‘Father’s Day made me feel disappointed, saddened and bitter. Then my husband changed it.’

For my whole life my experience with ‘dads’ wasn’t the one they make the Hallmark cards about. Not the ‘to the point ones’, not the funny ones and definitely not the sentimental ones. My father is a story of its own but let’s just say he was non-existent in my life growing up and it still remains this way.

He is a man who has secrets, who had the control and who made the decisions about contacting my mother and myself (which wasn’t too often.) I think the part of it that that frustrated and upset me the most was that even if I had ever wanted to send him a Father’s Day card I couldn’t have. This choice was taken away from me and that inability to have a choice was significant.

So, when every Father’s Day would come around, I was thoroughly reminded. I was reminded while watching TV, I was reminded when at the shops that were filled with dad gifts and cards and I was reminded at school, when there would always be a time allocated to make a special gift for your dad. And with all of these frequent reminders, I often had to talk about my father to people I didn’t know that well.

“Are you getting your daddy a gift?”

“What are you making for your dad?”

With the little I knew about him, it was difficult to know what to say. The fact that annually I had to be reminded of his influence on my life and how this made me feel left me disappointed, saddened and bitter.

It wasn’t only my dad either, many of my best friends growing up had dads that weren’t ‘there’. Whether it be divorce, death or just toxic relationships, I can’t say I was really ever shown what a real father should be. With these experiences I had my opinion about Father’s Day and what it meant and that for me it wasn’t a positive one.

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Shona and her two daughters. Image: Supplied.

When I met my husband and our relationship grew, my opinion on men altered quite a lot. For the first time I was shown what a true man actually was. I was shown that he is human. He makes mistakes, he owns them, he apologises and he makes things right (as much as they can possibly be made right).

He doesn’t make excuses, he has emotions, he is caring, he is supportive, he doesn’t run away when it gets tough, he is honest and he is a fighter. My husband showed me that is what a real man is. I realised that apart from a couple of male relatives, I had never really known one. It was an eye opener.

When we had children and the first Father’s Day approached, the same feeling of bitterness started to rise within me again like clockwork. Although my husband really helped me change my opinion of men, he hadn’t changed my opinion of fathers.

“God, I hate Father’s Day,” I said to him just as I had done in the previous years when all the reminders came out to tell me it was approaching. But this time I could sense a disappointment within him, he knew my feelings about the day but for him it was now something completely different, it was a day that was also about him.

He didn’t say anything to me, he would never have wanted to make it about him when he knew that it had always been an issue I struggled with but after years of knowing someone so intimately I just knew. It was then I realised that Father’s Day wasn’t just about my experience anymore, it was about his and it was about my children's. For them it would be a beautiful, positive, fun, family filled day where we can say thank you for all that a wonderful father does.

So, in my mind I made Father’s Day about my husband. I made it a day that I thanked the first wonderful father that had really played a part in my life and who would play a critical, positive and wonderful role in our children’s.

Although my experience and its impact will always be there, it is now definitely in the background and at the front of my mind is something much different and something that has finally made me understand what a Happy Father’s Day really is.

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