Writing about my father isn’t new. Talking about a fatherless life and the negative and positive impacts it’s had on my life, also isn’t new. But after a day of scrolling through various social media accounts, reading stories attached to dorky photos of dads and their daughters, my heart is feeling both a little raw and a little introspective.
Father’s Day holds mixed emotions for me. On the one hand, I greatly appreciate it because fathers, good father’s, should be celebrated. I think their role isn’t always recognized with the importance it should be. But on the other hand, it’s a hard day for me. It brings my “daddy baggage” front and center. It’s a reminder of a relationship that I’ve will never experience. A reminder that even if I have the most amazing mother in the world, there’s still a part of me that feels like something is missing.
If you had asked me what I wanted when I was growing up, I probably would have told you I wanted a father. It was my birthday wish and early attempts at matchmaking my mom to the potential single dad’s from my elementary school. Attempts that always failed because my mother was never in need of anyone and the men I “picked”….well, to seven year old me, they seemed wonderful, but in reality, not so much.
Still, I remember wishing for a dad for years. It was never motivated by jealously or because I was lacking from love or attention (my mom was somehow two parents in one and did it in such an effortless way, that still amazes me to this day). But watching little girls and their fathers always made me feel like I was missing out on something. Something that I longed for from my own father. Or at least, a father-like figure. Because even as a little girl, I recongized that my father was someone that would never be like those other dads. He was never going to be a good father, let alone a good man.
So I created an “ideal daddy” in my head.
My fantasy father was many things. He’d want me, first of all. And he would be a good man; not an alcoholic that was prone to selfishness and violent behavior. I would know my worth because he found me worthy. He would be my greatest playmate and partner in adventure. And when I grew older, he would carry my burdens and comfort me when boys broke my heart, even as he reassured me of my beauty and value. He would be caring and kind. Funny and serious. And he would always give the best hugs.
In a perfect world, I could have had this. If my father wasn’t the man that he was, a version of this could have existed in my life. But life isn’t perfect and things that have the power to cause pain, happen.
But eventually, the hurt becomes less sharp. And the longing becomes more of a dull ache.
Somewhere along the line, I stopped using my birthday wishes for a father. I stopped thinking that the only thing that could make my life “complete” was a father. And to my mother’s (probably) eternal gratitude, I stopped trying to pair her with my friend’s dad’s. I began to feel more at peace with the reality of my life. I accepted it, and I embraced it. The pain was still there, but it was manageable now.
I think I should say, there’s no permanent fix to growing up fatherless. There’s nothing that can ever really fill the space where a father should fit. As wonderful as my mother is, as much as she gave of herself and was all those things listed above and more, she still isn’t a father. And for as much as God has been, and continues to be, my Heavenly Father, he still isn’t able to physically wrap me in his arms in a hug that I still, many times, desperately crave.
But God has brought so much healing in my life for this. I have examples of wonderful fathers in my life, who have brought me joy in knowing that good father’s can, and do exist. He’s given me a sense of purpose in my fatherlessness; a desire to cherish and love those who feel like they’re lacking in worth or value. And He continues to be a patient, loving Father to me, despite my many mistakes and shortcomings.
But like I said above, this day always brings along a sense of bittersweetness. And for a few moments, that dull ache becomes just a bit more biting. And that small girl in me who spent years wishing for a father, flares up a little, making that longing a little more fierce than it was yesterday.
My baggage is still there. I’m still the girl who is sometimes labeled with “daddy issues”. And my longing never fully goes away. But God is good and uses my brokenness for good things. He surrounds me with love from himself and others. And every year, I feel like he heals more and more of those tender, raw parts of me. And I rejoice in what he is doing.