This weekend, 75% of Americans are celebrating their fathers on Father’s Day. I’m a father by way of biology, adoption, the foster care system, and community, so this is a busy day for me! However, the holiday has also always been a complicated one, as I spent the first two decades of my life both loving and fearing my father, Charles Franklin — often at the same time.

DaughtersMy relationship with Dad changed significantly as I stumbled into fatherhood, figuring things out as I went along, and realizing that my dad had done the same thing. Like me, Dad had gotten married and became a first-time father in his early 20s. The extension cords and switches cut from trees that he brandished were no different than the leather belts and bare palms I applied to my eldest daughter’s behind very early on. Her last whipping (or “spanking” for the white folks in the room) was when she was just two or three years old, over her penchant for sticking metal bobby pins into electrical outlets.

Luckily — for both me and my first-born, Janet — it wasn’t alcohol that fueled the corporal punishment I inflicted on her. It was immaturity, inexperience, and fear. I was too afraid of not knowing what I was doing to take the time to figure out a better method than the one that had been used when I was a kid, by someone who had been spanked as a kid.

Luckily — for me alone this time — Janet doesn’t have any memories of my whipping her, although she will tell anyone who’ll listen that she was a teenager before she was brave enough to plug anything into an outlet without adult supervision. I’ve never laid a hand on her younger sister, Kristina. However, they would both probably tell you that I had no problem disciplining them as they were growing up!

My father has been gone for over sixteen years now, after we managed to coexist and, to an extent, love and appreciate each other. I miss him every day. But a couple of events over the last couple of years have intensified my longing for him, which is always exacerbated on Father’s Day.

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