I’ve never liked Father’s Day. In fact, I’m usually sick to my stomach for most of the day. I hate reading the social media posts and looking at the pictures of happy kids and laughing dads.

I didn’t have a father. The man who fathered me walked out on my very young mother, leaving her with three babies, no job, and no self esteem.

He deserted his wife and children. The coward lived only a town away, but couldn’t find the time to visit. He died when I was twenty-four. I cried, but I new nothing about the man I mourned.

Step-father number one was a raging alcoholic. At least he was a fun drunk.

Step-dad number two was a bi-polar, chain smoking, verbal and emotional bully who repeatedly told me, “The only thing men will ever want you for are your tits and ass.” I grew up believing that my body was all I had to offer in a relationship.

I moved away as soon as I was able. He died. I didn’t cry. He didn’t matter.

I’m writing these words because I overheard a man in the store complaining that Americans spend more money on Mother’s Day than we do on Father’s Day. I don’t remember the exact percentage he quoted, but I almost started to cry in the cheese aisle and I wanted to grab the man’s collar and say, “No shit! We spend more money on Mother’s Day because men suck and dads leave!”

Then my husband came around the corner and made me forget for a while that I was angry and sad.

My husband, the father of my three amazing children, has been very patient with me and my quiet discontent for men. I’m quiet. I don’t like to fight, and I suck at casual conversation. When we have a tiff, I almost always use sex as a band-aid, because there is still a part of me that believes that’s all I have to offer him. My words, my feelings, my thoughts don’t matter.

How many little girls grew up like I did? How many cried themselves to sleep at night wondering why their Daddy didn’t love them? Wondering why he wasn’t around to give them hugs or tuck them in at night? Tell them they were pretty, or smart. Read them bedtime stories. How many grew up feeling inadequate, or unworthy of a man’s love?

How many little boys grow up with no positive example of what a father looks like? Feels like? How many are going to follow in their absent father’s footsteps?

My husband isn’t perfect. It took years for me to realize that my idea of what a father should be, based on what I’d learned from television and movies, was completely unfair to him. I had no real life positive example to go by, and I held him to an impossible standard as a husband, but mostly as a father.

My husband is tough, and grouchy, and impatient. He’s short tempered and foul mouthed. He works hard. Fourteen, sometimes sixteen hour days. He is rough and gruff with the kids. Makes them work hard. He’s overly protective, especially with the girls. He’s not affectionate enough for my taste. But you know what? He’s here. Every day. He’s here.

I know there are days he wishes he was out having fun, vacationing, hanging with his buddies, spending his hard earned money on cars and toys. I know there are days he wishes he hadn’t married me. There are times that he’s wanted to leave. I’ve wanted to leave. But he stays. Because he’s a husband and a father. Because its the right thing to do. Staying is the hardest thing to do sometimes. And he is still here. With me. With my children, who thank God, don’t have to cry themselves to sleep at night, wondering where their Daddy is and why he doesn’t love them.

And I love and respect him so much for that.

To the Dad’s who Stay. To those who pray, play, read, cry, clap, hug, hold, uplift, sacrifice, love.

To the men who step up for those that don’t do their job.

To the women who are forced to pull double duty.

Happy Father’s Day

And thank you!

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