Sunday, 18 September 2016

Growing Up Without A 'Father Figure'

We all know that growing up isn't easy, and it certainly isn't a straight-forward road. So, just imagine that you also have to go through all of that without the person who helped to create you. The person who had longed for you to exist for 9 months. The person who should have held your hand through all of the tears, and tantrums. Your father.

This is a situation that hits home for me. I have had to adapt to life without a father for 9 years. He was in my life until I was 6 years old, and then he walked out on me. Just like that. I felt like I was being abandoned. I was frightened, I was confused, and I truly believed that I was now split in two. I couldn't understand why this was happening to me, and especially at such a young age. It made me constantly question what I had done wrong. Why did everyone else my age seem to have a dad? Why had mine left me? Was it because he no longer wanted me?

He missed all of my primary school achievements. He missed seeing me, standing up on the stage, performing in all of the festive plays. He missed seeing me receive medals, and certificates to commend my successes. He missed my first day at secondary school. He missed seeing how happy, and overwhelmed I was when I realised I was going to be writing for a magazine. He's missed seeing how happy I was with my first boyfriend. He's missed seeing all of my school reports that have had the rest of my family beaming with pride.

Now, of course all of that saddens me, and it does also make me feel incredibly angry, but on the other hand, I have in fact grown as a person, because this unfortunate situation. That may sound surprising to some of you, seeing as I've mentioned how broken I was at the time, but, believe me, it's possible to survive, and even succeed. Growing up without a father figure may feel like the end of the world, but there's so much more to life than dwelling over the past, time and time again.

Even though these circumstances have impacted me negatively in many more ways than I would have ever thought, it never got to the point where it felt like it was the end of the world. I'm lucky enough to have always had an incredibly supportive family. My mum, grandparents, sister, auntie, and uncle have always done whatever they can to support me, and make sure that I have the things that I need in order to have a happy, healthy life. Despite the fact I was 'missing out' on having a father figure, I didn't feel as bothered by it anymore, as time went on. I guess I just learnt to adapt to it, and almost accept it, in a funny sort of way. Not all relationships work out, and even when there are children involved, sometimes it's the best thing for everyone if they separate. I know deep down that even if my parents had stayed together throughout the years, it wouldn't have been a healthy, loving relationship, and that's not what I would have wanted at all. I'd rather have one parent than two who are constantly at war with each other.

Growing up without a dad hasn't been easy at the best of times. I have spent much of my life crying, wondering why in the world I wasn't enough for him to stay. I just couldn't wrap my head around the fact that he just completely cut all contact with me for 6 and a half years. Did he not care about the many things that he was missing out on? I was, and still am his only child, so I would have really appreciated it if he hadn't left such a huge gap between the time he last spoke to me, or saw me. During the time he was gone, so many things happened in my life - so many things that he was completely unaware of.
One major thing that sticks out in my head is my first day at secondary school. I was so incredibly nervous, and I felt totally unprepared, even though I had been thinking about it for weeks in advance. Luckily though, I had the rest of my family there for me. I don't know what I would have done if that wasn't the case. It's difficult to accept that he was okay with missing out on such a big day for me, but I suppose when my parents did split up, he didn't really think that far in advance, because it was literally years away at the time.

It has helped me to become a lot stronger. All of the things I have achieved in my life so far have been without the help of a dad. I have achieved so much more than most 15 year olds have, and to say that I'm this young, but already quite successful - well, (not to blow my own trumpet here), I do think that's pretty incredible. I'm having all of these crazy amazing opportunities, and I honestly couldn't be more grateful. I try to never take anything, or anyone I have for granted, because things could be so much worse than they are. They are going really well, in fact. Of course, I still have some quite major worries, and also some smaller ones, because I'm just a natural worrier, but it's nothing that I can't control. I know that I've gotten through so many tough times already, including this one, and so I know that I'm prepared to get through anything else that may come my way too.

The majority of this post so far has been quite doom, and gloom, so now I'm going to try, and lighten things up a little bit. You may be thinking that without the 'typical' home situation, I can't be happy, but you couldn't be further from the truth. Just because I don't live with a mum, and a dad, it doesn't mean I can't live normally like everyone else.
I think that as time has gone on, I've gradually trained my brain into thinking that I just have to adapt to this change, and get on with it as best as I can. There's nothing I can do to go back in time, and so I have to accept the situation that I'm faced with, and try to find the positive points within it, no matter how hard it may seem. The obvious is that I live with my mum, who would bend over backwards for me. She's always provided the essentials, and she even treats me with the things that I'd like (in moderation, of course). I have a roof over my head, and I live in a safe environment. There aren't as many arguments as there used to be with my mum, and my dad, so I don't have to go to bed in fear that I'll awake in the early hours to screaming, shouting, and violence. I have my own bedroom, where I can shut my door, and enter a whole other world, should I need the privacy. I have access to the internet, and I have access to technological devices, so I never have to worry about feeling frightened, or alone, because I know there's someone willing to listen right at the end of the phone. It's important to think of the positives, and think of the things that you have achieved without that person in your life. If you can succeed to such an extent without their presence, then you can carry on doing so. Maybe that's a sign that you're being off without them anyway?

