I just read a really lovely, wonderful post about a great dad, and a great daughter. It was very sweet, and I was wistful, and a bit envious reading it. What would it have been like to have had a father for more than my first three years of life? Even better, a dad who didn’t drink, abuse pills, and almost kill my mother.
So, here’s what even a bad experience, and/or a really bad parent can teach you:
1) While it’s true that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, it can also make you broken and bitter, until and unless you learn to forgive, and find a path to healing those old wounds and hurts.
2) A bad father can make a girl seek out all the the wrong guys for all the wrong reasons. It took me a few bad years with much older guys to stop realize I was looking for a father figure. Now, I have a healthy relationship with a wonderful man, but I had to grow into that.
3) Having an abusive dad who abandons you can cause you to be distrustful of men on levels so deep you may not realize the distrust is there. It might take counseling and some very deep introspection to find it and deal with it.
4) You might attract more abusive people into your life until you resolve past conflicts.
5) You might always cry on Father’s Day.
6) Your mom might have never moved on to a healthy, stable relationship after your dad almost kills her.
7) You tend to idealize people and relationships, especially with men, because you never learned to have a loving relationship with someone despite normal flaws- any sign of imperfection in a person you get close to in your life signals danger, sometimes too much so. In healthy relationships, you learn that nobody is perfect. That doesn’t mean they are not worthy of love, nor does it mean they will abandon or abuse you.
8) Conversely, you may ignore true danger signs in a person or relationship, because you have no positive role model or a normal, healthy relationship to compare this one to.
9) You can move on to have healthy, productive relationships with people. I have no uncles, no real brother, no grandfather, no older, positive male role model in my life at all. I sometimes truly grieve this, but what can I do? I can move forward. I can still respect and admire people in my life who are positive role models, whether family, acquaintances, or teachers and bosses. I can also realize that none of these relationships will ever replace a bond between a loving father and his daughter. I may never understand that dynamic for myself, but I can still find love, and give love. Most importantly, when no one gives you that strong sense of belief in you, that sense of identity and belonging, you may need to learn to love and appreciate yourself. You have to respect yourself, and not hold your father’s sins against your own life. His failures are not your fault, and you don’t have to inherit them!
10) Trust. I still have a hard time trusting people, with a few very special exceptions. I still struggle with caring about others without fear of attachment, because the cared-for for person either leaves, dies, or changes into a different person. I hope someday to be able to just care about people without any worry about how it will affect ME, and just care freely.
So, to all of you out there with dads who were decent, flawed, real human guys who you knew loved you, no matter what, be grateful. Call your dad. Spend some time together with the ‘cranky old fart’, or ‘puttering old fuddy-duddy’, because one day he may just be gone. Love each other.