Tag Archives: dads

When Father's Day isn't happy

A holiday that honors parents is supposed to be a happy occasion. But for many children whose parents are gone, it’s one of the worst. Father’s Day is just around the corner, and I have heard so many stories from grown children who take issue with the holiday because it just isn’t a day they want to celebrate. One person on my blog talked about how the death of her father in her infant years shaped the person she is now, how it grieves her that she has no real memories of her father. Both of my parents had strained relationships, at best, with their fathers when their parents divorced, and little to no relationship with them at all when they died years later. A father I know has teenage children who won’t speak to him any longer because of their parents’ divorce, even though he was a good dad when the marriage was intact. One mom I know must keep her daughter away from the kid’s father because he is not a good man. Another friend is anticipating the whole day being done with, as this will be her first Father’s Day since her dad passed away.  Another friend doesn’t think she’ll ever get over her dad’s untimely death, and Father’s Day only makes it hurt that much more. And then there are the dads whose children have died, the children who miss their dads while they’re away at war, the dads who have no access to their children due to tumultuous custody battles, and the children who have been physically or sexually abused by their fathers.

Yesterday I wrote a blog article on Father’s Day, celebrating the fathers who are making it a point to be in their children’s lives. And while I still celebrate that, I recognize that there are many who find no joy in this holiday for some very real reasons. I am so sorry.  I don’t know what it’s like to lose a father, or to not have my dad in my life. And that is something I dread ever experiencing. But being that I have never experienced this, I have no real advice or words of wisdom on how to handle this.

But I know plenty of you out there do.

What makes Father’s Day a hard day for you?  How do you cope?  Do you do anything for Father’s Day, or do you just lie low until the day has passed?

Father's Day Gifts

Clumsy self portraits or lop-sided clay ashtrays may have been a sweet present to give to dad on Father’s Day when you were young. But let’s face it, your dad isn’t likely going to fawn over another amateur homemade present in your adult years. So how do we thank dad for all the times he’s made sure we checked our oil, slipped us a $20 when times were tight, or just plain let us know he loves us even if he doesn’t approve of our lifestyle?

Here’s a few ideas…

Give Dad some style
Over at Starstruck Boutique (123 Kentucky St, Petaluma), they’re boasting some swanky Fedoras that are sure to put some pep in Dad’s step. I mean, how could he not look like the dapper dude with one of these stylish hats on his head? Pair it with one of their plaid men’s shirts, and your dad is going to own the town.

Give Dad time to relax
No one works harder than your dad. I mean, the way he strategically kicks back on the couch while watching the big game…that caved in cushion isn’t going to mold itself. Seriously though, no one wields a lawn mower, fixes the leaky faucet, or deals with mom like your dad. And he deserves a break. Grab a gift certificate for him from Massage Envy, which is conveniently located all throughout Sonoma County, and watch Dad define the term “kickback”.

Give Dad a socially conscious gift
Who doesn’t love unwrapping a gift bought just for them? Even better when it’s of great quality. And it’s best if in buying it, you’re making a difference in this world. Over at One World Fair Trade (106 B Matheson Street, Healdsburg), the shelves are just teeming with lovely gifts dad will love to open – like the ceramic Pig Salsa bowl and spoon made in Pomaire, Chile. The gifts bought at this store support the makers around the world who create them, providing a fair trade for their craft. And One World’s products promote the community, as well as earth friendliness. That’s a quality even your dad would approve of.

Give Dad the great outdoors
Let the mighty hunter loose in your dad by giving him fishing or hunting gear. If your dad is an outdoor enthusiast, he’ll let loose the man howl with a gift certificate from Western Sport Shop where he can find all he needs for providing food for the family, or just letting loose his primal instincts. Or if you have more than inkling of what dad might want, come on inside where you can find firearms, knives, flashers, lures, tackle, rods, reels, and even daypacks, luggage, and books on hunting and fishing.  Their Santa Rosa shop closed several months ago, but they are still in business at 902 3rd Street in San Rafael.

