When Dad is No Longer a Superhero, by Paul J. Pettit

Fatherhood is an interesting journey indeed.

When I was a boy, I viewed my father as old and wise. I would obey his requests and abide by his rules. He was the protector and provider, my conduit to the outside world, omniscient and omnipotent. I could not get enough of my father.

Then, without warning, I experienced that turning point in life when beliefs are shattered. It was the moment when I realized that my father was not a superhero — he was human, susceptible to suffering like all others. He bottled up emotions and would not let the world in. He was slowly withdrawing, abandoning me and my world. One moment he had been my lantern of light, and then in what now seems like the blink of an eye, the brightness faded. I began noticing the cracks in the diamond, rather than the luster. I stopped running toward him and throwing my arms around his legs as a greeting. I ceased reaching out to hold his hand as we walked side by side because his hand was not there.

I Should Know How to Fix This!

As we move from a child through adolescence and then into the role that our father once held, we begin to struggle with the unknown. Our youth evaporates like mist on a mountain as the sun rises higher on our timeline. Suddenly we are no longer the boy, nor the young man; we are the father, the one who is holding the lantern. Somehow I had arrived at the point on my journey; I realized it was now I who should know the answers. I, too, began to fumble my way forward, expected to be omniscient and omnipotent. I did not have the answers. I did not have a journal to give me the answers. I was alone with the baggage of uncertainty. It was too late to admit that I actually had no clue how to be the father, or so I thought.

I stumbled from year to year doing the best I could, until that day that crushed my heart — I saw ‘that look’ in my own son’s eyes… ’but you’re not a superhero?’

What does one do when your own son’s world of certainty is taken away?

For many, such as myself, you turn to the tools that were used by your own father.

I fell into the trap that my father fell into, and his father before him. I was given the tools that were passed down for many generations; tools that were faulty. “Man-up,” “push-through,” “do not be weak”…the list is vast and deep.

What part of me would not admit that I was struggling? Why would I not let go of believing I had to work this out by myself and could not be seen as inadequate in the eyes of others?

Why would I not let go of believing that I should know how to fix this?

I had worked diligently to ensure I could provide the necessities of life for my sons, yet this vacuum of do, do, do left no space for the one true ingredient that mattered: unconditional love. I was taught by my father to control the world in order to succeed. Yet here I stood alone, with more than enough evidence that control was the very thing creating the destruction of my world and that of my sons.

The Dysfunction Stops Here

Some 15 years passed before I awoke to the reality of what I had caused, and was continuing to cause. I finally broke — it was time to lay down the sword of control that only serves to destroy life. I admitted to myself, and to others, that I didn’t know what I didn’t know; in doing so I closed the door to the past and opened the door to the future. I took a personal oath, “the dysfunction stops here.” No longer would I pass on the tools of my forebears. I would open my heart, seek knowledge of the tools that forge emotional freedom, and become a true leader for myself and my sons.

The lantern may not yet be brilliant, but it certainly shines on that which is known and that which is not. To me this is true leadership; to me, this is fulfilling the role of fatherhood with purpose and meaning.

Lay down your cape, you are never alone. Come out from the shadows and start to live life.

by Paul J Pettit

from the journal...

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