For some of us, a relationship with our dad can be emotional, complicated and strained. Although, we are related, dad can be the most difficult person to communicate with or even approach at times. Some people are even estranged from their fathers; rarely seeing or talking to them until it’s too late. Others spend years in psychoanalysis talking about issues with their dads, because whether we like it or not, we are tied to our fathers in many ways.
This year, in addition to the gift of neckties and power tools, try some ways to improve your relationship with your dad as a gift to him and yourself. It will make you a better child, a parent, and a happy person with some peace of mind.
Develop Common Interests.
Find something you and your dad both enjoy doing; common interests. If you don’t know what that is, ask him and explore together. You can also ask your mom or dad’s friends. My dad and I both enjoy going to bakeries and enjoying a slice of cake and coffee. We rarely say anything, but we are happy. He finds joy in treating me to yummy food and I am grateful he is still around. Sometimes, it doesn’t take much, but some time and cake.
You don’t always have to be talking. Men, fathers’ alike, still find it difficult to talk openly, especially with their own kids. So, wait for the right time. In the meanwhile, just hang. Watch a game, help him in the garden, follow him to work, make him some cookies, show him how the smartphone works, and people watch and just look out and simply be together. Talking isn’t the only way to communicate or get close. Nothing beats actually spending time with your dad. I’ve seen a lot of dads wait for their kids to call or stop by, and sadly, it never happens.
Respect & Validation
Everybody, including our dads craves respect and validation just like kids. Show him by saying things we would like to hear from our dads like, “I’m proud of you. You’re doing a good job. I know you’re doing your best. I’ll always be here for you.” If it’s uncomfortable to say it in person, send him an email, text, or a hand written card. You’ll be amazed how far these little statements go in one’s entire life.
Genuinely listen to your dad’s stories. He’s had a life too with his share of ups and downs. Rather than rolling your eyes, this time, take an interest and ask him about his life, his childhood, and teenage years. Seek out his photos of youth and share some laughs. He was once a young man with dreams. What were they? Ask for some advice. After all, he’s lived more than you have and he’s probably wiser than you realize. You can also reminisce about old times; when you drive him nuts, and how you’re doing now. You’ll be amazed what you can discover simply by listening to your old man. You might grow close and don’t even know it.
Dads Are Not Superheroes
Dads are humans. Yap! Weren’t they supposed to solve everything, be everywhere, do everything, and get us everything? Who put this kind of pressure on poor old dad? I’m afraid dads are people just like us and fate can be cruel to them as well, so they deserve a break. I’ve realized only recently that my dad was privy to mistakes, regrets, and failures, just like me. They are allowed not to be perfect and have flaws. But for some reason, kids expect perfection from our mortal dads. We put them on a pedestal, destined to fall off from. I’ve learned to let go of expectations from my dad. It’s not fair. Dads are people, just like us, doing the best they can, with what they have, and what they know, everyday. That’s the definition of real heroes.
I’m Sorry, Thank you & I Love You.
I can’t tell you how many people lose the chance to say these words to their dads. Then they carry around the guilt their whole lives. These words are the hardest to say to our parents, but they go a long way, even if you say it once. So, say it as often as you can. If you can’t say it in person, write, email, text, or send him a handwritten card, which is more personal. It’s not about their reaction, but your effort that will give you peace. My dad is not a wealthy man, but he always waited up for me when I was out, ran to the drug store in the rain in the middle of the night when I was sick, and bought me ice cream when I was beaten up by life. “Thank you dad and I love you.”
Show Him Some Kindness
We can be kind to strangers and yet have a hard time being kind to our own dads. I understand. I know. It can be awkward and some dads are impossible. But on father’s day, find a simple way to be kind to him for no reason. Just because he’s our dad. Even if it means giving him the last word, bringing him some food, placing a note in his briefcase, listening to one more war story, trying to see things from his perspective and not yours, forgiving him for wrongdoings (at least think about it) or giving him a hug for no reason. It can make a world of difference to your dad now or later, and you’ll feel pretty good yourself. Remember, he won’t be around forever.
No matter what kind of dad you have; nice, scary, cold, warm, or a combo of all of the above, remember that it’s not easy being a dad. It never comes with a manual, and they are probably doing the best they can, even if that doesn’t measure up to your standards. For father’s day at least, let go of those expectations and all the “shoulds,” and give him a break and let him just be a man, a human being, and someone who gave you life and possibly so much more.
In the end, our effort to improve our relationship with our fathers is not about his reaction or reply, but the fact we had the courage and the compassion to reach out to him under any circumstances and that’s enough. That’s huge! Most people can’t do it. And in the process, we can probably understand ourselves a little better and have a peace of mind that nothing and no one has to be perfect.