On Father's Day, I realize my son helps me ask for the thing I need: A step to healing

There are times when I realize that I’m not supposed to be here. I’m not supposed to be a functioning adult, much less have some career. I’m not supposed to be a college graduate. I’m not supposed to be a husband. 

And, you know what? I’m not supposed to be a father. I’m just not. Not with my childhood. 

But I’m here. I am a college graduate, one of the first in my family. I do have a career, going on 24 years now. And, against all odds, I am a father to a wonderful 11-year-old boy.

So what do I want for Father’s Day? I made two lists that reflect the childhood I had and another for the father that I’m still struggling to become.

Feeling like a failed dad:My childhood left me angry and afraid. My son is helping me find peace and joy.

My demons won't win. I won't win.

First, my past:

  • I want my father, a former heroin addict, to know I’m not sorry I put a gun to his head to protect my mother, but I do hope he knows I didn’t have a choice, and I still don’t remember if the gun was loaded.
  • I want my mother, whom I haven’t spoken to in 11 years, to know that I don’t remember why we stopped talking, but I do know neither of us will relent. So, have a good rest of your life. We’re good. 
  • I want my sisters to know that I miss being kids in a broken household that was somehow still fun and an experience I wouldn’t trade. I wish we lived closer to each other. I’d be a better uncle. 
  • I want my younger self to know that the sense of fear and sadness never goes away, but that he will find a space where it gets muted enough to not totally control him and influence bad choices to fill a void that won’t be filled. He will deserve the good in his life after surviving all that bad. 

But those are my own demons, many of which I’ve just decided to sit next to for the rest of the ride. They won’t win. I won’t win. This heartbreaking stalemate lets me know I can still feel things.

Being a better parent than we had:Are you a better parent than your mom or dad? My son's question sent me into a spiral.

Still, those are the Father’s Day requests of the version of me that knows where I need to find healing and offer forgiveness, but just isn't strong enough yet. The me that sees the emotional scars and keeps picking at them for fear of being without them, and the bitterness that often fuels me. The me that isn't full of hate, even while not always welcoming love.

That is not the me I see when I'm with my son.

Potential of a future filled with happiness and whispered peace

Me and my son playing Pokémon Go

The hopeful me has a set of requests that I know are too much to ask, too much to want, too much to pray for during those nights when the house is quiet but my fears are not. But they represent the part of myself that sees the potential of a future filled with happiness and whispered peace

This list is for my son. My future: 

  • I want my autistic son to know he’s different but not less. 
  • I want him to know that he deserves happiness and joy. 
  • I want him to know that while the world isn’t set up to help him find peace and acceptance, there are people out there trying.  
  • I want him to one day know that he’s the reason I broke a treacherous series of generational cycles of trauma, abuse, addiction and depression because I finally had a reason to try. 
  • I want him to take it for granted that his dad didn’t go away, even if he never learns why mine did. 
  • I want his normal to be love.

Until then, I’ll keep finding healing through being his father.

I’ll keep showing up for my son. I’ll keep trying to be the best version of myself, even if it sometimes feels like too much.

For his sake.

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