Remembering our Forgotten Fathers

Father’s Day is this Sunday.

This year, I get to celebrate my husband (officially) as a father for the first time. Our daughter is almost one. Watching him delight in her, observe her, sing over her, care for her, interact with her, and enjoy her this past year has been of the biggest joys in my life, amidst many (tough) transitions.

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I love seeing the way his whole body expresses delight in her, his whole face consumed with joy when he smiles at her. I love his playfulness with her, the way he encourages her curiosity and exploration. I love seeing how she much she has inherited from him- her love of people, her obsession with music, her fascination with rhythm, her continual longings for human interaction and attention. I love how she lights up when she sees his face light up, and their “conversations” with one another.

And as I celebrate these unique gifts that a father brings in to the life of their child, I am also remembering the children in our communities who are missing their fathers on these holidays.

In recent years, there has been an increased level of acknowledgment around the complexities of Mother’s Day, and the diversity of experiences of motherhood we should celebrate. Similarly, this year, I am especially mindful of those fathers who are separated from their children on this holiday.

I think about children like Jose who are being separated from their fathers at the border, held in shelters and detention centers, unsure of if or when they will see their fathers again. I think of the ways that these fathers have had to choose between the risks of coming to this country, and the risks of staying in homelands rifled with violence.

I think about children whose fathers are in prison, unable to see them, or talk to them, or grow up with them. And I protest a prison system that often moves people around like chattel, without any regard for how far they might be from their family or the amount of time and resources it would take for family members to visit. How could one truly rehabilitate and heal without their family and loved ones?

I think about children who lost their fathers to violence- particularly those whose fathers were killed at the hands of police. I think about kids like Aiden and Cairo Clark, and the senseless loss of a father’s gaze and affection in their life. I think of how these children have to grow up grieving not only the loss of a father’s presence but also a loss of faith in our pubic safety system.

And while some may be quick to blame these fathers, to victimize these children, or to attribute these realities of separation to some bigger problem of “fatherlessness” in our society, I hope that we can acknowledge that every child needs the love and affection of their parents. And that no matter what choices a father has made or circumstances they are in, the vast majority of fathers still love and want the best for their children. The love, affection, and embrace of a father is a valuable asset in a child’s life.

So on this coming Sunday, as we celebrate Father’s Day, let’s not forget the important relationships between ALL fathers and their children, even when they are complicated, painful, or marked by separation. And let’s not forget the countless numbers of fathers who are missing their children on this day, wishing they could see their children grow up and become thriving human beings.

Who are the other forgotten fathers in our midst that we need to remember and celebrate? How can we honor and lift them up?