Good Dad, Bad Dad

by | Jun 21, 2007 | Real Time Astrology | 4 comments

Dads. Everyones got one. Theres a good dad, bad dad and everything in between dad. I’m pondering, of course, Fathers Day and wondering why the bleep this Cancer country finds it necessary to have a national holiday for Dads. Not everyone is blessed with a good dad – in fact I’ll even generously split it right down the middle and say 50/50 you’ve had a good dad. I say generous because experience tells me a different story, because I’ve known far more girlfriends with bad dads than good dads. Yet seeing how complex life is, people are, and that most of us do the best we can with what we’ve got (including Dad) I’m considering bad dad/good dad could be hallucinations of the dad archetype, essentially two sides of the same coin, maybe even equal in magnitude and power to enchant us with their magical spells. Here’s my attempt to define good and bad dad on the backdrop of current astrological trends influencing fatherhood: the Saturn-Neptune opposition and Chiron in Aquarius, the wounded healer, who invisibly chimes in for the final word.

Who is dad to begin with? Saturn is the planet astrology assigns to Fathers, a disciplinarian, a teacher, a stand-up character as seen by society’s standards, a definitively cool disposition (not warm or affectionate) but by all means a provider. Straight up, Saturn is only a provider. He’s the kind of dad who thinks parenting is putting food on the table. As an archetypal energy, this is a simple-minded but apparently quite popular collective imagining of Good Dad. There’s another equally simple-minded glamorous imagining of Good Dad – the perfect dad who looks great in a suit and even better with a little baby vomit for the Mr. Mom effect. Oh, and there’s another, and another. There are as many examples of Good Dads as we can dream up. Do these people really exist? Yes. We imagine them as they become.

Now, Saturn has been in Leo since July 2005. This brings out the warmer side of dad, because this stand up man is a provider but he’s more human now, he’s got a heart (Leo). Saturn behaves fairly well in Leo, trying to live up to Leos standards by becoming a respectable, contributing member of society (Saturn) and one who has the solar qualities of personal pride, integrity and healthy self-respect (Leo). These two fit together nicely. When I Google ‘what is a good dad?’ I get these examples: good provider, moral guide, role model, patient, sets a good example, good listener, a teacher. As I continue to scan search results for good dad, I come across Of course! Duh, who else would I ask? intros:A good father makes all the difference in a child’s life. He’s a pillar of strength, support and discipline. His work is endless and, oftentimes, thankless. But in the end, it shows in the sound, well-adjusted children he raises. It is true, without the love and hard work carved from our fathers tailbone we’re Gumby-like bodies without structural support. Other notables: spending quality time together, accepting his kids aren’t like him, and again leading by example. Note that childlike Leo has a ton of natural empathy with kids, Leo remembers what it’s like to be a kid, because he is one (oh, another good dad quality mentioned is: he remembers what it is like to be a kid). Saturn in Leo seems to make a fine dad.

Of course Adolf Hitler’s Saturn was in Leo. Which brings me to the subject of bad dads. Oh where did they go wrong? I know it’s a complex subject. The reason why I’m talking all this smack is that Saturn’s passage through Leo has, for the past 2 years, given good dad the opportunity to show up. Really, just show up, be the good guy. But Neptune has been opposing good dad (Saturn in Leo), and Neptune is the planet of falsehood, not fatherhood. So I’m curiously contemplating this Neptune in relation to Saturn good dad and thinking about all those Father’s Day slick advos with the young dad looking chipper, lovingly into his son or daughters eyes. How many of us have had this imprinted onto our collective consciousness? Oh, dad. The barbecues you loved to cook for us, the baseball games, the values you instilled, the Hallmark card I can’t wait to get for you…I’m tearing up. Screeching tires, backtrack.

Now I’m thinking about the deadbeat dads, the ones that leave the scene MIA, or who never showed up in the first place. How many single mothers are there in the USA? The US Census says in 2005 there were 10 million women living with children under 18. So why, does the same source say there only 2.5 million single fathers in 2006 (19% of whom are living with their children)? Where are the 7.5 million missing dads? Did they all become ex-pats in that one year? Granted, I don’t know how the Census collects their data, but I’m guessing it has something to do with whom one claims oneself as being to the IRS. Clearly, Neptune has absconded with these fathers. Or, more directly, these fathers do not identify, they do not exist. Poof! And as good Christian citizens of America, we want them back (best said with a mid-west accent).

But I do not want to dog bad dad, here. I am exploring Saturn and Neptune. And asking what good can come of this pair, good dad opposed by this elusive, ill, dad in absentia mass? And here’s where Neptune logic kicks in: Neptune will blow us off course until we make an effort to worship him. We will wander hopelessly until we ask, as Dana Gerhardt did in June 2007 TMA, ‘to what altar do I kneel to everyday?’ She says, “Neptune wants nothing less than total devotion.” How daunting. Daunting because this means, whether conscious or not, you are already totally devoted to some form of Neptune’s shtick. The trick is, making your devotion conscious, so its not a shtick, so ita not some strange parody, devotion to a ghost. The Greeks kept the malefic Neptune destructive forces of Neptune’s tsunamis, floods and destruction away by constructing altars, making sacrifices. (They knew their place in the world in a tiny speck of sand. The all-consuming ocean was King.) I’m considering this dilemma of devotion, and considering that maybe at this tail end of this long Saturn -Neptune opposition (officially ending this month) some of us have awakened to our own altars built in confusion, built around our fathers. Are we realizing how destructive, how draining it can be to worship the wrong father?

