This Father’s Day, we’re celebrating single and divorced dads. Whether you have full custody or time with the kids every other weekend, the lessons you’re imparting by being present are incredibly valuable.
Below, grown children of divorce share the most important lessons their dads taught them about love, relationships, heartbreak or forging a life of their own.
Love can take on many forms.
“My father taught me that true love, even after the end of a twenty-plus year marriage, can last forever. My father grew as a man, devoted himself to his health and continued to love my mother fiercely after their divorce. He refers to her as his best friend and still views her as the love of his life and mother of his children. He’s showed me that despite conflict, despite divorce and despite going through the lowest of lows, love can persevere. That love may now live in different form, be it continuing to support his children or showing up at the first sign of trouble. He refuses to let go of love. Despite any issues we may have as father and child, he’s taught me to continue to believe in the existence of love.” –Jeaiza M. Quinones
A relationship should be a partnership of equals.
“My father didn’t teach me about love and heartbreak through the lens of divorce. He taught me skills for being in a successful relationship, just as I imagine anyone’s father does. I was taught to listen to my wife and to hear not only what she’s saying but what she’s not saying. I was taught to resolve issues and to really look inside myself to see if my actions are the issue. I was taught to fight fairly and to know when to just let things go. Marriage is about love. And loving, I’ve been taught, is about equity in your relationship. My dad always did his part before and after divorce and in doing so, he taught me that both spouses need to feel like what they do in the relationship is of worth.” – Zach Rosenberg
To get the relationship you want, you need to work on yourself first.
“When I was 19 my father remarried for the seventh time. His groomsmen joked during their toasts about who would be the best man the next time my father got married. My father smiled through his teeth and had his revenge: twenty years later, they are still married. What I learned from my father was not just to try, try, again. The most important lesson wasn’t about standing up in the face of criticism and trusting your heart. Honestly, by stepmother number four I was pretty skeptical. What made my father’s last marriage different wasn’t that he married a better woman. It was that he took a year off after divorce number six and allowed himself to mourn. He went sailing alone for weeks at a time. He saw a therapist. Then, when he started dating again, he found the woman he has been married to for over twenty years. Today, as a twice divorced woman, I know I need to follow in my dad’s most recent footsteps and learn to be OK on my own.” -Lara Lillibridge
Never apologize for who you are.
“I often find myself over-apologizing: for being loud, for speaking me mind, for simply taking up space. My father never apologizes for being himself. He is loud, stubborn and speaks his mind — but I have never once heard him apologize for it. That’s because it’s who he is and if someone has a problem with that, it’s their problem. This has translated directly into how I engage in romantic relationships. For a long time, I found myself taking on the blame in relationships. I was too loud or talked too much or showed my weaknesses too soon. Then I realized, if my father didn’t apologize for who he is, why would I? Why should I apologize for behaving like myself? Through his example, I’ve realized that not apologizing for who you are attracts partners who like you — not a manipulated, pared down or subverted version of you. My father taught me to not only stop apologizing for who I am but to embrace it.” –Nile Cappello
Don’t depend on someone else for your own self-worth.
“My dad raised me to value my own intellect. I don’t recall ever being praised for being ‘pretty’ or ‘cute.’ My self-esteem came from doing well at school. He indulged my interests and never belittled my eccentricities. If I liked a pop star, we’d spend a Saturday searching for postcards in the West End. We’d go bird watching and fossil hunting. Nothing was out of my reach; I was expected to achieve anything I choose. I visited him on weekends and during the week he’d phone at 9 p.m. on the dot. We’d read poetry or the latest story I’d written, just to have a chance to connect. My childhood encouraged independence. He died when I was a teen and his death taught me to forgive and to understand that we all carry our own baggage. He made many mistakes but I never doubted he adored me. He taught me I was more than enough and I didn’t need anyone else to feel worthy.” –ReeRee Rockette
Sometimes, you have to love against the odds.
“After the divorce, perhaps rocked by the loss of his family as he knew it, my dad became fiercely dedicated to his children. We were not always easy to love or even like back then. We were sad and angry, mostly with him. There were countless drives to his house with tears streaming down our faces as we banged on the window. We wanted our mommy and let him know it. He never wavered in his love for us and he never gave up. He was a constant presence. Dad took us for the summers, flying back and forth to D.C. every week for work so we could have magical summers full of bonfires with extended family. He was mom and dad during a time when men simply did not take care of children like today. He stayed up all night when we were sick, taught us to water ski, mow the lawn and took us on endless adventures, even when we did not want to go. Those are now some of my favorite memories. My dad was truly present when he was with us and called everyday when we were apart. These days, hearing that ‘I am my father’s daughter’ is perhaps the greatest compliment I receive.” -Krista Barth
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