The Struggles of Father’s Day
By Alexandria Pech, Shalei Heflin & Ebony Underwood

As children of incarcerated parents we often cope with having to carry a lot of emotional
pain, stigma and trauma. For many, those emotions are especially triggered during Mother’s
Day and Father’s Day. WE GOT US NOW Actionists Alexandria, Shalei and Ebony, each give a
glimpse into the personal struggle that children and young adults have with parents behind bars
during Father's Day.

Alexandria’s Story:

If I close my eyes long enough, a hazy dream-like video plays out of what Father’s Day
should have looked like across my life. I envision a father and daughter opening cards over a
large breakfast, maybe a daytime BBQ at a park, and dinner with extended family. Having a
father incarcerated across 24 Father’s Day makes this yearly day, more than just a day. It is a
reminder of what could have been. During my father’s incarceration, it was a day to estimate
how many years before my hazy, dream-like video could play out in real time: “Maybe next year,
maybe the next time he goes in front of the parole board, maybe after I turn 15 since he has 15
to life, maybe after I graduate high school, maybe... this is for life.”

I used to get so frustrated with the barriers that existed to just keep connected with my
father: A firmly scheduled 3-way call, a random chance that I happened to be at my
grandmother’s house, a robot telling me for what seemed like every minute that “this call is from
an inmate from X prison and is being recorded.” When I look back, I laugh at those so called
“barriers,” especially in the age of COVID-19, where calls from communal phones inside prisons
can spread the virus if not sanitized after each use. How would I have felt? I have more
questions than answers, but I often wonder about the year that my father attempted to take his
own life while incarcerated. I wonder about the subsequent weeks that led up to Father’s Day.

What was that Father’s Day like for him? What was that Father’s Day like for me that year? My
naivety led me to believe that while prisons were not a good place to be, surely there would
never be a need to demand free communications, safe and sanitary measures, immediate
clemency for elderly and sickly parents in prison, and a notification system to provide families
with updates of the prison facility. Perhaps it was easier on my mental health to assume that my
father’s basic needs were met. Because allowing my mind to think of the opposite - the harm,
dehumanization and trauma inside - felt paralyzing.

This guest blog is part of the series: Missing Dad Incarceration and the Difficulty of Father’s Day. We invite you to follow the link to read all of the contributions in the series.


Arizona State University, ASU, #1Innovation, Children of Incarcerated Parents. CIP, Be the Solution , Fathers Day, Parenting in prison, celebrating holidays with a parent in prison, incarceration, COIP, Dads in prison, moms in prison
Alexandria Pech is a WE GOT US NOW Actionist based in AZ and doctoral student in Family
Studies and Human Development at The University of Arizona. She is working on her
dissertation proposal that centers the lived experiences of adolescent girls of color experiencing
familial incarceration. She is a past instructor for FCSC 301: Applied Critical Thinking to Discourses
in Family and Consumer Science Organizations. Her research interests are centered on:
Adolescent development among youth of color, particularly youth with incarcerated parents,
Youth Participatory Action Research, Critical Race and Intersectionality Theoretical Frameworks
and Counterstory methodology. Her recent accomplishments include: 2017 R.A.C.E. Fellow
(Research Advocacy in Critical Education), 2016 College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award, 2015 University of Arizona Centennial Graduate
Achievement Award.