Understanding Men – Starting with My Father

Understanding Men – Starting with My Father

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Yes, they are human, but still very different from women in how they think, relate and communicate. A good thing to remember, especially on Father’s Day.

Understanding Men – Starting with My Father
A 5-year-old Kim at Yellowstone Lake with her dad, Phil.

Father’s Day is coming up, and even though fathers are something we all have and usually love, for most of us they remain a bit of an enigma. It’s good we celebrate them, but it’s good to understand them too, which isn’t always easy.

I was angry with my dad for most of my youth, despite being completely enamored of him when I was a little girl. With the onset of teenage hormones and an “I’m so much smarter than you” attitude, the days of twirling in front of him to engage his attention shifted to a silent sulk when he moved out of the house, unable to tolerate the contentious relationship he had with my mother. I blamed him for not having the stamina to stay there for me, in spite of the heat he felt from her.

I would see him on Sundays and holidays, and grew up expecting things from him that simply don’t come as standard features on a man who grew up on an Iowa farm with cats and dogs for friends. When he was 25, he left the cornfields behind and drove to Denver in an old Ford he’d rebuilt from an abandoned jalopy, hoping to strike it rich mining uranium in the Colorado Rockies. He never found uranium, but his ambition to succeed was tough competition for my sister and me.

Raised mostly by my mom, I grew up expecting him to be like her — someone who could share emotions, talk about feelings and endlessly discuss abstract concepts like “why this relationship isn’t working.” To further confuse my understanding, my mother, who was angry at my father for not being able to do those things, made sure that I got a daily dose of her wrath for the man who didn’t live up to her expectations.

It wasn’t until I was well into my 30s that I finally figured out that men and women are fundamentally different, far beyond their physical aspects. Instead of expecting men to be like females in male bodies, I learned to appreciate them and accept them for their basic desire to protect and provide. That understanding is something my dad never got from my mom. He was always falling short in her eyes, and instead of building him up so he would be inspired to be more of a man, she tore him down, creating a descending spiral of ever growing discontent and discouragement.

When I finally got clear on all of this, thanks to some great life teachers, I was able to let go of my old ideas of what my dad and other men are “supposed” to be like. I could stop trying to fix what I thought was my damaged daddy-daughter relationship. I could finally see my father through my own eyes, not my mother’s, and in the process, I understood that although he’s not perfect, he always was and still is an honorable man.

No longer expecting men to be like my female friends, I can see how they express their nobility and love by doing things like fixing the broken dishwasher or investigating a noise in the attic that sounds like claws on wood. When I learned to accept these acts as care and affection, it freed me to see all of the men in my life as heroes in search of a cause – and I stopped standing in the way of letting them become exactly that.

(To learn about how my relationship with my dad came full circle, please see “Eden for My Father’s Eyes.”  Happy Father’s Day!)

Kim Calvert
Kim Calvert is the editor of 
Singular magazine and the founder of the SingularCity social networking community. An outspoken champion of people who are living their lives as a “me” instead of a “we,” Kim oversees the creative direction and editorial content of the magazine and online social networking community. She secures contributors and is responsible for maintaining the fun, upbeat, inspirational and often-humorous tone of Singular, a lifestyle guide for successful single living.

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9 thoughts on “Understanding Men – Starting with My Father

  1. Contemplating a relationship with a woman? Ask her to describe the relationship she had with her father. Listen carefully, it speaks volumes about how she will be as a partner. Unresolved daddy issues often come into play and perculate to the surface.

  2. I think a lot of dads (moms too) did the best they could with the knowledge they had. Being a parent is such a HUGE responsibility.

  3. If you have your father to spend the Father’s Day together, you are lucky. I miss my late father now more than when he passed away many years ago.

  4. My poor dad’s childhood was so horrible, he learned nothing but fear, not to trust and got no social skills whatsoever. I was not the girl he wanted at all, I was not passive nor submissive in any way. I’m tall, opinionate, strong, smart etc. But all I ever heard was “why can’t you be like your mother?” My brother’s could do no right either. It also took me well into my 30’s with much therapy to realize HE was broken, not me, and not my brothers. It’s weird how most people I know, are so broken from divorce as young children and all I ever wanted was for my dad to leave. I would pray the he would leave and then my parents divorced, he finally did and the relief was amazing! He returned, only to leave my mom again. Imagine a 14 year old counseling her mother, knowing more than my own parents how messed up they were. He was so mean to me, and picked on me all the time, (as did all the men in my family, including my brothers). Always noticed everything I didn’t do and nothing good that I did do. As an adult now I had to move back in with my parents as the economy tanked, and then unexpectedly my dad passed away with cancer that had had quickly metastatized throughout his entire body. It was only then (unfortunately) that on all of the medication I could love on him and kiss him and tell him I loved him so much, in those last two months without being terrified. I longed for that my whole life, it may have only been two months that I got, but at least I got that. Problem now is, I long for that dad I had in those last two months, I want him back loving him as I did, but without him having to be so sick, and it’s not possible. TO ALL READING THIS, IT IS SO TRUE, NO MATTER WHAT TYPE OF RELATIONSHIP YOU HAVE WITH YOUR PARENTS OR ONE PARENT, WHEN THEY PASS IT IS STILL SO HARD. For some reason you think if your so angry with them or in (my case) loathe them, that the relief one day when they are gone will stop the pain of grieving or lesson it, let me say from experience it does not. It’s been 14 months since dad passed and I am not having to go into grief counseling, because the pain won’t subside still.

    So with regards to the all caps above, what I’m saying is, work on the relationship as hard as you can. My dad was also mentally ill in many ways, so no matter what I tried I couldn’t get through to him. But I still recommend to anyone, that while they are alive, do everything in your power to resolve conflict or repair the relationship, or you will spend the rest of your days wishing you had.

    PS As always Kim, excellently written! I could sit down with a pot of coffee and probably talk for hours and hours with you! :)

  5. My dad worked three jobs and was always helping others, but the most special moments were when he found the time to play with us and the stories he would tell us at the dinner table. He will always be my hero and the wisest man I know

  6. My dad worked 15 hours a day to support my mom and our family. When I was a kid, I was mad that he wasn’t around to play with me. But I realize now, that he had to work like that in order to pay the bills – to feed, clothe and keep a roof over our heads. I think it’s easy to be upset with fathers for not “being there” like we wanted, but the truth is, they were really doing what they had to do to take care of us.

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