Commentary: Father’s Day is Hard

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I jest with my family and friends that next to Arbor Day, the least celebrated holiday in America is Father’s Day. I am not sure if that is really funny or if it is a false assumption.

We all seem to have “father issues.” My friend, Floyd McClung, Jr. in his book Father Heart of God clearly illustrated how our relationship with our physical fathers influences our relationship with our heavenly Father. It is a simple, but profound book. I certainly encourage people to read it.

Bono described his relationship with his father as “the ancient ritual of son versus father.” I know as I experienced that conflict. It is also true, that while schools are very important in teaching our children, the question of who you are and what you become is still affected and defined by your parents. From that relationship you find a sense of purpose and identity. Your genealogy is not all of who you are, but you also cannot escape it.

We are taught early in life to respect and obey authority. My dad did not like for me to question his authority. However, he encouraged me to question the authority of others. The caveat was that we must question authority with respect. That is the basis of civil dialogue and the backbone of our freedom. Albert Einstein said, “Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.” Marco den Ouden added, “questioning of authority is not only a good thing, it is a necessary thing.”


I tried to pass that trait along to my own children.

Perhaps that was accomplished with “too much success” in some cases with my daughters. I have no doubt that I have passed along to my children the concept that we must maintain our moral compass in the face of authority. What is right is right, even if the world says it is wrong. What is wrong is wrong, even if the world says it is right. That is a trait that my father instilled in me.

One of my favorite stories to illustrate this point was in the mid- 1970’s. I was growing my hair out to be like the other kids in the neighborhood. I had managed to escape him from noticing, by always wearing a baseball cap. My dad had a rule we had to wear a shirt at the dinner table, and could not wear a hat. So, as I took my hat off my dad noticed my longer hair. He told me, son you are going to have to get a haircut. I protested and said “but dad all the guys are growing their hair out.” He replied, so you want to be like all the other guys? I told him that I did. He said, “Well that great, tell all the guys we are going on Saturday to get a haircut, and then you can all be just alike.”

Father’s Day is hard for many reasons and for many people. In many circumstances, we have absentee fathers who are estranged from their children. There are too many men who simply were not good fathers. And in my own case, my father has long since passed away. So, that day in June just becomes another Sunday on the calendar to me.

Writer John Pavlovitz was even harsher in describing the day: “Father’s Day is a fresh bleeding; the reopening of a persistent wound. It is an unwanted, uninvited rude yearly reminder of something beautiful you had and lost, or of a long-kindled dream that finally died for good. It is a cruel calendar intrusion of regret and grieving and anguish—and it’s hard as hell.”

I had many battles with my dad. It wasn’t a particularly great relationship; there is no handbook or training for raising kids. But my dad was always there for me. I have learned to forgive my dad for his shortcomings, and most importantly remember him for those things that he provided me that went far beyond a roof over my head, food in my stomach and clothes on my back. I inherited an unparalleled love of my country, a deep appreciation of history and baseball, and the stubbornness of a mule. I have learned to appreciate the good more and to forget the bad. I appreciate all those life lessons, even the difficult ones, for what they bring to my life. No matter how poor a man is economically, if he has children, he is rich.

This Father’s Day, wherever you are at in the relationship with the man you call dad, know that all lives have a story and are worth remembering. We are created in the image of God, and that fact alone means we all have significance and value. My dad was an imperfect man, and just like him I am not perfect either. I hope my children overlook my inadequacies and forgive me where I have fallen short as a father. I have never taken the role of Father for granted, and neither should others.


JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. Follow him on social media via Twitter at @jcbowman.

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One Thought to “Commentary: Father’s Day is Hard”

  1. Bob

    My Dad was my hero. He earned my respect and he expect me to honor him. I loved my Mom but I wanted to do things with my Dad – hunt, fish, talk…. learn how to be a man.. I wanted to earn his respect. I believe that I achieved that goal.