Give something to the new dad
Who could be prouder than a dad celebrating his first Father’s Day? Your little cherub might be too young to make him a macaroni necklace, but you can reciprocate by giving dad a Diaper Dude – a cooler, hipper, more masculine diaper messenger bag for the devoted but manly dad, and available over at My Baby News at 3011A Santa Rosa Avenue, Santa Rosa and 921 Lakeville Street, Petaluma. Not only are Diaper Dudes perfect for carrying diapers for dad’s little dude or dudette, they’re great for holding a laptop or using as a travel bag. But when strictly on diaper duty, dad can access the formula, wipes, diapers, and all else Junior needs without having to lug around the more feminine versions. And just admit it ladies, a dad on diaper duty couldn’t be sexier.

Give Dad a game of golf
Hand your dad his golf clubs and tell him his next game is on you, I guarantee he’ll be happy as a clam. Offer him a fantastic lunch to go with it, and you are bound to be Dad’s favorite for the rest of the year. So where can you get him this stellar gift of golf? Bennett Valley Golf Course (3328 Yulupa Ave, Santa Rosa). Their grounds are amazing with the beautiful Bennett Valley hills in the background and easy to walk greens. And on the premises is the infamous Legends Restaurant with its revamped clubhouse and sports bar and grill, including a juicy half-pound burger to sink your teeth into and dribble down your chin… Mmmm…. Have room for one more?

Treat Dad to a concert
Specifically one at the Sonoma County Fair! This year’s headliners are Trace Adkins on August 11th, and Huey Lewis and the News on August 9th. Not only will your dad be treated to some really awesome music, by buying two tickets you’ll become kid of the year and also get to cash in on dad’s present. Score!

Give Dad a garden
Or at least the seeds to add to the one he’s already growing. If your dad loves to garden, shower him with growth by visiting the Petaluma Seed Bank at 199 Petaluma Blvd. N, Petaluma. With over 1400 non-GMO heirloom seed varieties, books on farming, and many nature-inspired crafts by local artisans, you’re bound to find something rare and meaningful for your green-thumbed pop. If anything, go to check out the location they’ve been inhabiting for the last two years. The historic building on the corner of Washington and Petaluma Blvd N is as gorgeous inside as it is out.

And while you’re finding the perfect gift for your dad, don’t forget the most important one – TIME. Dad will love to receive something that shows how much you care. But it won’t mean anything if you don’t also take time out of your own busy schedule to spend with him. Call Dad up on the phone for a chat. Take him out to lunch. Or make it a point to drop by the house and sit on the porch with him while the two of you catch up. If your dad isn’t around anymore (and I’m so sorry if this is the case) or you don’t really have someone that you call “Dad”, take this day to honor another father or even the person that best fit the Dad role in your life.

How will you be thanking Dad this Father’s Day?

The difference between moms and dads

Growing up, I was fortunate to have both my parents in the home. My dad is a real estate appraiser, and though he worked a lot, we were often able to accompany him on local road trips when he went to look at houses. Sometimes we’d ride along with him, fascinated by the beauty of some areas that we never would have seen otherwise. Other times he would drop my mom and us three girls off at the park so we could have a picnic. He’d join us when his appointment was done.

Dad was the one who had the ideas for fun places to go and things to see. Who knew that sitting in the lobby of a fancy hotel, as if we were guests, enjoying hot chocolate by the fire could be so much fun. But with Dad, it was his way of instilling make-believe in us. It wasn’t because we were poor, mind you. But because my dad was so busy all the time, he was sharing with us his way of coping – a one hour vacation from reality. Our favorite place to go was to the Sonoma Mission Inn (now the Fairmont) in Sonoma. The waitresses knew him by name, he visited so often. “Go wash your hands in the bathroom,” he’d whisper to us. “The soap is amazing!” And we would. (note: he’d offer us vacations in a bottle every year for Christmas by presenting us with our very own Sonoma Mission Inn Soap to use in our bathroom. It was one of our favorite gifts) Without fail, we’d all order hot chocolate and Crème Brule, taking the smallest bites possible after breaking through the caramelized crust of the pudding, mulling it over our tongues as we tried to make it last as long as possible.

