As featured in the Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Post
While I cannot speak to everyone’s experience, respectfully, I speak here only to ones I have been a witness to, in my own life and work.
As Father’s Day approaches, I am struck by the reality that many separated fathers live away from their children. In lockdown, with on-again-off-again border closures, many will be impacted this Father’s Day, with on-screen or phone catchups highly likely.
Just as the care and attachment to mum shapes the identity of a child, so does contact and connection with dad, where he can be present. If we take the view that identity is co-created in relationship with those in childhood, a meaningful connection with a father contributes much to a child’s developing sense of self.
Truly knowing dad and having his time and attention contributes to a child feeling loved; developing a healthy self-worth; provides different perspectives, broadening their capacity to accept different views; and shapes adult attachments by providing a male role model for connection.
For many dads, there is much grief in the experience of separation that gets misplaced. Men often find it difficult to connect to the overwhelming emotions that come up through separation. Many busy themselves with their work as a way of coping. While they may appear busy and successful on the outside, they are often floundering underneath, struggling to work through their grief. There is loss for the ‘relationship that was’; for the time they miss; and guilt or feelings of failure, borne out of the ending of their marriage. Many find themselves having to accept another male in the role of ‘father’ to their children and this can bring with it, a deep feeling of being somehow ‘replaced’ …. and yet …..
“Even though everything else is different,
even though there's an ocean between them ....
He's still her dad. The rest is just geography.”
~ Jennifer E. Smith
When children mature and began to form their identity - without the knowledge of their ‘father’ in relationship - they are working with only half the ‘who am I’ puzzle. Locating the pieces within inherited from ‘dad’ are invaluable along the journey to establishing their identity. Just as they are with mum, they are the basis from which they shuffle, question and choose, the adult they want to become.
If you are a separated dad this Father’s Day, hold firmly onto the richness you bring to the life of your child/children every time you spend time, give attention and show them love … in whatever form it must take.
“A child looks up at the stars and wonders. A great father puts a child on his shoulders and helps them to grab a star.”
~ Reed B Markham