of dads and daddy issues

This week, my social networking channels have been flooded with tributes and offers related to Dear Old Dads Day (tomorrow, if you missed the memo).  Now, I love fathers.  It is genuinely heartwarming to be around guys who enjoy and show up for their kids, and I think every family who has one should move heaven and earth to celebrate him tomorrow.

The thing is, that’s just not everyone’s story.  My relationship with my own father has not even gotten off the ground, and my girls’ father maintains an 800-mile distance from them with good intentions but inconsistent support of any kind.  That’s only in our immediate family; millions of Americans struggle with daddy issues.  How do the fatherless generate a positive, healthy response to the celebrations around us? 

The answer to this (and so many questions – at least, around my house) begins with a little therapy in the form of: movies!  Heat some popcorn, settle in, and prepare to enjoy my top three recommendations for movies about dad – whichever kind you have:

Good Dad
Dan in Real Life
Finding Nemo
The Pursuit of Happyness

Bad Dad
The Empire Strikes Back
The Girl Who Played with Fire
The Shining
(preferrably the TV version, but either will work!)

Ambivalent Dad
Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade
Super 8

Deceased Dad
Batman Begins
Field of Dreams
The Lion King

Absent Dad
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

There now.  Don’t we all feel better?

Of course, it is never enough just to drown our sorrows; health and healing depend on forward motion as well.  Our family has taken great delight in volunteer work and we’ve been amazed at the emotional and spiritual rewards.  Whether you are paying forward in gratitude for the super dad you have or seeking to derive good from a more troubled home narrative, consider channeling some energy into the following opportunities:

The Mentoring Project
“The Mentoring Project seeks to respond to the American crisis of fatherlessness by inspiring and equipping faith communities to mentor fatherless youth.  Through dynamic church trainings, national mentor recruitment, and the creation of sustainable mentoring communities, The Mentoring Project seeks to rewrite the story of the fatherless generation.”

Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts of the U.S.A.
Scouting upholds a 100+-year tradition of values-based youth development.  In partnership with (always needed!) adult volunteers, they provide a program of character-building, citizenship and social awareness, leadership, life skill development, and complete personal health.

Big Brothers Big Sisters
“For over a century, Big Brothers Big Sisters has been helping change kids’ perspectives and giving them the opportunity to reach their potential [through one-on-one mentoring relationships].  We offer training and advice to help ensure that the match is working for everyone involved, maximizing the likelihood that a Big Brothers Big Sisters relationship will thrive.”

Finally, and most importantly, take a moment to look around at the fathers or father figures who are showing up and making a difference…and thank them, publicly if you can.  My Uncle Marc has always been there for me, loving me and fixing what’s brokenand just generally making sure I know he thinks I’m cool.  I’d be hopelessly adrift without him.  I was also blessed with a stand-in big brother (thanks, Uncle Chip!) and friends from church who took care of all those pesky Father-Daughter dances and bowling games and whatnot (You rock, Uncle Marty!).  It is people like these – my unofficial mentors – that have embodied God’s love and presence in my life.

As author Ben Sweetland wrote, “We cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening our own.”  Here’s to finding the perfect outlet for yours!


3 thoughts on “of dads and daddy issues

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  1. I’ve grieved for your and your children’s father issues for so many years now that the ache in my heart is an expected part of my Father’s Day. Even with my nightly pipe and slippers when you were kids, I’ve always known that I wasn’t enough, and so I have thanked God for Marc and Chip and Marty and my own dad and so many more over your lifetime, and I thank them all one more time this year. And I’m so proud of my daughters, who are capable of such great love and compassion and who don’t sit around and play the “poor me” game but rather pour their hearts into kindness and service for others. Your torches burn so brightly!


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