myself who have learned to learn from negative examples, so that we might be great dads or moms some day.

  5. Linda V. Lewis says:

    I am confident you'll be a great daddy! Some day! I only hope to live to see it!

  6. Anastasia says:

    It feels grounding to acknowledge the awkwardness of imposed holidays celebrating vague senses of what should be felt and shared between family members. I liked the three dimensional description: in all cases, relationships, and especially those moments when we are forced to put them In glass cases and stand about marvelling at and squinting our eyes for the one dimensional aspect that may exist in proximity to our glimmering images. 

    I do have one item to oppose: “Our success and joy is up to us and no other.” no, not really, sometimes, if conditions are favorable and we have some trust money, or not enslaved by some militant brutish religion or warmongers, but, yeah, I can choose to exercise and feel better that day, or my finances are in ruins and there’s no sliver of light, but, yeah, even  if you’re living in another not-so-peaceful country or don’t have certain socioeconomic US  privileges, then, well, you should keep on rolling that ever-amassing boulder up that mountain because that American dream is yours – you can wake up in a rape camp and say, you know what? Ya just can’t let the bastards get ya down.  


  7. Linda V. Lewis says:

    Also, what Grandma Carol said to you, sounds like something I have said to you as well!
    And remember, you had many good, inspiring father figures in your life–which may not be the same as an actual present dad, but very helpful!