This is for the grown children standing dumbfounded in the card aisle. For those who can’t buy a funny card to communicate a relationship that lacked humor. Who can’t claim the best dad ever, the ever-inspiring family kingpin. This is for those of us who want to just say we love you, but loving you hurts. For those of us who want a card to write in, knowing we won’t ever send it. For the kids who took care of their parents, who grew up faster and with heavier hearts than others. This is for the unhappy Father’s Day. For the uncelebrated.

I want to be a better parent. I think everyone does. But more than that, I simply want to be a different parent. A parent who remembers that children eat three meals a day. A parent who knows dark bars aren’t happy places for little ones. A parent who doesn’t call late at night, slurring guilty love between one beer can and the next. I want to be somebody different. And even though I know I can be, I still feel the fear creep up that somehow I’ll end up just the same. Nobody gets married imagining they’ll divorce, or dreams of being a parent thinking they’ll eventually abandon post. It just happens to some people. And there are always a thousand people to blame, but what’s the point? It doesn’t make us feel any better.

This is for the children who give with no reciprocation. For those who will take care of their parents out of guilt, or responsibility, or more nobly out of unconditional love. Happy Father’s Day to the little boys my brothers once were. Who put our dad to bed, stood silent as he punched a hole in the wall, and lay their heads upon moldy, flat pillows with no cases and their bodies beneath damp blankets. Happy Father’s Day to the men they are now, putting our homeless father on a train out to a better life they hope he can have. Who still see a chance in someone very short on chances, and hope in someone feeling very hopeless. Who probably can’t find a single card in Hallmark that says even a semblance of what they might feel.

I married a man like my brothers. A man who loves and cares in the most unconditional, most no-strings-attached way I’ve ever seen. A man who continues to take care of his parents. And even though we sometimes sit in jealousy of those best parents ever, those relationships that didn’t make children feel like the glue holding a very messy life together, I know that we will be better parents. I know that we will be different parents. Parents capable of putting our children before ourselves. Parents capable of understanding that our behaviors weigh heavy on the children in our care.

Happy Father’s Day to those striving to be the very best dads they can be, not because they want to be better than their parents before them, but because they have to be.

“This is for the children who give with no reciprocation. For those who will take care of their parents out of guilt, or responsibility, or more nobly out of unconditional love. “


Author: Ellen Reynolds

Born and raised in the corn fields of Illinois, Ellen currently resides in Hope, Maine with her family. She is mama to Forest (almost two years old) and has a new baby boy on the way. Ellen is currently pursuing her graduate degree from Maine Maritime Academy in International Logistics Management, and is otherwise a Stay-at-Home-Mama. Prior to focusing on parenting, Ellen worked as a Commercial Fisheries Biologist aboard fishing vessels in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska. She has an undergraduate degree from UNC-Chapel Hill in Environmental Studies, with a focus in Marine Ecology. View all posts by Ellen Reynolds

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