on growing up without a father

These are my thoughts on growing up without a father. I've had bits and pieces of this written down for a while now. This kind of thing is different for any woman who has grown up without a dad, so I don't mean this to be a summation of everyone's feelings. Just mine. It's a bit lengthy, so I forgive you for not reading it all or any of it. But I appreciate it if you do.
He left when I was 7; it's been 17 years since he has been an active part of my life. The facts surrounding why my father left aren't that important; they're personal and hard to talk about, even after plenty of time in therapy. But it's suffice to say that one day, just a few months before my eighth birthday, my dad left. And he hasn't been back since.

Basically, I don't know what it's like to have a father. My mom tried her best to fill both roles for me, and for all I know, she did exactly that. She took me where I needed and wanted to go, got me what I needed for school and always made sure I practiced my violin enough and finished my homework. She was at parent-teacher conferences every year, and she knew my friends' parents. She encouraged me to do what I wanted and to do it well. But, on the other hand, maybe I missed out on a lot of great things that girls do with their dads. But I don't know what girls do with their dads.

Life wasn't normal, but at that point in my life, I couldn't understand what normal was supposed to be like, so I thought a lot of kids did the same thing I did. I did laundry and other housework to make things easier for my mom. I cooked my own food, I set up the coffee maker for my mom in the morning. When I got older and realized my life wasn't really "normal," it left me confused. But eventually I adjusted and grew to accept it.

But still. How would things have been different if he had stayed?

Maybe if I had a dad, I'd be better at sports. I'd be a faster runner. I'd be a scientist instead of a writer. I wouldn't have had so many issues, so much trouble making and keeping friends. I'd be something entirely different than who I am today. Or maybe I'd be exactly the same.

I don't think life has been lonely without my dad. It'd be easy to turn around and blame a lot of my problems on him. It would be easy to chalk up a lot of my pain and problems and general loneliness to the fact that he just wasn't there. But I don't think it's true. I may cling to people harder, for fear of them leaving me, because of his departure, but I don't think my problems are his fault. They are mine, and mine alone.

I get jealous of girls with dads. I get jealous of Craig's relationship with his dad. It makes me upset when Craig's dad treats me more like his daughter than my dad does. That he cares more than mine does. I get angry that this opportunity was ripped away from me and I didn't get a say in the matter. But I'm not entirely positive my life would have been better if my dad had been around. Or any dad, for that matter. Because as tough as it was growing up, and for as many nights I put myself to bed because my mom was working her night job to make enough money for us to survive, I turned out okay.

I think growing up this way has made me more independent. It has made me strong, and realistically, it's made me who I am today. So I guess I can't be angry that I grew up without a father. The life I have now is pretty great: I have an apartment, I have a job, I have people I love and who love me, and I have confidence in myself (most of the time).

So that's it. What it was like growing up without a dad. How it's shaped me as a person. I don't dwell on this fact. Most days I don't even think about it. But every once in a while, I'll get that pang. And I'll wonder. But it's important for me to remember that life is great, and it's great because of who I am.

if you want to talk about this more with me, feel free to email me anytime. really. i'd love to talk.

20 comments:

  1. Good stuff, Alex. In a way, I can relate. Although my dad has always been in my life, our relationship isn't ideal for a variety of reasons. And seeing friends who have that awesome relationship with their fathers has made me jealous so many more times than I can count, and it kinda stinks. But, oh well, it is what it is. Just wanted to throw it out there that I enjoyed reading this.

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  2. <3 you. You did such a good job writing this and you have such a positive outlook on it. And I agree, I think you turned out great :)

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  3. You are mahvelous! And also, very brave for writing all this down. Love you long time!

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  4. I appreciate your bravery for sharing this. I can kind of relate. Although I grew up with a dad, he wasn't always present in my life. I spent 95% of my time with my mom and didn't get a lot of bonding time with my dad because when he wasn't working he was sleeping or watching TV. When my parents divorced, I almost completely stopped talking to my dad. In a way, he felt absent from my life. We're working on our relationship now and things have vastly improved, but I understand what it's like to feel jealous of girls who have great father daughter bonds. But like you said, we are shaped by each and every experience in our lives and it makes us who we are in the end. Thanks for sharing this. :)

    Stephanie

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  5. Girl, you write about your heart in a way that is very refreshing. Sometime we should talk about this over a cup of coffee.

