A LETTER TO DAD: FATHERLESSNESS & ITS IMPACT ON ME
America is rapidly becoming a fatherless society. There are several studies and intellectual books that highlight fatherlessness as the leading cause of declining child well-being, crime, domestic violence, and adolescent pregnancy.
I am without a father, however, I don’t have any apparent issues with my mental health, I’m law-abiding, non-violent, and I am not/have not been pregnant. Since I didn’t experience the most prominent consequences of fatherlessness I thought I was in the clear. I thought fatherlessness did not affected me.
Even knowing that my own race has two times the amount of fatherless families that are less prosperous than fatherless white families did not deter me from the thought, “Fatherlessness did not affected me.”
As I grow up and mature, conversely, I am realizing that my fatherlessness has impacted and practically touched every area of my life. I have a wonderful, amazing mother who produced the best female-headed minority household any child could want. In addition to my mother, I have the love and support of extended family, my godmother and friends. Even though my mom was there to wipe my tears, to watch my games and to help me with my homework, she never really filled the void of a physically and emotionally present father. The vast support system and village that helped raise me failed as a fatherly place holder too.
While I tried to ignore my reality, I have come to grips with the fact that I do suffer from the palpable emotional and physical absence of my father. His absenteeism in my life since my parents’ divorce has caused me to feel emotionally inadequate, to avoid forming relationships for fear of rejection, cynical about companionship and more. I can’t even begin to fathom how I overcome my feelings of inadequacy…my trust issues with men…my fear of rejection by men. Is this what they call “daddy issues”????
I don’t want to live this way. At some point I must heal and move on with my life. *Note: I’m tearing up while I write this because this is the first time I have told anyone outside of my immediate family and best friend about my innermost feelings. It is quite terrifying.*
To better understand how and why I suffer from the consequences of fatherlessness, I used Google – surprise, surprise – to see what literature there was on the topic. In my quest I stumbled upon a documentary called Dear Daddy by filmmaker Janks Morton (I actually only watched the trailer. You can watch it down below). Not only is Morton a filmmaker but he is also an activist who tries to reflect both the conscious and unconscious soul of Black America through the Arts. Such avant-gardism surrounding our, African-American, social problems that disfigures Black America can be found in Dear Daddy. In the film, Morton navigates the epidemic of fatherlessness by following eight black, young women from the inner-city avenues of Washington, D.C. He reveals how these women are struggling to overcome the absence of their fathers.
The women are encouraged to write letters to their fathers, read them on camera, and interpret the meaning behind their words. One young woman wrote a letter to her dad and it hit close to home because her words reflect how I am feeling:
“I hate the simple fact that the only time you come around is when you need something…and you don’t even call to give me a hug or come around to even see me or to come pick me up. I hate the simple fact that you left me and I had no one to talk to when I couldn’t talk to my mother. I hate the simple fact that you wasn’t there when I had my first heartbreak….it hurts me when I don’t have a father to go to when I have a problem. It hurts me that my mom has to play both parts…my mother and my father. I count on her more than I count on you. I hate the simple fact that you took the easy way out… [You don’t help take care of me] or come check if I’m alive. I need somebody there for me and you’re not there…my mama is there. You care more about everything else than you care about me. It hurts when I hear that you can spend all the money in the world on your girlfriend but you can’t come see me. You stay with her and her kids and you buy them stuff and treat them like they are your kids and my mom is struggling every day.”
Janks Morton said, “For the millions of African-American women dealing with the lifelong consequences of father absence, the first and most urgent step has to be acknowledgement. The downside to denial, dismissal or deflection is that it leads to less-than-desirable outcomes in women’s lives, impacting their partner preference and their relationships with co-workers and family. I usually state during my lectures, that 'if you are unwilling to deal with your past, your past is more than willing to deal with you.'" In many ways Morton’s film Dear Daddy helps brave African-American women acknowledge the fact that their life is affect by their father’s absence. Writing letters allows one to overcome the consequences and breaks down an emotional barrier that keeps them from living life to the fullest.
“To deal with my past” I am going to write my own letter to my absent father. Maybe this will help me heal as well.
Did you even want me? When you held me for first time did you plan on tossing me aside like garbage?
Up until I was twelve I was a Daddy’s girl. Of course you know that but that all changed when you abandoned me…when you threw me to the side after the divorce.
We used to have daddy-daughter dates. Remember you, Bailey and I used to go to the movies every other weekend? I was utterly devastated when you took that time away. Learning that you’d rather spend ALL of your time with women you met online instead of with your child really damaged the relationship I had with you. I would never understand why you ignored me…snubbed me. How can your own flesh and blood be replaced by the hoes you met online? Back then you spent all your time and money taking care of them…charming them on our daddy-daughter dates. This consumed all of you leaving me abandon by you emotionally, physically and financially.
If you are my father then how on could you abandon me?
How could you not consistently pay child support for eight years but yet lay up in your house taking care of women and feeding their kids? If you are my father why do you not support me? So many nights we had to eat Ramen noodles for dinner, missed payments on our bills and forewent new experiences all because you thought mom could handle being both the provider and caretaker…being both mother and father to Bailey and I. Mom, as wonderful as she is, was excellent at wearing both hats but I needed you.
For eight years I needed you. I needed you to teach me how to drive, watch me try on dresses for prom, help me find the right college apply to. More simply, I needed you to come and cheer me on at my volleyball games. All I needed for you to do is to come and support me during my volleyball career. All those games you had the chance to come to but you decide otherwise. You decided that I was not important.
For eight years I needed you to love me.
You weren’t there for so much of my life my friends started to think that I did not have a real father at all. 80% of the people in my life barely know your name let alone what you look like.
I always hoped that you would wake up one day and realized how horrible you are for ditching your kids. The little piece of hope a carried in my inconsolable heart was quickly squashed when Facebook told me that you got engaged. I found out through Facebook! Do you know how horrible that was for me? I was surrounded by my teammates on an overnight trip when I, regrettably, saw the announcement on my feed. That day I had to explain to my teammates why I was morbidly crying in the bathroom.
With all this sorrow I have about you being absent in my life you continue to blame me for it. You say it is my fault that we don’t have a relationship. I should call you. I have a car thus I should drive to your house. Last time I checked you abandoned me so why should I, the victim, run to someone who never aspired to be a father? I hate how you invalidate my feelings.
Even though I don’t like what you did and how you disregarded your responsibilities, I still love you. I am still that little girl wishing for her father to take her on daddy-daughter dates.
Your impact, small or large, on my life hasn’t turn my whole world into darkness. While your negligence has caused me much pain, I turned out to be a resilient young woman who is benevolent, independent, strong, and unconfined. I am still working through the emotional impact of your absence but in time I will heal and learn to put the past behind.