I’ve heard on more than one occasion that when people teach young women to date, they advise them to seek men that remind them of their father.Totally outdated. As an adult, I quickly decided that I couldn’t do that to myself. I don’t ever want to have to fight for a man’s attention the way I did for my fathers. He isn’t a bad man. He has never been cruel to me. He tells me often, when we speak, how proud he is of me, even in the moments when I feel like I’ve done nothing to be proud of. I’m fortunate in that regard but we don’t have the best relationship despite that. That’s why it’s important to talk about “daddy issues.”
My parents were young when they had me. Fresh out of high school, the year was 1993. My father enlisted in the air force that year and before my life could truly begin, he was gone, stationed countries away. I don’t hate him for leaving. I don’t hate him at all, but I do recognize that I have some daddy issues. “Daddy issues” isn’t some made up phrase only used by Twitter trolls hoping to stamp down on a pretty girl’s confidence. It’s a universal description of troubled relationships between kids and their fathers. And if those kids allow it to, they grow old with those feelings and repress them.
I remember when I was in high school and my father was visiting from his new home of Las Vegas. He signed me up for drivers training, and handed me a paper that confirmed I’d be taking the class three days a week after school. He had listed my birthday as June 25. I had actually been born the day after. I felt ashamed and I buried that deep below my anger. I let it live there. When my little sister was born, I buried my jealousy underneath my anger when I watched how present he was for her. At one point I looked at her and thought that she and I would never be close because of it. When he got married a few years ago, I listened to him tell me of how he and my new step-brother frequented college football games. I told them all happy thanksgiving over facetime, him and his happy family while I stood miles away, the older, less significant child. Years of anger toward him flowed through me.
I hadn’t even realized how much I was letting my anger toward him hurt me. It made me distrustful of every man in my life, sure I would be disappointed sooner or later. It taints every moment we try to reconnect. When he and I speak on the phone and we play catch up, it hangs there in the air between us and I want to ask him why our relationship is like this, but I change my mind and ask him about his wife.
There is a process to healing. Recently, I’ve learned the funniest thing – my parents are human. I’m not writing that to tell you that your parents humanity is reason enough to forgive and forget trauma/abuse. I’m writing this to express my personal journey in healing and understanding, because I watched my own mother deal with a failed relationship with her father. Her anger twisted itself inside of her, to the point that when her sister fought to establish a relationship with him, I watched a frown mar my mothers features everytime he was mentioned. When grandpa Thomas lie on a hospital bed unresponsive, she spilled her heart to him, not even sure if he’d hear it. She made her amends because she had to or else she’d travel the world still holding onto that hurt, dragging it around like heavy baggage. Immediately she told me, “Tell your father how you feel before you can’t.”
I envisioned that one day my father would reach out to me and simply apologize, that my “daddy issues” would go away and that somehow in the years that had passed, he had become more self-aware. That moment hasn’t happened yet and I can’t be sure when it will but I’m not going to keep hoping for it. I may never get the apology I think I deserve and I have to be okay with that. Just as I have to understand that my father isn’t perfect. Maybe he gave me love the best way he knew how and I don’t have to do anything with that but keep it close as a reminder, again, of what I don’t want. I refuse to continue to carry my anger with me and let it keep me back. We all hold this ideal that closure is something that we seek from others, but sometimes it’s something you allow yourself. For the sake of your own peace of mind.
Written by Taylor Hall