Opinion: On Father’s Day, I worry about letting my family down the way my dad let me down

VanDiver is a Navy veteran, president of the #AfghanEvac Coalition, and serves on the Board of Directors for the San Diego Convention Center. He lives in Clairmont with his family. Twitter: haShawnVanDiver

The last time I saw my dad was at my wedding.

I remember he wouldn’t stop complaining about the food. Didn’t bother telling me, but told my uncle that it wouldn’t be enough. He took off early. Haven’t seen him since and have no desire to change that.

Father’s Day is Sunday. It’s a weird day for me. My dad was a lifelong disappointment to me. As far as I could tell, fatherhood was never his priority, just like how on the happiest day of my life, all he cared about was the tacos. All he cared about was himself. When he bothered to show up, all me and my mom experienced was a lot of pain and trauma.

If my father represents any kind of measuring stick for me as a parent, it’s this: the less I’m like him, the better. Whatever it takes, I constantly struggle and strive to make sure I never put my kids through the pain I went through. I want them to have it better than I did.

My wife and I have two kids. She met the oldest when he was already 8 years old. Now he’s a teenager, and we have a toddler who just turned 2. They’re both great kids – energetic and mischievous. And work. A lot of work.

We divide the day and the responsibilities between us. I wake up with them, get them ready for the day. I drop off the baby, and the teenager if he slept in. She handles bedtime. Ostensibly we split the work evenly. At least we try.

But recently it seems like that even split is more and more the exception, and less the rule. I travel a lot for work and for my passion projects. Whether I’m out of town, or even just across town, my wife bears so much of the burden of parenthood, tirelessly accomplishing each day’s missions as they come.

I know it’s hard. Raising one kid, let alone a teenager and a toddler, is hard and thankless. She deserves more from me. My kids deserve more of me. I know they do. And when I think about how I need to do better, I get nervous. I get ashamed.

I’ve tried to hard to be the exact opposite of him. But I see his tendencies in my own behavior. I’m impulsive. I embrace conflict too quickly, too firmly.

When I’m rushing off to the next project without thinking, or when I’m too quick to pick a fight, I know, unquestionably, that’s my dad coming through.

I worry I’m letting my family down, like he let me down.

I don’t think I deserve to be recognized on Father’s Day. I know I could do so much better, be so much better than I am. I love my family so much, more than I thought was possible, but I also know I’m not showing them the way that I should, that I’m not prioritizing them like I should.

Parenthood is complicated. Teens, toddlers, none of it’s easy. I don’t know if I should be recognized on Father’s Day. But I do know I’ll take the day as a chance to recommit myself to being the kind of dad I want to be.

My family is extraordinary. They deserve an extraordinary dad. My dad was anything but. But I want to be extraordinary, for them. VanDiver is a Navy veteran, president of the #AfghanEvac Coalition, and serves on the Board of Directors for the San Diego Convention Center. He lives in Clairmont with his family. Twitter: haShawnVanDiver

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