I’ve been doing a lot of writing on the Presbyterians Today Magazine blog. I’ve put out an article every other week, plus a companion piece to one of the other contributor’s pieces and was a guest on another contributor’s podcast. You can find all of that stuff here, if you are so inclined. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to write for a somewhat wider audience. I am truly grateful to Presbyterians Today editor Patrick Heery both for the invitation and for the amazing job he does in making my pieces more coherent and readable. You will probably notice his absence here.
There was a time when I used to talk about the absence of my biological father seemingly obsessively. It was deeply theological – my first understanding of God was as the Father who would be around and love me no matter what. beginning the process of forgiving my father in my twenties seemed to open me up to love in new ways. It was my redemption story. It felt even more so like my life had come full circle once my son was born. I felt like I was being given the great gift to play the role for my son that was never played for me. Being a dad was fulfilling in ways I could have never imagined. I’ve said before it was like discovering a part of my heart I didn’t know wasn’t in use. The redemption was complete.
Fast forward five years. Can redemption be undone? I fell into the same traps my ancestors were ensnared by. I comfort myself at times by saying “I’m doing better for my kids than my dad did for me”. That’s true. I see them as often as I can. We talk on the phone. We Skype. They know I love them, I think… as much as a five and three year old can understand their absent father’s love.
I constantly wrestle with the feeling that I am failing them. That I have failed them. I continue to believe that I’ve left a stain on their young psyches that can never be removed. Now, logically, I know that’s bullshit. I know many healthy children from divorce. They have issues. They have scars, but they aren’t damaged beyond repair… not the way mine are.
One of the growing edges of self discovery for me is that I struggle with perfectionism. I would never have thought that of myself. I think of perfectionist as meticulous, nitpickers. I am not that in the least. But perfectionism takes other forms. Perfectionism strikes when our perfect ideals cripple us from living with our reality. I’ve lost my chance to be the perfect father, so game over. My children are destined to lives of ax murdering and prostitution. And possibly ax murdering prostitutes. Or being prostitutes that only service ax murderers. Either way, they’re fucked!
Yeah, I’m being ridiculous. My kids have a great mom. She’s smart, strong and resilient. She was those things before we fell apart. My kids have great extended family on both sides. They have grandparents who love them like crazy. They have cousins that they get to see and play with regularly. They have aunts and uncles who are crazy, but have good hearts. And they will make friends. They have great personalities. People want to be around them and I think that will only increase as they get older. They’ve had good teachers and other positive adults who support them.
And they have their imperfect daddy. Sure he lives four and half hours away, but he thinks of them constantly. He stares at their pictures and thinks about how blessed he is. He takes them to the zoo and to the museum so that he can pass on his knowledge about animals and dinosaurs. He sings Hakuna Matata along with them while they splash in the bath tub. He tries to get the dog to hold still so they can see her on Skype. He lets their little feet dig into his ribs while they’re having a sleepover. He’s not perfect. Even though he only gets a little bit of time with them, he still struggles to be present. He still loses his cool on occasion. They wear him out.
But their daddy loves them. In his highly flawed ways, he loves them more than he has ever loved any two people. He can’t be their perfect father, and in truth, he never could have been. One day they will have a reckoning, as all children do with their parents. Perhaps his sins will be unforgivable to them. It won’t matter. He’ll love them still.