Everyone has an altar to fatherhood, I’m convinced of it. You’re celebrating Father’s Day. You live in America. Personally, mine resembled a ghostly altar to good dad, the one who never existed, and more importantly, the one who wasn’t real. I had to surrender the good dad and the bad dad. The surrender was long, and it felt like a tsunami washing my island clean of every last malingering wishful thinking debris, like: maybe this conversation will be different, maybe this time… Paradoxically this tsunami of surrendering the illusion happened shortly before I fell in love. I fell in love…ahhh…with a most exceptional dad, my husband, around the same time this strange planetary pair, Saturn and Neptune entered their cosmic dance with each other. And guess what happened? My dad paradigm shifted completely. My slate had been wiped so clean, so entirely clear of good dad/bad dad that I was permitted to receive a re-education from the original teacher his/her self, Love. And the bonus: because I’d never experienced good dad (he was only a fantasy, you see) the learning has been far better than I ever imagined.

First, I began to actually understand what Hallmark meant when they said “To the Best Dad in the World”- because I fell in love with him. I learned that the self-sacrifice of a parent didn’t equal martyrdom (or sainthood), for which no child, nor parent need pay in blood. I learned there are some exceptional dads out there who courageously sacrifice a piece of their personal self for their brood every day, and smile doing it! (This was a particularly joyful discovery) I’m still learning what it means to actively participate in a childs life, to teach, coax, and reinforce goodness out of every moment as though it were the most precious moment, ever. And when I become overwhelmed by the bumpy inner world of occupying the mind bubble of a 10 or 12 or 14 year old, I see that for every overblown myopic agony and emotion, the corresponding reassuring hand of someone who’s got your back…and who won’t let you down…strengthens the reality baseline for everyone in the house. Maybe even the world. Best of all, I have a ringside seat next to someone really, really wants to be there (I mean more than anything) to play the defining role in his children’s lives. And could quite capably be the best man they ever know. Ever. What a tall order! What a grand thing!

So to all you good people wondering where the good dads went this Fathers Day: they’re with the bad dads, locked in a mythical battle between good and evil, dark and light. They’re busy preoccupying your mind and heart, forcing you to wait for him to show up at your dance recital or little league game, still (when you know he won’t) or say the right thing at the right moment (because he’ll say the wrong thing all over again). Maybe it’s time to end the agony for once and all. Here’s my new suggestion: could you, possibly reckon surrendering the good dad and bad dad, for an in-between one? This doesn’t mean you need to hero worship when your heart is not in it, nor throw in the towel. Hallmark isn’t required; a phone call will suffice. Possibly a tedious one, with predictable conversation and one in which if your new treaty is tested (as it will be) you will silently focus on your basic good nature, and his (because he’s human, too) while surrendering hope for conscious validation of anyones G-O-O-D or B-A-D.

You will keep the faith and compassion on a heart level, where you will build your own altar to the values you know to be true, but which may possibly never happen within this particular relationship. You have my permission to surrender your illusion of good dad – he is no longer necessary AND bad dad, because you need to grow up. Simply, he’s not either guy. And in my experience, sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is to wipe your slate clean of hope for the good dad and the bad dad (both of whom left you in the dust) and surround yourself with friend dads, neighbor dads, step dads, husband dads and come-as-you-are-dads who are just that good at what they do. And give those dads a hug.


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  1. Jessica

    Hi all – This is a re-post from Father’s Day. I took the original down, because sometimes writing in real-time sometimes doesn’t give you the benefit of editing your work…I had many thoughts about what I’d written in the 24 hours after posting, continuing to ask myself if this was an accurate representation of my experience. Although 98% complete, it wasn’t the full story. I had pitted Good Dad and Bad Dad against one another – and realized they’re both part of the same dream, which I was still dreaming…

    I’m also re-posting a comment left for the original. Thanks for staying tuned!

  2. Jessica

    Posted by: Navina

    Wow – thanks so much Jessica. Exactly what I needed to hear on this FD. It just ain’t never gonna be what I was hoping for… but I can effort to see Good Dad all around me.

    Good Dad is someone to celebrate!

  3. Lise

    Dear Jessica – a beautiful column…taking on the good dad/bad dad subject was courageous. Thank you from all of us readers. I have realized for a long time that the quietly confident, grounded, happy, successful women I have known have all had one thing in common in their lives…the experience of knowing what it felt like to be the center of the father’s universe and the recipient of of unconditional love.

    From the minute she was born, I have told my daughter’s dad “you cannot spoil this child-woman with too much love…you cannot tell her (in the many ways it will present itself) too many times how she completes your universe. This is your opportunity to fall in love all over again and there is no risk in letting her see that kind of love reflected in your eyes whenever she is present.”

  4. Jessica

    Lise, a reader wrote me personally, seconding your insightful comments.

    Yes, mark one more for courage. It was and wasn’t easy to write this; specifically, to articulate delicate, complex heart stirrings was like licking honey from the razor’s edge. That image itself makes me think about the feelings we all must first brave to get to the core sweetness of our personal truth ~ at least of the moment. Writing this was a mirror to the moment. In the couple of conversations among friends that this piece sparked I realized that where I am now with my father will be eternally changing. What I call black today is tomorrow’s grey. The subject probably warrants a few book chapters at least!

    Nonetheless, another example of: the writer writes because it’s what she needs to hear!

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