In general, I am opposed to “Hallmark Holidays.” I learned a long time ago on Valentine’s Day how consumerism fueled by one stationery company (and let’s be honest, the restaurant industry, floral industry, chocolate industry, jewelry industry…) could make a person feel invalidated, lonely, or dissatisfied. As with any consumerism, there really is no one thing that we purchase that can fill a void in our egos and hearts. And so I stopped wanting an amazing Valentine’s Day and started trying to affirm my loved ones as often as possible on the other days.
The same is true for Mother’s and Father’s Day. An industry has told us how and when we should specifically honor our mothers and fathers and any resistance makes one seem ungrateful and disrespectful. Like with Valentine’s Day, I would much rather work intentionally on showing gratitude towards my parents as often as possible – and as a parent myself, I find that my gratitude is much easier to give now that I understand the fullness of their sacrifices, challenges, and struggles to love me in the best ways they knew and know how.
That being said, what really burdens me about Mother’s and Father’s Day is the ways in which they are fraught with emotion. Not everyone has positive relationships with their parents. Not everyone has two active parents in their lives. Not everyone has living parents. And some of us experience extremes in those areas – parents who were hurtful, abusive, or absent. But what I had forgotten about until this week is that there are also men who want to be fathers and cannot. Women are not the only victims of infertility, miscarriage, and infant loss. So are men. For those men who have longed to cradle a baby in their arms, to throw a baseball in the front yard with their child, or have a meaningful relationship with their child, Father’s Day is an equally painful day. And because of the way that we socialize most men, there is rarely a forum for such a vulnerable conversation. I was humbled by that realization when I read this poem this week: http://projectpomegranate.org/2015/faith-hope-and-love/. It gives more voice to that pain than I ever could.
Once again, I am conflicted about Father’s Day. For the wonderful father and step-father I have been blessed with and the amazing husband and father who is helping me raise our girls, I am eternally grateful. For all the men who have been mentors and companions on my journey, and for those who are amazing dads to their children, I am equally grateful. I am also mournful for all those who suffer because of the fraught relationships they have had with their fathers. I grieve with all those men who want to be fathers and have not been able to conceive. And I stand with all those fathers who recognize their faults and failures and long to be better versions of themselves. Father’s Day is a complicated mess. And so this year, I hold all of us in prayer, as we sort through the complicatedness of life, honor the good, recognize the bad, and celebrate our God who can redeem us all.