Growing up, I had the stereotypical type of parents you would see in a bad movie. Lazy dad that sits on the couch and watches sports, nagging mother frantically trying to keep the family together. A marriage that was quite obvious in its misery, with not a single kiss or touch to store in my memory.
In fact, I vividly remember approaching my mother with my two siblings one day when I was 9 years old, as we all requested, pleaded even, for her and my father to get a divorce already. We knew then and we know now that things are much better for everyone that way.
When the divorce finally happened when I was 11, we quickly realized what we had done. No longer were our needs met by our one experienced parent, but now we had to rely on both to feed, clothe and entertain us while at their respective houses. I will never forget the first time my sister and I walked into our new shared bedroom and bathroom at my dad’s house. Deciding to surprise us, my father had completely taken it upon himself to decorate and shop for our new part-time home. Although we lied to my father’s hopeful face at the time, I admit now that we were less than impressed with his choice of decor, body wash, even maxi pads. I was not optimistic for the future, immediately doubting if my dad would ever be able to learn our preferences, handle our adolescent crises and relate to us on a deeper level.
After a couple of years of trial and error, complaints and apologies, tears and laughter, I realized my father had become a different man. No longer tempted to distance himself from my mother while she handled our needs, I had a new and improved dad. This dad did not feel detached; he was as involved in my life as possible. This dad knew how much mustard I liked on my turkey sandwiches, the name of my current school crush and my preference of vanilla deodorant.
This amazing person I once had so little faith in had unknowingly transformed into my favorite role model and friend. Divorce does not typically seem like a blessing to young preteens, but somehow it was exactly what both my father and I needed to reach our full potential. For me, I was able to learn patience and acceptance early on, and my dad was turned into a fully functioning dad, forced out of the unfortunate stereotype that can be a scapegoat for lazy fathers.
Now I have a dad that embodies the typical mom role too, although I hope that for other men out there it does not take a divorce to get them more engaged. On this Father’s Day, I celebrate a person who stepped up when it is so easy to fall back, and I encourage all fathers to do the same. To those with single dads that might have struggled to develop their mommy skills, appreciate the efforts they have made, and cut them some slack — you were probably much more frightening as a teenager than you realize.