I have always been quite open about my experiences growing up in relation to my father. That is, I have never hidden the truth from anyone that asked, and I have never shyed away from telling people anything they asked. I hope that I’ve always been fairly mature about it – aside from temporary feelings of hurt, anger or anxiety about the situation, I’ve always been a matter-of-fact type of girl and tried to stay away from any kind of ‘blame game’ for the way things turned out.
If you go online and type into Google, as I have done in the past, ‘absent father’ or something of similar ilk, you’ll get literally thousands and thousands of sites full of people giving their stories of the impact of not having a father in their life – usually full of hurt and resentment. Absent father, here, meaning one that chose, for whatever reason, not to be an active part of their childs growing up.
There is no denying, that no matter the support you may have from other male role-models in your life, that there is a ‘dad’ shaped hole in all of us. And if you’re lucky, you have a present and fantastic father to fill that hole. If you’re unlucky you haven’t had your father fill that hole – but you may have been fortunate enough to have other men in your life to fill some of that void. Although, like a jigsaw puzzle, it might look like the right piece and have all the right detail – it doesn’t quite fit.
There are things, undeniably, that children (specifically daughters, because I can’t really speak for sons!) without fathers playing an active part in their lives miss out on. And although people try and list these things, ultimately we’ll never really know what we could have learnt, or who we could have been with the input of our absent dad.
I think it took longer than I ever realised to stop blaming myself for the missing dad in my life. I always felt if I’d been a little better behaved, a bit more likeable, perhaps a little less ‘whiney’ then things would never have worked out how they did. But as I grew up, and as I became an adult, and some wonderful people gave me their insight into the situation I came to realise one really key thing, which I cling onto now when I need to:
I was the child, and he was the adult.
And although that sounds like blame, it isn’t. It’s recognition that I could have been the most wonderful child in the world, I could have never have put a foot wrong and always done precisely as I was told. I could have been the happiest, funniest, most brilliant little girl in the whole of the world – but I couldn’t have done anything about what happened because I was just a child.
What happened, simply happened. Situations happen and things and people change.
It is sad that I was absolutely not a minority in my situation as a child. In 2013 the Daily Mail posted this article on their website. The shocking fact? 129,000 fathers do not have contact with their children. That’s 129,000 children in 2013 who were carrying around a lot of confusion about why they weren’t good enough to have a present dad in their life.
And what would I say to those 129,000 if I had the opportunity? It was never your fault, it was never something you did or didn’t do. If you’re hurting, work through it and ultimately you have to forgive – or it’ll pull you under. Other people may have dictated the situation as it is now or as it was when you were a child, but they don’t have a hold on how you react from here on. Write a letter – send it, burn it, do what you have to to find yourself some peace.
If you need to talk about how you feel then find someone. Preferably someone completely removed from the situation who you can be honest with and trust and respect their opinion. Someone who tries to see the whole picture and not just your side of the story. There is baggage that comes with not having a dad in your life, and there are feelings that you have which are as a result of that situation. Talk them out and realise them so that you can accept them and, when they resurface, fight them off. Because that little voice that says, in some way, you’re not good enough? It’s rubbish.
I am not sure what happens from here on in for me. I am well into adult life now and so I can dictate and take control of the situation as I see fit. So far, I’ve opted not to do anything and let things run their course. My dad has always been in the background with Christmas and Birthday cards. He was present at my baptism and my wedding day watching on from the background, which was important for me knowing that, actually, he still doesn’t want to miss those moments.
I have two distinct memories of my dad – polar opposite memories. I have the day I was dropped home after a weekend visit and was not going to go back anymore. There was a lot of arguing. And I have a memory of learning to tie shoelaces with him. I can’t have been very old, and I can’t be sure I actually got the hang of it but that’s something I’ll always have as a sweet memory of the two of us.
I’ll always be grateful for the positive influences other men have had in my life, in trying to fill that gap. And I’ll always be forever grateful for a Christian faith and a Father God that kept me routed and grounded without getting too lost in the confusion of growing up – that kept me ‘normal’. A faith that somehow, amazingly, gave me perspective and never allowed me to dwell for too long on what could have been a negative and unhappy outlook but continually gave me strength to carry on.