In the winter we’d take weekend trips up to the Sierras. The 4 hour drive was broken up in two parts, always a stop in Lodi. We were creatures of habit. We had our favorite Carl’s Jr. that we stopped at in the evening. And whenever we hit the town in the morning, we had our favorite little diner, ordering our breakfasts by the number. And thanks to my dad, I can’t even think of the town of Lodi without humming a few bars from “Stuck in Lodi Again”. The drive was also peppered with us girls taking turns singing our favorite songs in the backseat as if no one were listening, then making each other giggle uncontrollably, and my dad yelling to keep it down – every 5 minutes. We’d argue with him, thinking that he was being ridiculous since we were having a good time and not fighting. Now with my own kids giggling in the backseat of a small vehicle, I think I understand. Once up on the mountain, it was dad who went skiing with us, putting us in a ski class while he ventured out to the more experienced slopes, and then joining us later to take a few easy runs with us. When we graduated to snowboarding, he stayed with his skis. But he took pictures with us and our snowboards just to be a part of the fad.

But there was more to Dad than just offering us a fun time. He was also the heavy hand in the family. If we got in trouble, sooner or later we were going to have to face Dad. And there is nothing worse than being the brunt of Dad’s anger. And let me tell you, as the oldest, I was there quite often. If I stepped out of line, my Dad was right there to pull me back in. “We didn’t raise you this way,” he’d glower, as I suffered the repercussions of sneaking out at night, or being caught with a cigarette, or when I’d “borrow” the car and not return until the wee hours of the morning. Wash my mouth out with soap? Time outs in the corner? Bah! Dad wouldn’t bother with that. In my younger years, every infraction was met with a couple hard swats on the bottom. And it was worse to be spanked by my dad than by my mom because Dad made sure we remembered it. “Wait till your father gets home,” is all my mom would have to say for us girls to stop in our tracks. And even though our infractions were committed hours earlier, Dad would stop by our rooms and let us know that our misbehavior was not going to be ignored. As I got older, there were times when he’d be so angry that he’d offer up the silent treatment. There was nothing worse than knowing I had stepped out of my dad’s graces, that he was so disappointed in me that he couldn’t even speak to me. Every morning we had a ritual of waking up early and reading the paper over coffee while everyone else still slept. During the silent treatment, he’d be in his office, avoiding me at all costs. But inevitably, one morning he’d just be there. We’d sit for an eternity of minutes in silence, both mulling over what we want to say in our minds, but afraid to speak first. At least I was. But the silence would eventually be too much to bear, and I was most likely the one who would offer up my apology first for being such an ass. And he’d accept my apology graciously, and would then talk about why it was so upsetting when I acted a certain way. There would be tears and frustration on my part and a level emotion on his as we worked it out. And then he’d invite me over for a big hug that he knew I needed more than anything. Once again I was Dad’s girl.

I had a different relationship with my mom than I had with my dad. With Dad, I was able to share things at face value – favorite songs on the radio, places I’d like to go one day, how much fun we had doing something or other, how I was doing with my studies, needing $20 for the movies with my friends… With my mom, I was able to confess the contents of my heart. A boy at school likes me, and I’m nervous about going to the school dance with him. A different boy, who I had liked for 3 years, kissed another girl in front of me and I am heartbroken. My friend just had to go through something really traumatic, and I don’t know how to be there for her. All the kids are wearing this certain kind of style, and I don’t think I’ll look good in it. There’s something wrong with my body and I don’t know what’s going on. It was mom who talked to us about the birds and the bees, and who told us that we could come to her if we became sexually active so that she could get us on some birth control. And when we did, she kept our confidences, much to my father’s disappointment in later years, never telling him what was going on. With her, the things that we couldn’t speak out loud to many people could be told to her. And she made it safe to do so, even bringing up certain things that might be too embarrassing for us to talk about first. If we just couldn’t talk about it, Mom always knew the right book we could look through to answer our questions, and maybe spur some dialogue once we became more comfortable. When I experienced the first dealings of mortality after a childhood friend died of brain cancer in 7th grade, it was Mom who held me when I could finally cry three days later. And she was the one who went with me to the wake so I could say my goodbyes. When my own infant son died of a stillbirth, my mom held my other hand as I gave birth, not leaving my side once even as scary as the situation was. And it was my mom who taught me how to attack the ground and make 6 inch holes in rock hard dirt so I could plant a daffodil garden in his honor. She knew I needed to get the aggression out on a life that is so full of things that aren’t fair. She knew I needed to do something for him since to everyone else he never even existed. And she knew that I needed to get some sunshine and fresh air instead of laying on the couch day in and day out, as I would have rather done. She got me to open up to grieving, and to eventually be able to see the day as something new, rather than just life after my baby died.

