Sunday, June 19, 2005

Father's Day

In church today, our pastor didn't recognize fathers. Instead, she had us use our prayer time as a time to meditate on what the men in our lives had done for us, and asked us to offer up gratitude for those things.

I'm all for gratitude toward men. Mankind. Menkind. As a feminist, I'll go ahead and be the first to admit that I am occasionally guilty of male-bashing without sufficient cause. Honoring men for their male-ness, their other than female-ness, is just peachy by me.

But what's wrong with Father's Day? Or Mother's Day, for that matter? Why can't we focus on mothers or fathers, just for a day?

(I know I'm hardly the first to discuss this, but the avoidance of honoring parents really bothered me today. And it's my bloggie, so I'll cry if I want to . . . .)

Why can't we simply have one day a year to honor our mothers and fathers? What is so harmful and hurtful about that? Why must we be so inclusive as to never have a holiday that, by its very identity, excludes another? Hell, we DO have such holidays. Last time I checked, Veteran's Day celebrations don't include those parents who served our nations at home by caring for soldiers' children. Graduations don't honor kids who have two more years of school left, or students who failed their senior year. And they shouldn't.

Set-aside days are just that: set aside. It's okay to set aside a day to honor someone. Or something. The act of setting aside a day is not intended to dishonor something (or someone) else. It's simply one way of shining a little light. Brightening someone's day. Acknowledging the work that some do.

To everything there is a season, says some wise book. Exulting in summer peaches isn't a put-down to winter sledding. It's enjoying what each season has to offer. Recognizing a subset of human experience isn't a put-down to the rest of human experience. It's enjoying what that subset has offered us.

What about the feelings of those infertile men and woman who so desperately want to be parents? Or the men and women who haven't found a relationship in which they are comfortable bringing a child into the world? Those can be terribly sad situations. We tried for 9 months to get pregnant the first time around, and that was painful. I know that our experience does not give me sufficient insight into how hard it is to be infertile, though.

What I do know is: Mother's Day isn't supposed to be all about me. Nor is Father's Day supposed to be all about my children's father. That's one facet, and clearly the one that could be painful beyond measure for those without children.

But that's not the only facet of those days. Mother's Day is about my mom. And her mom. Father's Day is about my dad, and his dad. It's about honoring those who raised us and/or those who birthed us (obviously, this might not be the same person).

What about those who have lousy parents? Yep, we all know people who are, or have, lousy parents. I don't mean just parents who've made mistakes, as that would include all parents. But abusive, psychotic, downright evil parents. How can we subject their children to a day honoring the people who hurt them, sometimes irreparably?

I would gently urge us all to be a bit more generous, even in our pain. Can't we be unselfish enough to allow for one day, just one, the possibility that it's not all about us? Can't we have a day that does not focus around us and around our feelings? Maybe we had horrible parents. But couldn't we let those who had great parents celebrate them? Maybe we can't have biological children? But couldn't we let those who can celebrate with them?

It's good to care about others. It's good to empathize and sympathize with those among us who are hurt. Because we all hurt, sometimes. But we all need to celebrate sometimes, too. Let's celebrate more, and let our hurts go. Just for a day.

Until tomorrow,


Anonymous dse said...

Having fun catching up on your blog -- introduced to it for the first time today. Would love to continue the discussion Re: Father's Day.
1. Not actually a holiday of the church -- but a civil holiday. {Maybe even propagated by Hallmark and the like...} Mother's Day is not on the Christian Calendar either.

2. In a congregation that has families of all types, and particularly lot's of single parent households and unisex couples as parents (and many others with extraordinary horror stories of pain and abuse by a parent) -- Father's Day/Mother's Day is problematic. How do you handle such a day without falling into the trap of the Right that suggests that one type of family is the correct and proper one and all others are deficient? How do you not add to the pain that that inflicts on those that are subject to those implicit put downs all the time? How do you look at children of the families without whoever is being honored that day and say... oh, no, you really are included? Or look at kids who have never met the requisite parent... or whose parent has not bothered to acknowledge that role in their life?

So if we ask all the fathers to stand -- who is included? The fathers that the law says is permitted. "One dad per household please" Do step-dads count? What about the one that is playing that role in every way but not married to mom?

I choose to do it by acknowledging that lots of people fulfill those roles for us in our lives. Many would have been lost had someone not identified by the culture as "family" or "parent" stepped in and offered that kind of unconditional love, care, guidance, protection and support.

Why NOT celebrate all the men who "fathered" you through the years? Why not acknowledge that the complex world we live in gives shape to extradinary relationships that should be cultivated, celebrated and encouraged? Why give false credit if that credit is not due? And why does this public acknowledgement of the gifts of many men to us diminish your own families' celebration of the father/s in your life?

5:56 PM  
Blogger Liz T-G said...

Okey dokey.

1. Of course, a day of honoring either parent is not a Christian Holiday. I'd be just peachy with us ignoring Father's Day and Mother's Day in church. In fact, I'd be peachy with us ignoring any and all non-Christian holidays in church. For instance, my least favorite church-celebrated un-Christian holiday: July 4th. What's that about? We sing jingoistic hymns that are paeans to just how chosen Americans are--and call that worshiping God? Hello?

I digress. :-) We did, however, celebrate Mother's Day in a more traditional fashion this year, which led me to note our non-father oriented celebration of fathers.

2. As I readily acknowledged in my original post, there can be a great deal of pain around the celebration of these days. But I still believe what I said then: "I would gently urge us all to be a bit more generous, even in our pain. Can't we be unselfish enough to allow for one day, just one, the possibility that it's not all about us? Can't we have a day that does not focus around us and around our feelings?"

I think one handles such a day as Father's Day in any number of ways--with knowledge aforethought.

Way A is to ignore it in church. Which I would be very happy to do. :-)

Way B is to ask all men who have sired a child to stand up and be applauded for their virility in having done so. With any luck, their virility will stay firmly ensconced in their tighty whities during this adulation.

Way C would be the way you handled it--asking us to think of men to whom we felt grateful for things they had done in our lives.

Way D would be to acknowledge and honor those who have fathered (by biology or relationship--which means you could be honoring and acknowledging a woman or a man)or who have fathers who choose to celebrate them. Why honor any old male to whom you feel grateful when you can celebrate someone who actually made a relational commitment to you?

It sounds as though perhaps this is where you were going with your approach. But I didn't hear it in what you said back then.

Way E would be to simply note from the pulpit that it's Father's Day today and wish a joyous day to those who are celebrating it. Ten seconds, tops. Then move on. No false notes, no insisting that the congregation join in and applaud even if their fathers may have beaten them to a bloody pulp, no insisting that we pin flowers on guys who suck as fathers while leaving other people out who have saved lives functioning as fathers to others, and no insisting that kids who have no contact with their male biological sperm donator recognize a holiday that has no relevance in their lives.

3. I know you didn't have a point three. But I do. I didn't say that our church's observation of Father's Day diminished my own family's celebration of the fathers in my life. Because it didn't. I think that it's a shame that, as a culture, we spend so much time protecting our own pain that we can't allow others a short moment of joy.

10:31 PM  

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