The Father Wound

  • July 29, 2012


If you are a man who has a difficult past or present relationship with your dad – you're in good company.  So many men have rocky relationships with their dad's that continue to be a source of frustration, sadness, and disconnect well into adulthood.  Men often worry what kind of father they will be able to be, wondering if they will be able to offer their sons and daughters something more than their fathers were able to give them.  

I think this poem by Rick Belden captures the mixed feelings men can have about their fathers: the desire to be close, to feel his approval, to be accepted and loved even though their dad may not be fully capable of giving these things.  


charley horse


leg hurting tonight reminds me of how my dad + I used to

            run across each other in the dark

            when I was little + my leg would hurt.


he had a lot of leg cramps at night

he called that a goddam charley horse

I used to wake up with intense pain in my leg

            the leg I broke

            trying to catch up with him

when I was first learning to walk.


sometimes we'd both wake up at the same time

            on the same night

I liked this because I got to spend some quiet time

            alone with him.


I never wanted to go back to bed on those nights

we'd sit in the living room or the kitchen

            in the dark or with a dim light on

he seemed more open in those moments

I didn't feel like he hated me then

maybe it was because he was sleepy

            or in pain.


those were special occasions for me

            nothing to accomplish or be judged on

we each had our own pain

            similar but not the same

he was empathetic

I felt connected to him.


in those brief moments

I always felt that I was just like him

            just like I always wanted to be.




Excerpted from Iron Man Family Outing: Poems about Transition into a More Conscious Manhood by Rick Belden.  Copyright © 1990, 2008 by Rick Belden.  All rights reserved.