I do not celebrate Father's Day. I officially stopped celebrating seven years ago when my father moved out. Please understand this was, and still is, a very good thing. Aside from sending Father's Day cards to my grandfather and a close family friend, I ordinarily do not give the day a second thought, until this year.
This afternoon, the GQ magazine Twitter account tweeted, "Happy Father's Day to the dads and to the single moms, siblings, and relatives out there who filled that role. Respect." GQ's re-framing of today made me reconsider the meaning of the holiday. Father's Day does not have to be a celebration of the male parental figure in my life, as my own father is absent. It can be a celebration of those who have filled the role instead, such as single moms.
Today, I celebrate my mother.
She stepped into both parental roles, even before my father moved out. She has been the breadwinner, one of the single mothers to strike fear in the hearts of conservative commentators, who decried the rise of female-led households. If they are to be believed, our family is "anti-science." When my father stopped contributing to household expenses, my mother worked even harder to cover not only our bills, but the tuition for private school, as she believed it provided an environment of stability, grace, and care necessary for my sister and I. She has accepted unconventional job situations, working nights, so she can spend the most amount of time with us. I suppose, according to Erik Erickson, this familial situation is detrimental to our nation's growth, and I could not disagree more.
Seven years ago, my mother made the brave choice to lay down an ultimatum to my father, on Mother's Day no less. She demanded he move out, or she would be forced to move my sister and I somewhere else, which would have been extraordinarily difficult for financial reasons. After years of quietly trying to "keep the peace," she stood up to his emotional and mental abuse. He begrudgingly conceded, and moved out the next day. Of course, the breakdown of a family is sad, but I do not see it as the end of our civilization. My mother made a difficult choice to be a single mom, knowing it would require her to work long hours, but that it would save my sister and me, and herself, from living in a toxic environment. I do not see it as "anti-science" or against nature that she stood up for her family against my father, against the "dominant" figure.
From my mother, I have learned to be brave, and to stand up for myself. I have learned that sacrifices are at times necessary. She has modeled strength, courage, and determination, traits that, at times, may be construed as characteristics to be passed down by fathers. It is a mistake to assume any set of traits can only be taught by a mother or father. We are all human. Traits of good character are simply signs of fulfilling the duties of being a humane individual.
In the past, Father's Day has been difficult. One needs to simply look at PostSecret to understand how today can be a reminder of past hurts and pains. But today, I am deciding to look past the hurtful actions of my father. I will not celebrate him. Today, I celebrate the love and support of my mother.