I asked if you had any questions over on Twitter, and I got quite a good response, so I'm going to answer them now! Hopefully, you'll get a bit of a better insight then, rather than me just rambling on about nothing in particular.

What was it like to grow up without a father figure? - It was a challenge, I'm not going to lie. It takes quite a while to adapt, and get used to it, but then once you have accepted the fact that he's gone, and he isn't coming back, I think you begin to move on with your life, and your future, in a funny sort of way. It can be a difficult one to come to terms with, and it can really drag you down some days as well, but it makes you stronger as time goes on - trust me.

Do you ever have resentment towards him for it? - Oh yes, all of the time. I still don't understand how a father can walk out on their child, but that's just something that I probably never will understand, and that's okay. It's very unfair, and it's also very selfish, but everyone has their own reasons for dealing with situations. Walking out on my mum, and I was probably just his way of coping with his own personal issues, and I have to accept that. Of course, I still have resentment towards him for what he has done, because it's affected myself, and my life majorly, but there's no point dwelling on the past every single day for as long as I live. There's so much more to me, and my future than that.

Has it brought you closer to the rest of your family? - To an extent, I think it has. I've had to rely on them, whilst I've been growing up, as he hasn't been there, so my mum has had to take on the role of both a mum, and a dad, which can't have been easy in the slightest. I think I do value my family more because of the situation, but as I don't really remember my life with a dad, I think it's difficult to imagine how things would have turned out, had that have been the case. I only know life without a dad, to be honest, so I'm quite close with the family that I do have anyway. I think it's only natural.

Are there any assumptions people make about you? - Hmm, not that I can think of! Maybe people do just assume that I've got a father in my life, because it's still considered to be the 'norm' to a lot of people I know, but then again, maybe they just aren't as open-minded as they should/could be.

Do/did you ever feel like you missed out on anything? - All the time. Even if I don't speak about it, or I try to hide it, I know deep down that I do feel like I have missed out on quite a lot. I just wish I knew what it was like to have a dad. I feel like a dad should represent the gentleman that you would want to be your future boyfriend/husband. I find it difficult to get into relationships, because I don't know what I'm looking for, as I've never had a role model for that sort of thing. I wish I had a dad that I could talk to about all things boy related. If I was being bullied by boys, which does still happen on a much lower level, he would be able to help me sort it out. He would be able to protect me, and stick up for me. He would treat me how I deserve to be treated, and he would make sure I didn't settle for any less with the man I love, and choose to marry in the future. He would be able to give me away at my wedding, and watch me walk down the aisle. He would be the granddad to my children. He would refer to me as his little princess. And, most importantly, he would love me unconditionally. Those are all of the things that I, unfortunately, will never get to experience - and that absolutely breaks my heart.

Do you feel like it has affected what type of person you have become? - Absolutely, 100%. I would say that there's both negatives, and positives, but probably more so in a positive way, if I'm honest. I have become a lot less trusting, and a lot more stubborn, emotional, and sensitive, which isn't great. However, it's also made me much more kind-hearted, empathetic, emotionally strong, independent (in some ways), honest, and trust-worthy. So, a mixed bag really!

Do you feel as though you would have been better off if you did have a father figure? - Honestly, I don't think so anymore. If you would have asked me that a few months, or years ago, then I would have probably said yes, but now, I really don't think so at all. I have done incredibly well, and I'm not afraid to admit that. I am so proud of myself for staying strong, and being so mature, and accepting of the situation. Instead of getting angry, and lashing out over it, I've now channelled that negative energy into positive, so I can work on being successful, and doing the things that I love, and enjoy. I now only have room for supportive, kind-hearted people, and I have a lot more appreciation for those who have stuck by me. I would have probably been less sensitive, and temperamental, if I did have a father figure, and that would have been the ideal, but this is the way things have worked out, and that's okay.

Did you ever feel awkward/left out of some conversations because of it? - This has been the case quite a few times in the past when I was in primary school, but not so much anymore. I felt more left out than awkward, because it wasn't really anything I could relate to when everyone was talking about their parents as a couple, or their dad, as someone who was a permanent part of their life. My parents had only split up a few years ago back then, so it was still quite a sore wound for me, which probably made it even harder, looking back now. I guess it was awkward at times when they almost pretended that I didn't exist, because they were so wrapped up in their own seemingly perfect lives, but I tried not to take much notice, and they didn't go on about it constantly, so I could handle it.

