Growing Up Daddyless-How To Move Pass Your Issues
By Brooke Dean
Buying a Father’s Day card is always a little tricky for me. As I browse the Father’s Day section in Hallmark every year I find myself stuck trying to find just the perfect card. Most of them read something along the lines of, “Daddy, you were always there for me” or “You’re the perfect father” – neither of which is true when describing the man who helped create me. You see, I grew up a “daddyless daughter” as Iyanla would say, so now I find myself selecting very generic Father’s Day cards. Sometimes I just buy a blank card and write my own sentiments in them. It’s just easier that way.
Some might wonder why I’m buying Father’s Day cards at all if I grew up without him. After all, it might be hard to forgive a man who was distant, unavailable or simply gone altogether. I knew who my father was, I spent time with his side of the family often and there were periods of time where he’d show up for a graduation or something. But for the most part, I had no dad. My mother did everything, and she never uttered a bad word about my father even though she easily could have. She didn’t want me to grow up having a negative opinion of men since young girls usually shape their romantic relationships around the love they received – or didn’t receive – from their fathers. She wanted us to be as healthy mentally and emotionally as possible when it came to our view of men – which was no easy feat.
I’ll admit that early on in my adult dating life, I had this “I don’t need a man” type of distrust of men. I saw my mother as a Super Woman who clearly didn’t need a man for anything. She raised us to be self-confident, self-sufficient, intelligent young women, and saw us both graduate from college without any teenage pregnancies, addictions or other vices that sometimes plague daddyless daughters. However, as great of a job that my mother did, it doesn’t mean that there weren’t times my sister and I wrestled with abandonment issues, or grew into adulthood wondering if we’d ever have a successful relationship. I’d dated great guys in the past, but having never seen my parents in a loving relationship I wasn’t sure if marriage was something I even wanted to try because I didn’t want to put any future children we’d have through a divorce. And for some reason, even though I never knew my parents to be together that I can remember, their divorce hit me hard at twelve years old. I was crying and didn’t know what for. Maybe it was a delayed reaction to realizing that I wasn’t part of a complete unit. I felt like their divorce was the final nail in the coffin to any connection I had to my dad, even though he had already been gone.
Fast forward several years after I graduated from college and my dad began making a real effort to reconnect and strengthen our bond. He was a recovering addict, was working his steps and “the program” and making amends. He apologized for not being there for us, his broken promises, for not being the example we needed him to be in the type of man we should ultimately choose. He was truly sorry, and I could see that he was sincere this time – unlike all the other times he had promised to do better. He wasn’t just talking this time, but taking back his own life from one of pain and addiction. I could see the change in him, so I did what is so hard for many daddyless daughters to do. I forgave him.
It sounds simple, but it isn’t. It’s hard to erase years of feeling shame or embarrassment for being one of the few girls in church and the neighborhood who didn’t have a loving father at home. It was also hard to forgive him knowing my mother still harbored some bitterness towards him not being around to help her raise her daughters. I felt like I was betraying her, because she carried all the load herself with love and dignity. But my forgiveness of him wasn’t in any way condoning his behavior as a slight to her. It was me releasing myself from my daddy issues.
If you’re finding it hard to reconnect with your absent father, but feel that you’re ready to, here are a few pieces of advice I can offer that have helped me do just that. First, be honest about who your father is and the relationship you have. Don’t make him into a “Disney Dad” if he isn’t one. I found that I idealized my dad into what I wanted him to be, not who he was. Once I accepted that he was a human being with flaws, who had a disease and who wasn’t emotionally able to care for me, I was able to adjust my expectations.
Next, accept who he is today rather than dredging up past hurts. You can’t change the past, so there’s no need to keep reliving it. If you feel you need answers about your past, there’s nothing wrong with gaining closure in order to promote healing – but get your answers and move on. I know it might be hard not to bring up the past over and over again, but all it does is keep in you in a negative space that can affect your future relationship with your father (and other men).
Lastly, truly forgive him if you want to heal any open wounds you have. If you’re having a hard time doing that, seek the advice of a counselor or therapist. Write your feelings down and then burn that piece of paper and release yourself from the painful hold your broken relationship has on you. Remember, forgiveness isn’t just for him, but for you first and foremost. Our relationship is still a work in progress, but it’s wonderful enough to keep me searching for the perfect card in the Hallmark store on Father’s Day.