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In Celebration of the Imperfect Father’s Day - John Clark

In Celebration of the Imperfect Father’s Day


Dads, if you think that you’re not the father you should have been, that you missed your chance to be a good father, John Clark asks that you consider this.

For some fathers in America, Father’s Day is a wonderful and happy reminder of all the things that they have done right in raising their children.

Maybe they celebrate the day with their children, reliving old memories and talking happily about future plans together.

But I suspect that for some fathers, Father’s Day is just a painful reminder of the things they have done wrong, or believe they have done wrong, in raising their children.

Rather than happy memories, they ponder missed opportunities and broken relationships with their children. These men might still deeply desire to be good fathers, but they think they missed their chance—that time has inexorably passed them by.

If you are one such father, I want you to consider a couple of thoughts.

First, recognize that there are no perfect fathers. It must be tough for some fathers to go through life feeling like they are competing against some imaginary League of Perfect Fathers. That’s not fair to any man—or to any child, for that matter.

The fathers look in the rear-view mirror and kick themselves for their past failings, and the adult children wonder what it would have been like if only he or she had been blessed with a perfect father.

Years ago, Frank Sinatra recorded a song called “My Way.” It goes like this:

“Regrets, I’ve had a few
But then again, too few to mention…
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way.”

That’s a cool story, but it’s not mine. Mine reads more like this. As for regrets, I’ve had many—too many to mention. Sometimes “I did what I had to do,” but far too often, I didn’t.

And doing it “my way” was usually what landed me in Regret-Land. There are the words I said, but shouldn’t have; there are the words I didn’t say, but should have.

Oh, and one other thing. Everything I just said about regrets and “my way” could apply to me both as a parent and as an adult child.

There were words of encouragement, appreciation, and love that I could have offered my own mom and dad, but I was too busy, too cool, or too…whatever, to offer them.

Until I grew up (meaning, in my case, my forties), I never realized how much my parents needed to hear them. For some of us men, maybe the best way to become better fathers is to become better sons.

For now, recognize that the common denominator in human parenting is imperfection. Don’t let the inability to achieve perfection stop you from trying to be a good dad.

Second, you haven’t missed your chance. “My children are grown up, and they won’t even speak to me any more! I missed my chance to be a good father,” you say.

It’s odd how some parents look at fatherhood as something that men are graded on when their child turns 18, and then they graduate from it. It’s worth pondering that we fathers will continue to be fathers not only for our entire earthly lives, but for eternity.

That gives you a pretty long time to turn things around. Regardless of the mistakes you have made in the past, you can still be a good father. Right now. Here’s a great way to start: Pray for your children.

In fact, please stop reading this right now and say a “Hail Mary” for your children.

Even if your children will no longer speak to you, speak to God about them. Ask Mary, Undoer of Knots, for her intercession. There are many, many sets of parents and children—once terribly estranged—who are now good friends. That can happen to you.

True, there are some relationships that have encountered such significant problems that they cannot exactly be neatly mended on earth. But you can always seek God’s forgiveness, forgive yourself, and forgive others. You can always pray for yourself and your children.

What does prayer have to do with being a good father? At the risk of understatement: Everything! Ultimately, it’s not the trips to Disneyland that make you a good father; it’s the time spent in prayer.

Even if your children will no longer speak to you, realize that you are your own living proof that you have not missed your chance to be an awesome dad. The devils in Hell are the ones who tempt you to think that you missed your chance. They are bitter because they missed theirs. You didn’t.

If Father’s Day causes you to feel a lack of hope and a sense of sadness, please turn to the Father of Mercies, asking for His help for yourself and for your children.

About John Clark

John Clark is a homeschooling father, a speechwriter, an online course developer for Seton Home Study School, and a weekly blogger for The National Catholic Register. His latest book is “How to be a Superman Dad in a Kryptonite World, Even When You Can’t Afford a Decent Cape.”
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