Someone, sometime ago, had a lovely idea to celebrate Father’s Day at the boys’ school: to invite all Dads in to share a day with their children, doing activities like Forest School, Science, Cooking, Sport, and Music. It takes a huge amount of organisation, but it is so much loved by the children (and the Dads). It’s also not restricted to Dads – it can be any beloved male figure in their life, who can have this special experience with them. And that’s where my lot have all gone today.
You never understand, until you are one, exactly what parents go through; and having days for children to celebrate the people who love them, worry about them, nurture and care for them is so important. But once you’ve grown up, things can get more complicated, and depending on your relationship with your parent, Father’s and Mother’s Day can be more painful than positive. Plus you’ve got the increasing possibility of losing them as old age encroaches, physically and mentally – both possibilities carrying their own unique brands of sadness.
Adulthood brings a slow but steady revelation that the infallible, incomparable gods and goddesses of your childhood are just people, like you; that they probably don’t feel much more grown up than you do; and that they aren’t necessarily able to make more clever, sensible decisions about their own lives than you are about yours. But that knowledge doesn’t make the things they do any less painful.
My relationship with my own father has changed a great deal over the last 20 years, and my Father’s Day will always include a measure of grief for the way things used to be. And it’s not helped by the gushing familial sentiments thrust in our faces by the greetings card companies, and that nemesis of real life: social media. If your situation doesn’t match the picture-perfect happiness of others, these things all serve to emphasise that you are Missing Out, or underline your loss.
Father’s Day for our boys is a very different matter though, and I love helping them to celebrate their incredible Daddy; neither of them could ever hope for better. To them he is everything, a paragon of fatherhood whom they idolise, and whom I hope they will live by, grow up to emulate, and always adore and respect – even if they do discover that his decisions about storing every little spare piece of FROM UP TO 15 YEARS AGO aren’t necessarily sensible.
Every year on Twitter, the glorious Sarah Millican manages to sum up my Father’s Day feelings perfectly. Here are a couple of her gems from previous years:
“Hugs to those who find Father’s Day a struggle. Whether you don’t get on, he’s no longer here or whatever your story…[and] Happy Father’s Day to all of the good Dads. And hugs to those who’ve lost theirs. Remember the good times.”
So if you approach Father’s Day with mixed feelings, my advice is 1) follow Sarah Millican on Twitter; 2) accept those virtual hugs from all the others who feel sad on Father’s Day, and 3) celebrate the brilliant Dads in your life – even if they’re not actually your Dad.