My father was not a hands-on, doting father. He assumed a role typical of the generation in which he was raised: the head of the house and the breadwinner. My dad was also the maker of the rules — a Southern Baptist preacher with a set of beliefs that left no room for discussion.
If I had been a son, I suspect my father would have brought great pressure to bear on my vocation. Becoming a minister would have been at the top of his list. Since I was a daughter, it was strongly suggested that I become a minister’s wife or a foreign missionary. I never felt inclined to do either, much to my father’s dismay, I’m sure.
Nevertheless, I had a role to play: the preacher’s daughter. That meant everybody in the community would be watching how I acted. There were as many clear messages about what I was NOT to do as to how I should behave.
Today, a rigid, religious family with a controlling father would be labeled dysfunctional.
Was I scarred for life? Absolutely not. Oh, I can tell you what I disagreed with, as well as what I did differently with my children. As an adult, however, I look with different eyes and see his greatest gift to me was a strong belief system that has supported me through difficult, painful experiences.
My father taught me every second I lived was a gift from God — a moment that never was before and would never be again.
I was taught there was a purpose for my life — not so much a vocation, but a way of living and helping others — and whatever I needed for the task would be provided.
I learned life is sometimes hard and disappointing. I was told that, when that happened to me, I would survive and come through the pain and emerge wiser on the other side.
Perhaps most important, I was taught that, when I made a mistake, I would be forgiven, and my job was to learn from it.
As Father’s Day approaches and you look at your father, notice whether you are counting the errors or counting the gifts. Mature eyes see both.
Charlotte Lankard is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.