None of us get perfect parents. None of us got our emotional needs met all the time. But as Father’s Day approaches, it’s a time to reflect on the positives.
How did your particular father do the best he could? How can you stop feeling what you didn’t get, and recognize what you did?
1) Put on your rose-colored glasses.
Sometimes they’re useful.
This doesn’t mean denying your own experiences, or your feelings. If you had a less-than-happy childhood and your father was part of that (either through his presence or his absence), you don’t have to pretend that’s not the case.
But shifting your perspective in a deliberate way–turning your focus toward what went right, toward what you did get rather than what you missed out on–can be an exercise in contentment. And why not choose contentment over discontent?
If it works for this one day a year, you might want to try expanding it.
2) Recognize how difficult parenting is.
It’s one of the hardest jobs imaginable. It’s got lousy pay, little time off, and the benefits are intermittent.
If you’re a parent yourself, it’s likely that you’ve developed greater compassion already for your own parents. Or maybe you’ve gone the other way: You’re even more judgmental because you think, “I would never do what they did.”
But what were the challenges involved in parenting you? Think about the ways in which you were difficult for your father. Some kids and parents are temperamentally mismatched–meaning, they push each other’s buttons from very young.
Of course it’s a parent’s job to try to overcome that. But that doesn’t mean it was easy. It doesn’t mean YOU were easy. So practice empathy, compassion, and self-awareness.
3) Realize that sometimes you gain by giving.
Father’s Day is not just an opportunity to celebrate your father; it’s an opportunity to practice generosity. It’s a win-win.
We can’t love others only when they’re faultless. Think of love as an act, and we practice it for ourselves as well as others. That’s the best way to move closer to perfection.
Father and son image available from Shutterstock