Did you/do you get jealous when you see others with their fathers at, for example, father, and daughter dances? How do you handle that? - I used to get a lot more jealous than I do now, particularly when I was at primary school, or just beginning secondary school, because I was so young, and then starting a whole new school was such a big part of my life, where my mum, and my dad should have been there together, hence why I felt really jealous of those who did have both parents. As I've mentioned before, I think I've gotten a lot better over time, because I've learnt that quite a few people I know can relate to me, and that helps me to realise that I'm not alone with these thoughts, and feelings. I do still think about it whenever I see others with their fathers, but it's not so much jealous anymore - it's more like an 'I wish that was me, but it's not, and I'm okay with that' kind of thing. I handle it by acknowledging those feelings, and then trying to look past them, and appreciate the support system that I do have. You can't always have things the 'typically normal' way, and they can't always be 'perfect'. You have to just accept your situation, and then look past it, as otherwise you will constantly beat yourself up about it, and you will never lay those demons to rest.

Do you feel like it ever affected any relationships you had? - I would say it has quite dramatically. It's made me so much more conscious, and wary, and I feel like it's made me quite helpless when it comes to entering a new relationship, because I used to have no idea as to what I was looking for, and I didn't really know any of the warning signs either. I couldn't tell honesty from lying, I couldn't trust boys, and I couldn't be intimate with them (even hugs, or kisses!), or emotional when talking, because I'd never had that affection, or attention. As time has gone on, and I have experienced different things, I think I've been able to distinguish things for myself, and with the support of those around me, I'm now able to work it all out and understand what is right, and what is wrong.

Do you think anything would have turned out differently if your dad had been around? - I honestly don't think so. At the end of the day, my 'dad' is my 'dad'. He will always be who he is, and nothing anybody says, or does will be able to change that. I don't think that the circumstances could have been resolved in anyway, and I don't think I would have wanted them to either, because then I wouldn't be where I am now, and I believe that everything happens for a reason. Maybe I would have been more stable, and secure, and maybe there would have been less of a strain on the rest of my family. Maybe I would have been happier, and I would have had less problems. I can't think of all the 'maybe's' though. I have to deal with the facts, and the fact is I don't have a dad that is around all of the time, but that's okay.

Have you ever felt the urge to contact, or know more about him? - This has been the case quite a few times. I've tried to make an effort, and I've tried to make it work, but I feel like it's just not possible, and that's the way I want it to be. I'm happy without him, and as horrible as this may sound to some who don't understand the situation, I don't feel as though I need him in my life. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to find out more about him, and his background, but if we're being realistic, it just isn't the right thing to do at this moment in time.

Do you think by not having a father figure it's made you stronger as a person? - I definitely think that I have become much stronger since not having a father figure. If you can deal with, and learn to adapt to such a massive change like that at any age, but particularly when you're as young as 6 years old, then I think that's incredible. I'm not one to praise myself often, but I do think that I've coped really well, and it clearly just goes to show how strong I am, as otherwise I would have given up, and stopped trying to achieve anything, or make something of my life.

Does not having a father figure make you want any possible future kids of yours to have a father, or would it make you more inclined to agree that a child needs a male, and female parent rather than just 2 parents? - In my opinion, I think that every child deserves to be, and should be loved unconditionally. Ideally, I would want any possible future children of mine to have myself, and a father in their life, and I would do my very best to make it work out for them, so they are stable, and secure whilst growing up, but if that doesn't happen, then I won't act like it's the end of the world. It doesn't matter to me whether it's a same sex couple, who cares for, and loves a child, a heterosexual couple, just a man, or just a woman. If a same sex couple can love a child, and support it more than a troubled heterosexual couple can, then I 100% support that.  

All in all, I have learnt to come to terms with my situation as time has gone by. You don't have to have 2 parents, who are happily married to live a good life. You can still live an incredible, successful life, even if your upbringing isn't exactly the ideal scenario. I promise.

To all of those people, who have come in my life, and taught me a lesson or two, whilst also showing me love, kindness, and appreciation - thank you. Thank you so much. I am so happy with the people in my life right now, and I don't think I could really ask for much more. You are all wonderful, and I don't know where I would be if you hadn't entered my life when you did. You bring me endless amounts of happiness, and for that, I'm eternally grateful.

I really hope this post helped some of you. You don't need a king in order to be a princess.

Lots of love always,

Jade xo

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