Father’s Day is celebrated in the United States on the third Sunday in June and was started in the early 1900s in various areas of the US, mostly by children who sought to honor their single fathers and make sure that both Father’s and Mother’s have a special day just for them. While Mother’s Day was officially celebrated first, Father’s Day was not long behind for formal recognition and was soon expanded to acknowledge all of the men serving as father figures for people not their biological children.
Both my Dad and my husband have birthdays close to Father’s Day; in fact, for my husband’s very first Father’s Day in 2013, his birthday was the same day as Father’s Day and our eldest’s baptism. And yet, the struggles I’ve always had with my birthday being so close to Christmas don’t seem to translate as much to the men in our family. Maybe because both Father’s Day and Mother’s Day is still mostly about the kiddos and their celebration of fathers, maybe because they are both much more mature than I am. Maybe it’s because there is pressure on men to be the strong, silent types, to deal with their emotions in private. Whatever it is, Father’s Day is an excellent excuse to roast these important men in my life.
First, my Dad, Thomas Richard Schroeder, JR., LMHC:
My Dad has always occupied a larger than life role in my life. I am the eldest in our family and my name means “A Father’s Source of Joy.” While my dad and I have clashed over virtually everything in life at one point or another, our relationship has largely been marked with respect, loyalty, and a huge dash of honesty. Our personalities are similar in many ways yet vastly different in others. Some of the most fun I’ve ever had with my dad was when we were trained to do collaborative divorces together and we worked with families together. Our approaches were different, but complimentary. Dad doesn’t get as much acknowledgment in our family for what he brings, which is a whole lot of foundational strength, commitment, loyalty, and love. He has taken what he was given and made our lives better than what he had and he’s done it without being asked for as long as he’s been a husband and a father. Despite whatever is going on in each of our lives, we all know that Dad will answer the phone to brainstorm and discuss potential solutions and then make them happen when he can.
When I was diagnosed with Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer, my dad was the first one to suggest that we consider moving to Miami to live with him and my mother. In 2017, I’d been living away from home for nearly twenty-five (25) years and moving home with a husband, two children, a cat, and decades of accumulated belongings is a much bigger deal than other times in my life. And yet, despite the upheaval and changes and obliteration of their retirement plans, my parents made room for us, literally and figuratively. And more than that, my parents have taken on my causes as their own. Dad and I moderate a support group for patients with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer every other Monday and he’s recently donated his 65th birthday to raise funds for a local non-profit, the 305PinkPack. If you are interested in joining his efforts, you can donate here.
That larger than life man I’ve been looking up to my whole life, turns out he’s a pretty cool guy to know as a person too. Despite all the challenges we’ve faced as a family with my diagnosis and life, I am grateful that part of the adjustments we’ve made is to be closer to my dad and have the opportunity to see and know each other in a different way. One thing you learn very quickly being terminal is not to let time go by without saying what you feel to those in your life.
So, Dad, thank you; thank you for being you; for giving selflessly of yourself day in and day out; for getting up every day to go to work; for continuing to work on yourself and admit your blind spots; for worrying about each of us all the time; and for being there every single time we’ve needed something even before we know to ask. You are seen, you are loved and you are appreciated, each and every day.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad, today and every day. 🙂
And now, for my husband, Elliot Lawson Johnston:
When I met Elliot in 2006, having children was a far off twinkle in his eye. Despite the fact that he would have been fine to immediately begin having children when we got married in 2008, I was more reticent. Once we thought we might be ready and started to try to have children, things didn’t go as planned. We discussed all the options, prioritized our research, and tackled fertility treatments together.
And that’s really the way we tackle life, together. When I had to give myself shots and take hormonal medication and go to appointments daily at various points in my fertility cycle as part of the medical interventions, Elliot was there every step of the way. He was the first to celebrate with me as the treatments worked, twice, and he was the first to hold both of our boys after the C-sections that brought them into the world. Elliot put up with my insistence on trying a VBAC for our second son and didn’t chastise me, much, for not always making the best decisions as I struggled to figure out how pregnancy and motherhood fit into our lives.
One of the most beautiful things about being a parent is watching other people fall in love with your children. Just because Elliot didn’t carry our boys inside his body for 9 (nine) months doesn’t mean he wasn’t falling in love just as I was. He helped me physically during my pregnancy and rubbed my stinky feet nightly for months. As soon as our boys were born, he jumped right in, changing the first diapers for both of them and continuing to be part of everything, even as breastfeeding took over our house and my time.
Watching Elliot grow and learn as a father and a husband over the past year has been one of the best experiences of our marriage for me. Life is so very different now, from COVID to progressions, and working from home and watching school happen in the same room with varying amounts of success. Elliot has shown us over and over that he is committed and loyal to his family. Elliot has demonstrated in so many ways that he can be trusted, that he is a foundational part of our family, and he follows through when he says he will. Beyond that steadying hand, Elliot is also much better than I at diffusing a situation with a joke, a smile, a tickle, or just a hug when someone needs it the most. The boys are beyond blessed to have Elliot as their role model on how to be a black man, a husband, a hard worker, a nurturing masculine man, a steady and consistent provider, and a father they can respect, emulate, have fun with, and follow.
Couldn’t imagine life without you, my love. Happy Father’s Day!!