As we become parents, memories of our own parents meld into our experience, and this intergenerational presence deeply informs us. Many adults look back on their childhood and discover the scars left from absent parenting. This may not always be a conscious memory; more likely, it is maintained as a vague notion that something was just not right.
Even after all the years of therapy, soul- searching, meditation, and education, an absent parent—my father—still lives within me. What he gave me, because of his unwillingness or inability to feel, was his absence. The seed of my father’s discontent lives within me, and when watered with my resentment, it breaks my heart one more time.
As a result, I wonder how much of him I have become. In the moments when I choose to be present, something constellates that incrementally replaces my father’s absence. As I father, I am fathered. The archetype of parenting emerges in the ground of my heart, and the void left by my father’s absence has healed within me. His absence has contributed to how I make sense of my world and how I have come to help my son make sense of his.
Perhaps our journey as parents is to somehow locate and recover what we never actually had. Being a present parent for our children can help us to do this.
We all want to do right by our children in ways that our parents could not. It seems absurd to think that our parents didn’t want the very best for us—they did. Their challenges laid the very foundation for us to face similar obstacles with a greater sense of understanding and opportunity.
An excerpt from The Present Father Handbook.
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