For many, Father’s Day is a time for homemade cards, cuddles and maybe, just maybe, free reign of the television remote. But across the UK, this Sunday will have extra poignance for men who know how hard it can be not to have a dad around.
HuffPost UK spoke to four dads who had absent fathers during childhood, be that due to bereavement or family separation, about what Father’s Day means to them now that they’re parents.
Stuart Anderson, 35, from Newcastle upon Tyne, lost his father in a car accident three days after his first birthday. “My mother still recalls the stories about me constantly asking for ‘daddy’ and walking around our home looking for him,” he says, which was incredibly hard as she was dealing with her own loss.
As a child, Stuart always associated Father’s Day with sadness; he and his mum marked the date each year by visiting the crematorium to lay flowers. But in 2014, he learned his first child was due to be born on Father’s Day, which suddenly gave the day new meaning. “As it turns out he was a few days overdue,” he says.
Father’s Day is still filled with a mixture of emotions, it means more to him now as a parent. “I treasure the time I spend with my family, and as I know first hand how quickly loved ones can be taken away from you.”
The dad-of-two has recently set up his own cycling business and so unavoidably will be working this Sunday, but he plans to spend another day making special memories with his little ones.
Han-Son Lee, 34, from parenting website DaddiLife, says since becoming a father himself, he learned to appreciate his mother more because she took on the roles of “tough dad and tough mother in equal measure” after his parents separated.
“In my very young years I would have some questions about why I didn’t get to experience a Father’s Day, but this feeling wore thinner and thinner as I grew,” the dad, from London, says. “I felt more emotion about why my father wasn’t paying his upkeep and child support. In some ways each Father’s Day reminded me of that.”
The experience of having an absent father has made him determined to “be the father [he] never had” to his own son. “It’s probably something I’ve been ready for for 30 years,” he jokes. “Honestly, Father’s Day itself doesn’t mean much, but I do cherish special family moments together with my son and family. In this busier world, there are too few of them, and spending some proper family time together is all I need.”
Like Han-Son, Dominic Murray, 42, from Nottingham, doesn’t recall Father’s Day being “much of an issue” growing up. The writer at parenting website Don’t Believe The Hype describes his own father as an “intermittent figure” during his childhood. This distant relationship made him determined to spend as much time with his own two children as possible. “My children get to grow up knowing that they have a dad, not just a father,” he says.
Dominic usually receives a card, loads of hugs and (maybe) breakfast on Father’s Day, but says the family treat it largely as “just another day”. “I am happy for them to take me for granted, to moan when I’m not being fair (in their eyes), to drag me to the park when I don’t feel like kicking another football, or to want me to read yet another story at bedtime,” he says. “That means they’ll never have to wonder who their father is and why he doesn’t want to spend time with his children. So in that respect, every day is Father’s Day. But I only get the official card once a year.”
Gram Trelford-Davies, 41, also a writer at Don’t Believe The Hype, spent many happy Father’s Days with his dad before he died a few weeks before his 16th birthday.
“The first couple of Fathers’ Days without him were brutal and raw, before indifference set in,” the dad-of-two recalls.“To be quite frank, for over twenty years, Father’s Day meant literally nothing to me at all; I neither had a father nor was one myself.”
But when he became a dad to twins in his late thirties, Gram had a change of heart. “I was woken by the little wrigglers on my first Father’s Day, clad in matching onesies my wife had printed, proclaiming ‘Happy 1st Father’s Day Daddy!’,” he says. “The penny dropped in that moment, and I realised, it’s quite nice to get a bit of recognition for the backbreaking work we do as parents, isn’t it? It’s nice to know someone’s put some thought into showing you how much you are appreciated.”