Imagine growing up with a father until you were about 11 years old, and suddenly, as you approach your teens, he disappears. This disappearance is not in the physical sense, but on the emotional level. This is my story of being fathered. Thinking back to when I was about 7 or 8 years old, my father and I had a great relationship. I distinctly remember my father taking me everywhere with him. We would always go to eat hot dogs, swim, go to the movies, and even used to talk. My preteen relationship with my father was filled with a lot of love and admiration. I remember getting excited when he would come home from work early and we would get to play.
On a regular basis, my father would take me by his office and allow me to pretend that I was in charge of everything. Business was a major part of my father's life, and I would take great pride when he included me. I always saw my father as a strong and powerful man. He exuded respect from people around him. He was a self-made man and had fought to get where he was. At an early age, I was in awe of him.
Then something happened to our relationship. When I was about 13, we slowly stopped relating with each other. It was at the same time that our family went through some major life changes, which no doubt added to the initial strife between my father and me. I went from admiration for him, to feeling nothing but anger. I began to challenge him, and he didn't know how to deal with this new approach. In retrospect maybe my tactics were not the best, but they were all I knew at the time. I spent much of my teen years battling with my father. His answer to most of the war was to shut down and shut me out of his life. I remember on several occasions not talking to my father for long periods of time (some as long as 1 year).
The amazing thing was that this happened while we lived under the same roof. Talk about unhealthy. This war between my father and me has been eating away at my core for almost 15 years. It wasn't until recently that I even cared to rediscover my relationship with my father. I realized there was a huge void in my life. It was still important for me to stand my ground with him, but the constant arguing was wearing me out. I recently sent my father a letter explaining how I felt about our relationship and where I would like to take it. This letter came only after years of self-realization, in which I began to understand myself and our relationship. The most exciting result of writing the letter was getting positive feedback from him. I found he is also interested in dealing with the past in order to make the present and future stronger for both of us. As I wrote the letter, I found myself feeling nothing but love for my father. I realized how much of an influence he has been in my life, especially in business. He has given me incredible guidance to being a better businessman.
I offer this advice to all fathers out there: Don't be afraid of your children, even during the stressful teen years. As much as they resist or fight, they still need and want your love. Most of the time, acts of drama are cries for attention. Give them the attention they desire. A masculine influence is essential to our human existence. Don't disappear from your children's lives. Be very involved. Father your children. And to the kids out there, allow yourself to be fathered. It is a gratifying feeling. I look forward to writing my children letters when I become a father someday.