Growing up, it was a lot easier to get into fights with my mom. My mom was a yeller. That was her main punishment. And we’d yell back. It would be World War 3 in our house as we fought back and forth at the top of our lungs. To this day, I wonder what the neighbors were thinking. Getting our mouth washed out with soap was her favorite way to discipline. And secretly, it was ours too. It tasted awful, but it was over in a moment. And it was nothing that a little toothpaste couldn’t fix. But sometimes she’d get so angry that she’d bring out the wooden spoon and paddle our behinds. We learned not to put our hands in the way to cushion the blow. A wooden spoon coming down hard hurts a lot more on the knuckles than it does on the soft cushion of our derrieres. But the thing with Mom, if she had to resort to a spanking she would feel awful about it later. A screaming and yelling match happened because Mom was so angry she could think of nothing else to do. If she got so angry that she had to take out the wooden spoon, the incident would be followed up an hour later with an apology.

Dads and moms are very different when it comes to raising kids. In general terms, dads are the ones who initiate all the fun things. They are the ones who come down hard, and teach us to mind our steps if we don’t want to suffer the consequences. And they are the ones who will be there if you need help. Moms are the ones who nurture us by making sure we are fed and bathed. They make sure we have the skills to take care of ourselves when we are older – teaching us the right way to wash a dish and load it in the dish rack so it dries, how to create buttermilk using only milk and vinegar, and how to fold the towels correctly so that they all fit in the cabinet. They get to our hearts by talking about the things we hold close to us. They are a lot gentler in their approach, and not as intimidating when they are screaming at us than our dads are when they throw down the gauntlet. Kids growing up in two parent homes get the benefit of both parents’ personalities. And where each parent is lacking, the other is able to pick up and be the strong suit.

So what does that mean for single parents who only have one side or the other?

I got an email today from a man who is in his own single parent household, raising an 11 year old boy. And because I have been having so much focus on my son lately as I deal with his behavioral issues, he offered to supply me with his own wisdom about raising boys from a male perspective. He hasn’t been the first male to offer such wisdom.  And it got me thinking about my role as a mother, and my lacking role as a father.

I have two kids – my almost 12 year old daughter, and my almost 9 year old son. If you’ve been reading along, you’ll notice that not much is written about my daughter. Partly that is due to the fact that as a pre-teen, any mention about her would embarrass the living daylights out of her. But also it’s because I get her. A long time ago (no, not that long…), I WAS her. So when she gets mouth and sullen, or when she had a hard time saying anything without a heavy dose of attitude, I get it. And we give it back and forth to each other until we reach a “White Flag” moment, hug, and move on. But my son? I don’t get him. I am not a boy. I didn’t have brothers. The things and feelings he’s going through, I just don’t understand them. When he looks me in the eye and tells me that I obviously don’t care for him because he isn’t getting his way, and he tells me this after I’ve just spent the whole day working, doing errands on my lunch, grocery shopping, making sure his homework is done, fixing him his favorite food, making sure that his pajamas are clean by throwing in a quick wash, balancing my checkbook to find that I have nothing left after paying all of the bills and signing him up for baseball…. When he claims that I don’t care about him, after everything I do, because I’ve told him that it’s bedtime and he can’t play video games, I see RED. When he tells me that I’ve ruined his day, or that he wishes he had another family, or something else that he knows will go straight to my heart and leave a black hole, I am at a loss. And the way I deal with it when my emotion is on my sleeve does not strike fear in his heart. It only leaves him with more of a reason to insist that I don’t care about him. And being a single mom, it makes me wonder how I can do things differently so that he is raised up to be an extraordinary man – as if he had both parents in the house.

This last week, things came to a head between my son and me. And I want to get to that soon. But for now, I have several questions for you:

Were you raised in a single parent home, or a home with two parents?
What does your own family look like now?
Do you see differences in the way moms and dads raise their kids?
Is it possible for a single parent to be both the mom and the dad?