The day my son was born was the scariest day of my life.
He was so small, so quiet. Born a couple weeks early, his lungs were so small he didn’t so much cry as mew. His face was already scratched up from his nails—not even born, and already he had wounds. He was a risky birth, and doctors had to remove the kid via surgical salad tongs: The process must’ve nicked a nerve, because half of his mouth drooped downward. To this day, he still has a crooked smile.
On that day, fatherhood became real to me in all its staggering implications. No instruction book, no how-to guide, nothing. I was pretty terrified I’d screw it up.
Now, 26 years later, not much has changed.
No father bats a thousand. We do the best we can, but our best isn’t always, every day, good enough. I think my kids would give me a passing grade—maybe even a good one. But I know that I’ve failed them sometimes. I could’ve done better, I know. Every dad probably knows that. And I think that can make Father’s Day a little bittersweet. No “World’s Best Dad” mug can shake those insecurities.
Most moms seem to have a knack for motherhood. Not every dad does. It seems the relationships between father and kid can be more complex, even more problematic, and we see that in our movies. For every Atticus Finch you see, there’s an Anakin Skywalker lurking in the shadows: (“Luke, I am your father!” “NOOOOOO!”)
So, with Father’s Day coming up, let me just share you a few of my favorite movies about fathers. These aren’t perfect fathers, like Atticus: They’re flawed, broken people, just like most of us. But somehow, these stories all have happy endings, anyway.
Oh, and if you’re a dad—or you’ve got one in the room—make sure you’ve got a tissue or two handy if you decide to watch these beauts.