To those who grew up with an absent Father, or maybe your Dad walked away later on in life, I’m truly sorry.
If I had to pick one word that sums up how a child feels when their Dad leaves or chooses not to be a part of their lives, the word that describes that feeling best would be wrecked. Their hearts are overwhelmed with an emotion that can’t truly be understood unless you’ve gone through the same thing, and it feels completely unfair. Every time there is a Daddy-Daughter Dance, Father-Son Camping trip or other “dad” involved activity, the hurt you feel is amplified and the wound becomes a little bigger. It feels like there is no way past all the emotions and bitterness you feel, but there is, you just have to be willing to let go of the things you cannot change.
When I was four years old, my parents decided to divorce, and while I’m sure it felt different I don’t remember much about it. My brother and I lived with my Mom and went to see our Dad every other weekend and on holidays, which is a pretty normal custody arrangement. Fast forward a couple years and my Mom met and married my Step-Dad, Sonny. My Mom had two kids and Sonny had three from his previous marriage, so when they got married they had a total of five kids; it was insane, but an adventure.
From the time my Mom started dating Sonny, my brother and I were very comfortable with him. Over the years after they were married, I grew closer with Sonny and unlike a lot of “Step-Parent” stories, I truly appreciated and respected my Step-Dad. He helped my Mom provide for my brother and I, made an effort to spend quality time with us and he always had us laughing until our stomachs just couldn’t take it any more.
Throughout the next several years my relationship with my Dad began to deteriorate. He said and did some incredibly hurtful things. When I was sixteen years old my Dad chose to completely cut off all communication with me, and when I tried to reach out he ignored me or blamed me for our strained relationship. Most of my pre-teen and teen years I felt anxious and frustrated about the poor relationship I had with my Dad. It was an immense amount of stress to carry around for just a kid.
When my Dad decided he no longer wanted to be a part of my life, I grew even closer to Sonny. The already strained relationship with my Dad, and then his choosing to walk out left me deeply hurt. I couldn’t understand why someone who shared my DNA didn’t want to know me and to be a part of my life.
Looking back, past all the hurt and anger, I think my Dad did me a favor by stepping out of my life. I was able to see my Step-Dad in a completely different light. It dawned on me that he had been much more of a Dad this entire time. He was supportive, encouraging, kind and a truly amazing Dad, even though he didn’t have to do or be any of those things for me.
To those who grew up with an absent Father, or maybe your Dad walked away later on in life, I’m truly sorry. I know the anger you walk around with, and the incredible hurt you feel, but let me give you some advice: let it go, you are better off. I know that it is so much easier said than done, but when I finally forgave my Dad, and let go of all the crummy things that happened, I was not only happier but I felt a huge weight roll off my shoulders. I began to feel like my eyes were opened to all the incredible Father figures in my life. I was blessed to have a loving Step-Dad, but I also have my sweet brother, Grandaddy, Uncles, long time family friends, my Father-in-Law and above all else, my Heavenly Father.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel a twinge of pain on my wedding day, when my biological Father wasn’t there to give me away or dance with me, but it quickly subsided. I had the privilege of having my Mom and Step-Dad walk me down the aisle and was even able to share a dance with both of them. Little did I know, my Mom had organized another sweet surprise for me. She had every father figure in my life come out to dance with me. My Brother, Uncles, and family friends came one by one to share a Father-Daughter dance with me and to say I was a blubbering mess would be an understatement. It was another precious reminder that not every Dad is by blood but instead by love.
It can feel impossible to let go of that hurt, but take it one day at a time. Open your eyes and heart to the Father figures in your life and thank them. “Any man can be a Father, but it takes someone special to be a Dad.” And although Moms can’t always give you the same perspective as a Dad, they are stellar at playing both parents. So, don’t forget to thank your Mom, for raising you on her own, putting your needs above her own and making sure you felt unconditional love each and every day. Sometimes I have to wake up and actively choose to let go of the things that happened with my Dad. It’s not always easy, but it’s a much more joyful path to take.
To all the men out there who stepped into the role of “Dad” without hesitation, thank you. Thank you for being man enough to step up to the plate. Thank you for loving that child like your own. Thank you for choosing the sometimes hard but endlessly rewarding path. Thank you for being the Dad that you didn’t have to be.