Picture this: Northern B.C., 1986, a gravel road and a young girl learning to ride her very first two-wheeler. My father, running behind me holding the seat, was installing confidence in every word he spoke, and I – fearless and unaware of the consequences of a gravel road wipe out – pushed on with all my might. But I look back and am mortified to find out that he’s missing – I smack into the end of a parked car, fly across the road, and embed gravel into my tiny little forehead.
As my father approaches, no apology is given. Instead he hugs me tight and simply says, “You’re going to have lots of crashes in life, Teesha, and many of them are going to hurt way worse than that one. I’m not always going to be there to catch you when you fall, but I know you’ll be okay.” At that young age, I couldn’t quite grasp what he was telling me, but as the years pass and I reflect on that incident I begin to see it with more clarity.
The life lessons our fathers teach us are sometimes often hard to see, but when we do get them, they reach deep into the heart and pull at strings that bind us all. Here are a few ideas to bond with our fathers on a deeper level this year.
1. Accept shortcomings and find beauty in an imperfect reality
Perhaps you always imagined that as you and your father grew older, you would bond and become the best of friends – but in reality you still argue often and phone conversations are usually limited to the surface talk of your daily activities. So what can you do? Try not to focus on the imagined hopes and wishes of a different relationship, but instead think about the positives the lie within the one you have. Perhaps you bond over your hatred for a sports team, or maybe you both have a twisted sense of humour. The key is to look for the ways in which you do connect and work on feeding those. And the more they flourish, the more you can grow together in the other aspects of life.
2. Embrace honesty and be authentic
We all want our parents to think we’re wonderful, and it’s never our intention to hurt them. However, by not being honest with them regarding your feelings, and by hiding your true character, you will never form a deeper connection. If what your father says about your cooking, or how you raise your children, makes your blood boil, then it’s your responsibility as an adult to be open and direct about your feelings. Practice using “I statements” when communicating (e.g. “I feel angry when you insult my cooking because it makes me feel like you don’t appreciate all the time it took me to make this meal for you”) to decrease blame and insert feeling.
3. Make family time a part of life
By putting forth the effort to build a more regular, ongoing relationship – instead of a holiday-based one – you are showing your desire for a stronger connection and your yearning to get to know who your father really is as a person. This can be as simple as a regular phone call, or as overt as making an effort to become more actively involved in the things he loves. By buying a pair of tickets to an event he enjoys, you are showing him that his interests are important to you, and that you would like to do things purely for his enjoyment and company.
If you find it hard to connect on hobbies, try celebrating the small victories in life together, such as your work promotion or the anniversary of the day he quit smoking.
Photographer Anne Geddes, known for her touching images of parents and children, put it best when she said that any man can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad; as it’s not the flesh and blood, but the heart, that makes a father great. So take some time this Father’s Day to reach out to the man who ran behind you on your bike – because even though you may always feel him, one day you may no longer see him when you look back.