Reflections on Father’s Day

Years ago I was in a workshop with my professor, Sam Osherson, who offered a four-day workshop on “Restoring the Broken Link between Fathers and Sons.” (That probably wasn’t the exact title, it was a long time ago, but that was the gist).

I was intrigued and signed up for it. The next three and a half days was spent with the men in the room debating, arguing and flaring about why the three women registrants were allowed to be there. It wasn’t about women; it was about men. On that last day, Sam stood up and asked the question that made the whole workshop worthwhile and I recall it to this day. He asked, “How many of you guys related to your father via your mother?” He went on to say, “Instead of working on your relationship with dad, you’re focused on the women; it’s an easy out.”

Recollections of that experience have come to mind many times since then. When I had my own son, I wondered if I, too, would contribute to the broken link between him and his father. Many times I was the go-between, I’m sure. But as soon as he was able to talk on the phone, I relinquished the relational navigation to him. Today, is the 11th anniversary of the death of my children’s father. Father’s Day eleven years ago marked their last conversation.

As mothers, it’s our natural inclination to keep our children safe from harm and that bleeds over to “safe from distress.” How quickly we jump in between the father-son connection to ease the conflict, redirect the conversation, or otherwise steer the interaction to a more peaceful place. Is that interference really helpful?

Not really. As mothers, we do it to relieve our own anxiety and exert some influence to change the circumstances when we witness those we love in pain or suffering. We want to be helpful, but interfering in someone else’s relationship tends to add fuel to the fire rather than dampen the flames. It’s hard to stay out of it. That protective instinct is tough to wrestle with when our loved ones are hurting. But it’s necessary.

There is another way. The act of witnessing requires no intervention. Simply being there is enough. Giving our children the opportunity to exercise their “relationship muscles” is a gift that will result in great returns when they are out in the world without our supervision. Comfort them afterwards--sure. Having discussions about values and how our actions reflect those values—that’s a great conversation to have. But getting in the middle only makes things more complicated and more difficult to untangle.

There is no substitute for the lessons we learn from our fathers. The life lessons I’ve learned have continued on throughout my life. And, while my father wasn’t my favorite person, he was vitally important. The faces of love and hate and helplessness and power—both mine and his—were essential. The lessons I learned from him and later, from the father of my children, still offer me insights and wisdom today. They were both good teachers—whether or not I liked the lessons.


In honor of fathers,


Posted in acceptance, anxiety, education, family relationships, inspiration, judgement, self-help on 06/19/2017 03:48 pm

1 Comment

  1. Tina, this is so on point. And you’ve said it clearly, gently and with grace. Thank you!

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