By Paul Ashton, Psy.D., D.Min.
Consultant to the VIRTUS® Programs
There are three stages of a man’s life: He believes in Santa Claus, he doesn’t believe in Santa Claus, he is Santa Claus.
It is appropriate that Father’s Day is celebrated in the month of June, which traditionally is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This devotion emphasizes the human heart of Jesus as the embodiment of his divine and infinite love, care and compassion for all of humanity. Jesus is the ultimate model for fathers. While we see him often as the Son of God and our brother, the message he proclaimed and the way in which he lived personifies the love that each father strives to achieve in raising his children and seeing them through adulthood.
This article is meant to serve as a reflection for all fathers being celebrated this month by their children and those they love. In addition, it may be used as a meditation and an opportunity to ponder loving their fathers, or special persons they are fortunate enough to have as a father role model. Those who had no paternal role model in their lives or whose relationships with their fathers is strained or severed might also use it. It is simply food for thought about the magic and blessings that come with fathers and the relationships with those they love.
Sometimes, when we lack something in our life that is crucially important, like a father role model, we might find the most peace out of that painful situation by becoming the best we can possibly be—for ourselves and for those we love.
As young children we believed in magical things, wishes and dreams, which came true by mere suggestion. The world was a big place and anything was possible. People loved and supported us and encouraged us to grow, be creative, and explore a sometimes-scary world, but most often it was filled with unending adventures.
- What is your happiest memory from that time period?
- What role did your father play during this magical time?
- What do you miss the most from those days?
- What would you change from those days?
- How was your father Santa Claus to you?
As we get older and move through the teenage years into young adulthood, we soon realize that the world is not such a magical place. We get hurt and we come to the painful realization that our dads can no longer fight our battles, defend us, or fix everything. We struggle to understand that the best they can sometimes do is support us so that we can do the right thing. It isn't easy, and the world becomes a place to navigate in a way that we never quite expected.
- When did you realize that your father wasn't superman and was human like everyone else?
- How did his “humanity” affect your own sense of self?
- What lessons did you learn from your father's example of how to embrace the realities of life?
- How did it feel to not be protected fully when your father encouraged you to be strong, stand on your own, and be empowered?
- How did you deal with the loss of ideals, and the magic of Santa Claus and all he represented?
Time moves by so swiftly, and the years become blurred. Soon you realize that, in many ways, you are becoming the father that you loved and didn't love so much. The magic of our youth is seen now through the eyes of our own children and vicariously through others. We long for the innocence of the youthful days and the boundless joy of snow days or summer vacations. We become nostalgic for yesteryear, all the while realizing as we listen to our own voices that we hear our fathers loudly and clearly no matter how hard we try otherwise.
- How many times have you recently spent more time in the past than in the present?
- What words can you use to describe the swiftness of passing time and the ways in which our lives move forward so quickly?
- When did you first feel the joys of being Santa Claus for others?
- What are the best ways in which you carry forth your father's vision?
- In what ways have you built on and improved his vision?
- How have you made him proud? How proud are you of your father?
A Happy Father's day to you and those you love with blessings for all of us—children at heart.