I used to be someone who hated the idea of getting married. I have been through too many divorces (my own and those of my parents) to feel like marriage was something I ever wanted to be a part of again. My experience with marriages and other serious relationships had me feeling like I needed to be able to cut ties and get out of a bad situation at a moments notice. I’m not the sort of girl who has trouble cutting losses and letting go.
I guess I have my dad to thank for that. But you know what? It’s okay. Because even though I have a crappy dad…I’m okay!
It sounds cold. I’ve been told more than once that I am a bit of an ice queen. Maybe I’m just naturally like that, or maybe it’s because waiting for hours in the Montana snow for your dad to pick you and your little sister up after school freezes your heart a little bit. I used to usher my sister underneath some pine trees when the teachers would lock up the school so they wouldn’t see us waiting three hours after school for our dad to pick us up AGAIN. This went on until we moved across the country when I was a teenager.
Which is a good thing, because nine times out of ten he never showed up. Move over, Elsa.
Do you know what happened when he didn’t show up? I would hike up my little snow pants and haul my little sister home on foot, promising snacks and when that didn’t work, bullying her into walking through the cold. We would show up banging on the door until my mom answered. I would stand there and watch the realization come over her face changing from shock to anger. An experience I only understand the full gravity of now that I am a mother myself.
My mom is a champion. She worked her butt off and showed me what it takes to push yourself when you haven’t got any fight left. I watched her claw her way out of every bad scenario we went through, carrying us with her. She wasn’t perfect, but I’m proud of the woman I am today and I have her to thank for that.
I could go on and on about how often my dad slept all day and forgot about picking us up on the few times a year he would actually plan to see us. I could rehash a million memories of all the shitty things he did (that I’m sure he has a million excuses for) but I won’t. I feel like there are enough women (and men) who know how it feels to be let down repeatedly by a parent.
I want to talk about that rootless feeling every kid with no support has, that they never realize isn’t normal until something (or someone) solid grabs your hand and pulls you in to what real love is supposed to feel like. I want to talk about how hard it is to reverse the damage that is done to your soul when someone who is supposed to care about you more than anything in the world, doesn’t. I want to talk about how they expect you to follow rules, and get good grades, and share your things, but they can never put you first. I want to talk about how every time they tell you they love you, you hear an unspoken “but I love myself more.”
Last year my boyfriend’s dad, my kids’ grandfather, James, got sick right around the same time my sister went on a trip to see my Dad. We thought it was a heart attack. Every hour was gut-wrenching. My boyfriend’s family is my family. His mom and I go shopping together whenever we can. His dad and I laugh at the same inappropriate jokes. It’s easy to love them for the same reasons it’s easy to love their son. I cherish the bond I have with them the same way I cherish the one I have with my mom.
I was sitting there with my sister waiting to hear news of how James is doing. She was waiting with me (even though she was supposed to be packing for her trip up to see my dad) when an anger I haven’t felt in years just flooded over me. When did my dad’s excuses start working on me again? How is it fair that my single-mom sister was spending the last little bit of money she had to fly up to see my dad when it would be just as easy and less expensive for him to come here? How was it fair that James, who calls me just to chat on his way home from work, who drops everything to help us when we need it, is in the hospital, when my own dad can’t be bothered to dial a few numbers to call his kids, let alone make time to see them?
I decided then and there that I was going to take a page from the book of my eight-year-old self and not keep forgiving my dad, that I wasn’t going to keep putting in effort he wasn’t putting in. That I’m not going to let myself be heartbroken anymore. Because when your boyfriend’s dad finds the time to call you and tell you that he loves you from a hospital bed, no excuse will ever be good enough.
When every man your Mom was with after she divorced him as made a place for you in their lives and hearts. No excuse is good enough.
So this is for the women (and men) who don’t have dads.
You need to understand that their failures are their failures, not yours. You need to understand that it’s okay to say “No, I can’t forgive you when you won’t change.” You need to know that having a dad is great, but you’ll be just fine if you can’t rely on the one you have. It’s okay to disassociate yourself from someone who only causes you heartache. It’s okay to put yourself first.
It’s okay to not want to get married when you’ve seen so much turmoil come from it. It’s okay to change your mind when you finally realize that you would love nothing more than to have the same last name as the man you love, and the amazing people who raised him.
It’s okay to tell your boyfriend to ask your mom’s permission to propose.
And you can be damn sure it’s okay to ask your mom to walk you down the aisle.
Because you know what? My dad might be crappy but I have SO many other people in my life who love me no matter what. And even if I recognize now that I can’t depend on my birth father, I am so Very grateful for the other men in my life whom I know I can depend on – no matter what.
This is just my story and my feelings. I know some people who have crappy moms, or no parents at all. If you feel comfortable, leave me a comment down below and share how you cope.