by Amy Jones
The stress of Father’s Day (and all holidays, really)
My Dad and I are incredibly close. That was not always the case, but the past doesn’t matter. What does matter is that both he and I began a new relationship about twelve years ago. We realized after his divorce and mine we need each other for support.
It might sound strange, but our relationship grew into one similar to an old trusted friendship. The kind of relationship that, at any given time, we were there for each other without judgment, questions or doubts. We exchange simple love and support without the complications that sometimes accompany a parent-child relationship.
It’s not perfect. We have good times and bad, as do all relationships. Life is full of ups and downs which affect our interactions and their frequency. However, we both remain committed to maintaining a loving relationship; we accomplish that goal with a careful balance of care, consideration and connection.
No gifts, no pressure, no guilt
My dad and I discussed the stress and strain of holidays as we forged our new relationship. We talked about the pressure surrounding holidays in my childhood home, something we both felt was unnecessary to continue. The stress permeated every holiday, whether a major celebration like Christmas or Thanksgiving or one with less significance like Valentine’s Day or Fourth of July. When needs weren’t met or expectations fell short, a frequent occurrence, anxiety and arguments ensued. And so, he and I decided to employ different strategies moving forward. Over the years, the new scenarios we put in place strengthened and deepened our connection. I’d like to share them with you.
Thankfully, neither dad or I need material displays of love. We are confident we share the same affection for each other. We both believe love is conveyed by actions, not things. For me, this is hugely important. My “Love Language” is Acts of Service, and as a minimalist, gifts don’t work for me. And after I helped my dad downsize last year, the last thing he wants is more stuff.
If we can get together on a holiday, great. If not, no big deal. It is a priority for both of us to see each other as often as possible, but do not expect super human efforts be made if a visit is difficult to schedule. A holiday noted on the calendar and blasted in the media does not make the day “extra special”. Every day is special for us. We both prefer to spend thirty minutes on the phone weekly vs. the ten hour round trip drive on a weekend.
Unfortunately, over the years my dad and I experienced a handful of times we could not speak on the exact day of the holiday. We do try, but sometimes, due to extenuating circumstances, we just can’t. It’s not personal. We understand that just because we didn’t talk that day doesn’t mean we don’t love each other. Guilt was part of our past holidays for way too long, something we both happily let go. Letting go of guilt is very impactful for me; it frees me from the overwhelming negative thoughts that often accompany it. I do the best I can, as we all do, and hope those who love me understand.
More about guilt
I moved to Mérida Mexico at the end of last year and carried guilt around because I moved away from my sons and my dad. They are all independent and self-sufficient, but still I thought, “What if someone needs me?” I discussed how I felt at length with my father and his words still remain with me,
“You can’t stop living your life waiting on someone else to live theirs. Only you can find what makes you happy.”
I am constantly grateful for him and our new relationship. As life’s circumstances cause us to adjust and recalibrate, we fine-tune our strategies. Distance cannot separate our love and connection. This year, Dad and I plan to chat on Father’s Day as always, though we both realize things happen and it might not work. In Mérida, at any given time, the internet can go down due to power outages and tropical storms.
The bottom line
Remember that every day is a chance to honor your father and cherish your bond. It does not matter if you talk on the actual day or not. My dad and I both know we think of each other with love and respect always, and will talk when the time and circumstances are right.
No gifts. No pressure. No guilt. Keep Father’s Day easy.
originally posted 6.14.2020