Father's Day used to hurt. I remember waking up feeling heavy before I even realized why. That started about 5 years ago.

Before that, Father's Day was a source of stress and anxiety. Every year we'd ask, "what would you like, Papi?"

"Nothing," he'd reply.

Every year he'd spend the day angry and we never knew why. I still don't.

It's not that we did nothing. We made handmade cards and bought him books and flowers and my mother cooked a nice dinner. We had brunch and we went for walks. We told my dad we loved him and we did our very best to show him, but all he ever did that day was snarl.

Maybe we didn't do enough, maybe we should have known when he said "nothing," he meant a specific "something," and maybe we didn't pay attention so we didn't know what he meant. Maybe.

Or maybe we didn't do enough because nothing was ever enough, because maybe when you spend your life twisting yourself into angry, vengeful knots, maybe you get so stuck that you don't know how to be anything else. And maybe you get so caught up in your self-hatred that you turn it onto those who love you most because it poisons your whole world. Maybe when we said "I love you Papi!" and we brought him breakfast, he interpreted our sincerity as dishonesty. Maybe.

Father's Day came around and we spent the day feeling like we were walking over a landmine, waiting for the inevitable bomb to explode. Because it always did. By dinnertime, my dad's cruel words and violent behaviour had been the cause of many tears. Sometimes mine, always my mom's.

Once I moved out, I thought it would be different. It was, sort of. I didn't spend the day feeling like a string about to snap, but I did feel a weight on my heart, a mix of guilt and confusion. I wrestled with the notion of calling my dad, wishing him well, and knowing that he didn't deserve it. The few years that I did call, I zoned out of our conversations and let him do the talking, afraid that I would say something to aggravate him.

When I eventually stopped calling, I stopped feeling the guilt, but I still felt the sadness. I spent the day mourning the loss of the father I never had, wishing I'd grown up with the hero I needed.

Then my daughter was born, and I watched the most wonderful husband in the world become the most perfect father. He is patient. He is kind. He smiles more often than not, he makes me giggle. I never feel like I do enough but he reminds me, over and over, that I am more than enough. I completely forgot about today and apologized over and over, asking what he wanted so I could go buy it or do it, right away. His response?

"I just want you to relax."

Today I woke up and kissed the father of my baby girl and thanked God for sending me the man I'll never deserve. I grew up afraid of my Father in Heaven because I spent my childhood afraid of the one on earth. I resented Him because I thought He resented me.

But watching Matthew, my prince, and the way he is so gentle and tender, how he is ALWAYS asking how he can serve... I know our daughter will be different. She will grow up confident in the love of her father and of her Father. She will have everything I wanted and wished for and more.

Today is the first Father's Day I felt joy. I have my husband and my daughter to thank for that. Watching their love for each other has brought healing to a pain I never thought would fade.

Here's to dads; the ones who work hard and love harder. To the ones who come home tired and drained, but still show up for their wives and kids. To the ones who cherish their families. To the ones who put in the effort to listen and learn. To the dads who practice patience, who are willing to be vulnerable, who teach their children unconditional love...thank you. You are incredible, and we need more of you.

And to all the children of those dads; hug them tight and don't let go.