You’re a reasonably good father. Your colossal mistakes are distant, the smaller ones have thinned out, and for sanity, you’ve been able to forgive yourself of most—colossal or small. So there’s that. Of course time is a friend here, and you know it.
You’re an attentive dad, mostly, I’ll give you that. At least you know all your kids’ birthdays, and you love to celebrate with them. True enough, the years contain many glistening memories of togetherness.
More, you studied your kids’ loves and know their losses, which as you’ve said, and I believe you, are your own joys and sorrows.
But there’s a distance in you. A kind of gap in the machinery which makes it easier for you to be more intimate on a page, than when present. You can imagine your kids saying something like, “He’s a good father, I know he loves me, but I don’t know him as well as he thinks I know him.”
You wrestle with this, maybe always will. How you used to pray in the middle of the night that this thing would not be interpreted as coolness, because in truth, you bleed for your kids, burn candles for them, hold nightly vigils for their happiness. And at the very same time, you are ever grateful, and never take lightly, the forbearance of your children.
What you have done pretty well—something else I’ll give you—is that you’re an accepting sort of parent. (Maybe this is the gift in your weakness.) Your suspicion of indoctrination, your skepticism of the kind of zealous discipline you were taught to follow by the culture you were raised in, the kind that crowded curiosity and questioning and always seemed to trump acceptance—a suspicion you wish you could have grew earlier—has resulted in each one of your five children finding a place of truth from which they are now articulating and crafting their lives. And beautifully, in adherence to that truth, they are flourishing, have become accepting, and are themselves becoming “forms” of charity and grace in the world.
For that I’ll wish you happy Father’s Day. But one other thing, never think that whatever good you may have done as father, is solely of your own making. Remember, you’re “fathering” has been shaped by a certain mother.