Being a dad is super important. I will never know what it is like to be a dad but I know what my dad taught me from being my dad. With that there comes highs and lows. This is going to be a long and detailed post. Detailing childhood to now, and the significance of having a father figure in my life.
I love my dad, so much. I respect him a lot too. But it wasn’t always like this.
When I was a baby/toddler, I know my dad always loved playing with me and this is evidenced by photos and videos. Life was good. There was only my younger sister and I at the time. But things changed as I got a bit older.
When I was about 8-13, I yearned for my dad to play with me. But, he was always “too tired from work”. (Remember, this is over a decade ago now). I resented him for this, so much. How could you be too tired to play with your own kid? But fair enough. I didn’t stop persisting until I was in my early teens. Where I just gave up. It had gotten to this point because I remember it still broke my heart when I thought back to the times where I had set up a game as he said he would play, and I sat there, all full of hope, like, “dad, it’s ready”. Just to be met with the, “I’m really sorry but I’m tired”. Yet, he’d sit there and watch tv. The resentment grew strong and I tried to stop caring about him so that I didn’t have to be hurt by these little things. I speak of this specific moment because I didn’t even realise I held onto this grudge unconsciously until a year ago. I don’t know how it began. But all I recall is that I was talking to him, most of my family were there and then it happened. The rage, anger and resentment boiled up into me. I think I had seen it happening to my younger brothers and I thought to myself, enough is enough, this pain is still here, I don’t want them to have it too. With tears rolling down my face, because I love my dad dearly and I know life wasn’t easy for us growing up, I said it all.
“I tried to play with you so many times when I was a kid, each and every time, you were too tired for me. But still, I tried! I even set a game up because YOU told me you would come, you didn’t and you said to me again, that you were too tired from work. How could YOU?! How could you tell a child that you will play with them while knowing you had no intention to! How could you be so cruel.” That was the jist of it.
I didn’t know until later, because my dad is pretty good at holding his feelings together and keeping them to himself, but, I made my dad cry that day. I’m not exactly proud of it, nor did I get what I wanted from it (an apology). But god did it feel so liberating to get out there. I think he felt guilty, which I can infer means he did feel bad and if he could go back, I think he would’ve changed his behaviour. At least, this is what I will tell myself.
It’s interesting how I didn’t even think about this and it all just came out in one go. I think for me, this highlighted how I wish my dad was more present for me when I was in those developing stages of my life. I needed my dad. Even if it was just to play a dumb board game with.
Dads, if you’re reading this, take note. Your children will remember or at least, subconsciously so. Research is still fairly limited regarding the roles of fathers in childhood development, but i’m attaching a PDF which demonstrates some important aspects for those who are interested: https://www.eani.org.uk/sites/default/files/2018-11/The%20Impact%20of%20Fathers%20on%20Child%20Mental%20Health.pdf
When I really started to think about the role of my dad about a year ago. I was stuck between a question. What is worse, growing up with a dad who is physically present but always absent? Or, growing up with a dad who is not physically present?
I never really made my mind up. I just know that the former hurt immensely during those developmental years. It’s still so important to me now that I’m feeling the urge to write about this.
Anyway, all of this was repressed till last year. But, when I was 17, I felt like my dad really stepped up. Around this time, tough decisions were being made: to go to university or not (I wasn’t for it), to study finance? What jobs could I get? Apprenticeships? All that jazz! He took me to ALL the universities I wanted to see and we shared the train ride together, even though he did fall asleep, this was priceless time for me. He showed me how to use the buses in London. Super useful! And I still remember that so clearly!
Ever since then, our relationship had gotten stronger. He showed more of an interest, even though I still had to initiate the conversation, he responded. He was present. This was more than I ever wanted.
Bringing it back to the now. My dad is a hard working man. He hasn’t always been lucky with jobs, but he’s good at what he does! He’s getting old now and I think that’s why I felt the need to write this tonight. I want to remember everything: who my dad was. Our relationship is great! Sometimes he calls me when I’m at uni and its the best thing ever because it’s a rarity. I’d like to think he’s proud of me. He does say I’m his child and that’s why i am the way I am. I think that’s true. I am his girl, always and forever.
To all the dads reading this, your child will remember the little things. I certainly remember them more over what he bought me or where he took me (or didn’t). Spend time with your children. They only have a childhood once, and it’s so important you’re there for them, even if it is to play a stupid board game. You’re no less than a mother. Your children need you just as much.
To my dad, this was so hard to write but don’t feel targeted, this is growth and also, it’s important to talk about. But, I can honestly say, you’re amazing. You’re a man of few words but I guess that makes it even more special to share the bond with you that I do. I love you.