I’ve talked about my perspective on the role my parents play in my life changing over time. Before I found the “right” therapist, I divided the world into two buckets. Those who seem to blame their parents for how their lives have turned out, and those like me, who don’t. Through therapy, I’ve come to appreciate there’s only one bucket. It is impossible for me to understand who I am without looking at the people who much of my emotional behaviors were modeled after, both consciously and unconsciously.
Recently I have come to recognize slash acknowledge aspects of my father’s emotional state that I either couldn’t or didn’t want to admit. I don’t believe my father derived a great deal of satisfaction being a parent. I believe much of what he did was out of a belief he was doing what fathers are “supposed to do.” I don’t think it is about me, or my sister. I think it was about him and his emotional challenges.
I know I’m different. My desire to rebuild my relationship with my daughters is not motivated by appearances. I want to be an active part of my children’s lives. I want to be aware of their accomplishments, their failures, joys and sorrows. I want to connect.
This is not about me trying to replicate the bond the girls share with their mother. I look at it with envy but I don’t begrudge it. I will forge my own relationships.
My lack of a role model isn’t an excuse. It reminds me why this section of my journey looks this way. On occasions, I truly felt I was emotionally broken beyond repair. When our first daughter was born, I didn’t feel an instantaneous bond when she was one-second old. It took six weeks before I began feeling much of anything. At around six-weeks, I remember walking into the room, and a tiny pair of eyes looking up at me, recognizing my face and a smile spreading, ear-to-ear. In that moment my world actually changed.
And yet, I harbored resentment towards friends, particularly men who had gone through the experience before me, none of whom acknowledged anything other than instantaneous, unconditional love. Perhaps I was the only man in my entire circle of friends who didn’t experience the Super-Glue of instant bonding. Somehow I doubt that. Compensating for that resentment, I repeatedly told men on the verge of fatherhood not to worry if they didn’t love the kid immediately.
By better understanding my father’s emotional distance, I am better able to appreciate some of the reasons learning to be more authentic, to understand my feelings, is so arduous. And most importantly, I appreciate I am not “beyond repair.” Understanding my father helps me find compassion for myself, rather than feeling I belong on the Island of misfit toys. And that feels pretty damn good.
Stay in touch. Connect.
P.S. There’s a poignancy to this scene that resonates for me on a buncha different levels.
P.P.S. If you have timeI wrote a post a while back about my personal Almost Famous moment. Check it out here.