For many years on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day I always thought about those who may be suffering. I’ve prayed for people (without knowing their names) saying “Father, please bless the people who have lost their parents”. I can only imagine when a parent passes how this fun, joyous day instantly turns into a painful reminder of the loved one who is no longer here. My prayers are still with them.
I honestly never saw this coming but in recent years, Father’s Day has produced a new and different kind of pain for me. Not because of loss in this sense. I’m very grateful both of my parents are alive. I have the great fortune to celebrate my parents on Mother’s day, Father’s Day and every day. However, in recent years the pain I feel on Father’s Day is not for me but for my daughter. She has not 1, but 2 absent fathers. I watch her navigate this truth with as much strength, wisdom and grace as any 14 year old can generate. She’s quite literally amazing!
The pain runs even deeper when I acknowledge that this circumstance is no fault of her own. I cannot separate my responsibility from this. Her loss is an absolute direct result of my choices. This is a very painful admission that I am able to suppress on most days but on Father’s Day it's almost unbearable.
While all of her friends are celebrating “dad” we have a hole. An awkward silence.
She's 14 now and the last time she saw her biological father she was 5. I separated from him when she was 9 months old. That relationship was simply a bad choice. We were not compatible. We fought a lot. We could have never gone the distance. I dated him for 4 years and it was a struggle the entire time. Discovering I was pregnant, was my motivation for change. I knew I couldn’t raise a child in that relationship. So when she was 9 months old I left.
I ran with zeal into the liberating, yet scary freedom of being a single mom. At that time I was super sure that peace and happiness was the most important thing. I was excited to have another chance. Me and my baby girl had a fresh start at life.
That singleness didn't last long. Just a few weeks after that relationship ended, I met the man who would become my husband. We dated for 2 years and then we married. The marriage lasted 8 years. There were challenges in the marriage yet I was determined to make it work. I didn't want to fail again. But it did fail.
For 10 years my daughter had a daddy. She had a father. She was only 10 months old when we met. He is essentially the only father she has known. This is probably the reason I stayed so long. I didn't want to break her heart. Inevitably in the end, the damage in the marriage was too great and I couldn't stay. I left that marriage in 2016.
Now as I work hard to provide a good life for my beautiful freckle-faced daughter, I must acknowledge there's one thing I cannot do. I cannot be her father.
I never denied her biological father the opportunity to see her. He simply chooses to be absent. He’s not only absent from her life but he hasn’t seen his other children in years either. Lord only knows what’s going on with him.
I have never denied my ex-husband the opportunity to see her. As a matter of fact, I encouraged him to have whatever relationship with her he would like to. The best he has mustered up is a consistent string of text messages and a gift once or twice a year. It's a step up from what her biological father does but it's still not fathering. She deserves so much more.
I have a ton of guilt. These were men that I loved and I chose to have in my life, yet she is paying the price. These were MY failed relationships, yet she is paying the price.
I spent my entire life with my mother and father. Now, with my own daughter I’m trying to navigate unknown territory.
It’s almost easier to comprehend loss when a person passes away. But how do you make sense of an absent father who lives and breathes but chooses to be distant?
I pray that she knows how special she is even if she doesn’t have a daddy to SHOW her. I pray that the scar of abandonment doesn't cut too deep. I pray for her confidence that she doesn't suffer from the classic daddy issues that cause young ladies to cling to terrible men. I'm doing everything I can to build her up and give her tools to choose better than I have; to be stronger than I was.
I'm doing my best but now every Father’s Day I am reminded that I am not a dad. I will never be able to replace that hole in her life.
Father’s day is painful for me. I exhale that it's over and I can get back to being a bad-ass mom for these other 364 days.