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  6. This was a beautiful post girl, I think sometimes it's so important to be real and talk about what's on our hearts and you've done such an eloquent and honest job...also just FYI, I had a dad and I'm still TERRIBLE at sports :)

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  7. So a lot I want to write isn't "comment box appropriate" so let's chat IRL about this soon.
    What I will post now:
    1) There are many choices you make that impact your life. Where/how/to who you're born, your gender/ethnicity/how you look aren't your choice but they are part of who you are. Your father taking off was't your choice- who your father "is" is part of what you are born into, so there isn't a "what if he were to stick around" that you could have ever known.
    2) A few of your comments seem to be about "would childhood have been 'normal' with a father in my home?" Even if your dad was around, I don't think your childhood would have been 'normal' or w/e.
    3) I picture a parallel universe where there's me (exactly me) and you (except with a father who sticks around) and I'm not sure how that version of you is different, but I wouldn't change anything about you (except that you don't come hang more!) so I have to say I like this universe and this "you" better.
    .
    .
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    If I write any more it will look like I'm hitting on you, so I'm out.
    -JP

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  8. This is so beautiful and brave of you to share.

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  9. Beautiful. Your strength and positivity never ceases to inspire me. Thank you for sharing love, that couldn't have been easy to do. And Jen is right, you should did turn out pretty dang ok :)

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  10. I love that you wrote this-- that you are sharing this part of your story with us. Because it is part of YOUR story, and you're right, it has shaped you who you are today. I'd say you are a stronger, braver person because of it.

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  11. so brave of you to hit publish on the post pretty girl. You are strong and amazing (and very funny) and i think that our circumstances form us into the people we are today..most people use them to better themselves, and some use them to become worse versions..but for you, my dead, it has made you amazing :)

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  12. You are brave, Alex. So brave to share this! And I'm thankful you did because it helps me get to know you that much more, and respect you that much more, and love you as a blogger (and someday real-life friend) that much more. You are a special kind of girl, and I whole-heartedly believe that you are who you are today because your Mom is an amazing woman and helped shape that heart of gold of yours :)

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  13. it takes a lot to open up like that. thank you for sharing. thank you for the deep post.
    sometimes the internet feels so big & vague. i wonder "who will read what i wrote?" but it's therapeutic to write & it's encouraging to hear from others. i enjoy perusing your blog and i thank you for your openness.
    i had a wonderful dad, but a good friend of mine, not so much. having a dad has shaped me as much as not having a caring dad shaped her as much as not having a dad and having a hard working mom shaped you.

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  14. Dani over at Story of Style told me of your involvement in book club and as I am moving back to Boston I had to check your blog out!

    I don't know you, but I am so happy you shared this! Writing and sharing via my blog has helped me beyond words (pun?) and the fact that you can express yourself in some sort of medium without judgement or worry, is such an incredible feeling.

    I got goosebumps reading this and there really are things that shape you in life. Keep writing, keep smiling and ultimately keep being you!

    xox Elizabeth

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  15. You turned way more than okay. I love that you shared your heart with us. I love your self-awareness and your acceptance of yourself and your journey. I am so touched by this whole post. Thank you for writing it.

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  16. Thanks for sharing! Your words were moving and mean more than you know...

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  17. Thanks for sharing. Very brave of you to do. Now I know that someone else has felt the same way I have. I grew up with out him and sometimes question the same things you do but life has been so much more generous in other ways to me, including my mom.
    Thanks again.
    * STYLE ID NET *
    * Filomenas Closet *

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  18. Alex, I'm late on reading this, but had to comment nonetheless. Like others have said, you have so much courage to post this. You turned AMAZING. I know I don't know you that well, but from what I do know, I don't think you could have turned out better!

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  19. You turned out better than okay- I think you're absolutely awesome. It's wonderful to get this insight into who you are. And for what it's worth, my dad did not pass on any athletic skills (or even interest) to me! :D

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  20. This is such a great post. It's great to see you being so honest and open. I think the "normal" life that us "twenty somethings" have grown up knowing is over. Everyone's situation growing up is so very different now days. I especially find your post interesting because I did grow up with a father but I rarely think of it that way. He worked a night job and was rarely around. He also worked an additional job that took up all of his free time. (Neither job was necessary either. He could have easily taken a day job and been around more.) My mother was both of my parents. She did everything for me. I completely understand your jealousy towards other people with amazing fathers. I have definitely felt that before... even with a father in my life. I feel like a lot of people have amazing father's that really shape and mold their lives. In the same sense, I think that due to the lack of a father figure people tend to have great qualities as well. We are fighters, strong, and know how to do many things other children may not know how to do because it was handed to them.

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Oh, herro there.

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