What If Dad Is, Or Was, A Bad Mother

This may seem to you a radical thought, or three, for Father’s Day and beyond.  It’s meant to rattle a few hearts.  If reading this gets yours to bleed a tad with healing, I’ve achieved what I came here to do.

If your dad abandoned, abused, tormented you, the feelings Father’s Day, or any random day, ignites are yours, well earned, born of real life that the Hallmark platitudes won’t sanitize.  They remind us all of the frailty of a human life and the mortality of a dad. 
They remind us, too, of the beautifully self-indulgent, intoxicatingly healing tonic of forgiving. 

To forgive him is to acknowledge his failures, his humanity.  It admits to your agony, your hurt.  Forgiving reaches into the fathoms of how cheated you feel when it seems nearly everyone else cheers and loves on a great dad you never had.  The one who can walk on water, and oceans of Old Spice or Ice Blue. Forgiving a father who was not all that expels the longing and the hurt of not knowing the love of such a man. 

Such forgiving is love in magic ricochet.  When you gift it to him, it bounces love in even greater measures all over you.  Take the gift.  It’s well earned.

 Way out beyond the clichés of religiosity, our faiths call for this forgiving.  For it reminds us God is the ultimate dad — so in love with us, He makes the best of the mortal dads look fit for Matchbox Cars or that novelty tie that says Fargo’s a Fun Town.

Turns out God, as a dad, is beautifully unfair.  The ultimate forgiveness gets offered to the lifelong Mother Teresa types and to the Spanky hell raisers whose spindly little faith finally curls up on their death beds.  Unfair, sure. Mike Brady is more fair than that.  But this grace, this forgiveness, is love unfettered by enabling and cliché.  God lets Spanky screw up his life, sure, if that’s what Spanky chooses.  Dads who abandon and abuse end up suffering their own screwed up spiritual warfare.  It’s a war they start, and fight, until they lay down arms and take up actual fatherhood.  On this side of mortality, dads who wound their children fight a war against fatherhood they are destined to lose.  Only when they admit this is there a chance for reclaiming some actual spirit of World’s Best Dad.

I know some of this well.  My dad failed me with drink and, at times, violence toward my mom.  He failed me with the omnipresent fear of upheaval.  He failed simply to be there when all that was required was the presence of him. 
Yet toward the end of his life, my dad and I held the ties of a beautiful relationship.  I am so very blessed by this, and by the memory of him.  His sobriety, even these years beyond his death, is a gift he continues to give to me.  He was an extraordinary man, after all, when he elected to live up to the man he could become.  And I love him, and grieve him, this moment, beyond all words. 

If you’ve known a beautiful dad, bravo to you.  Love on him for life.  If you’ve known true reconciliation with a father who lost his way, bravo, too.  Bathe in the light of that relationship. 
But if today finds you standing at the brink of a jagged void of bad dad memories, peer in, then walk away.  Open your fists and turn from that hole, heart unburdened by the truly divine act of letting go.  Give yourself the mortal gift of forgiving him.  He is not your problem to solve.  Admit this.  Then go. 

As for my belief, I walked away in the comforting shade of the spiritual father of us all.  That Father who does not let us down.  I think we ought to send that dad a few whispers of Father’s Day love every day.  Some silent letting go is such a prayer.

And mortal fathers, it’s not about the cards and ties and that Porter Wagoner CD you smiled at nonetheless.  Father’s Day, like every day, is about how you’ll get remembered, and celebrated, on the best, and worst, days of your children’s lives.  It’s about how you create such days for your children. 

About this, dads, only you get to choose.  Will you become someone’s truly beautiful dad?  Or are you good with being remembered as one bad mother?

2 Responses to “What If Dad Is, Or Was, A Bad Mother”

  1. My sweet Michael, I always knew you had another world. I also suffered at the hands of a husband, drunk with fury. We had five children. Why did I stay? I knew God would change him. Then I realized that God helps those who help themselves, so I left and took my children. They witnessed much. I am proud to say I have five children that love their families, never drink and all are good Christians!!! How did I live and raise my children, by The Grace of God and a good job.
    Thank you for sharing your story. I hope it gives women and men the courage to do what they must do. God Bless you Michael.
    Millie Kaat

  2. Sarah Padgett Says:

    Thank you Michael for this beautiful article.I had an awesome Dad.He’s been gone for 35. Years. but never forgotten.I was one of the fortunate to be《daddy’s girl》.I will cherish that for life!!!May God bless you @ family.!!♡

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