June 19th 2016
This morning I got up and did the same thing I do every Fathers Day, I went through my phone and sent texts to all of the great Fathers I know, although one number was missing from my list, Yours. I don't have it.
The whole run up to Fathers Day is always quite difficult for me, and in particular Father’s Day weekend. I see so much imagery of fatherhood and just can not relate to them. Because I, am your child. I don't know what you smell like, what your favourite meal is, I have no idea if you love a particular TV show or colour. I do know your name, your birthday and I know for sure that you have been tragically inconsistent as a father.
Around this time of year I am excluded from the festivities, i’m not buying a card, or making you a lovely lunch, I wont be spending a second with you. I will, however, take a moment to myself and wonder what it was that stopped you being there for me. What it was that caused you to keep away from a child who adored you, with all of your shortcomings, a child who couldn’t care less about how much money was in your pocket, a child who witnessed you many times being Father of the year to two little girls you didn’t make.
One of the most vivid memories I have, are that of me waiting by my bedroom window for you, for hours and hours, because you’d promised me you’d come. Every single time, I would believe you, even when those occasions reached into triple figures. I waited, and inevitably I would get that knock at my door, and Mum would tentatively say “Jem, I think it might be time to take your coat off” I never did. I’d eventually wake up in my coat, and get hit with the reminder that you didn’t come.
I’d probably see you 6 months later, if that. Brandishing a £20 note. I would jump into your arms, ignore the money and greet you like you were a superstar (no pun intended), completely wiping away and forgiving you for any tears i’d cried, school plays you missed, sports days where I sat out of father-daughter races, scraped knees and runny noses you were invisible for. I would talk a mile-a-minute, I had to get it all in. I’d tell you about my spelling tests, keeping my room tidy, how well I can ride a bike, I was desperately trying to convince you I was brilliant, I was trying to tell you you should love me. Before you’d leave, you’d tell me you were coming next Saturday, and next Saturday i’d find myself at the window again, refusing to take my coat off.
As the years went on, the attention seeking became more and more elaborate, it started with spelling tests and 100m sprints, GCSE results and look Daddy, I can sing! I’d then mention the karaoke machine you got me in interviews, I worked hard at becoming an international artist, selling millions and receiving awards. The ultimate in “Look at me Dad, Look what i can do!!”
It didn’t work.
Despite the years of inconsistency, in 2008, I still wanted you at my wedding, I got in contact, and asked you if you’d come. You said “Yes”, and I emotionally jumped into your arms, once again. I was so excited - that was me waiting at the window. I got my hair and make up done, I was ready, but you hadn’t arrived yet, “just a few more minutes, he said he was coming”. Then my Mum came in and told me I was almost an hour late, people were getting restless. Here she was, once again, ever-so-gently suggesting I take my coat off. This was the first time i’d agreed with her. And I did.
It’s been hard. Coming to terms with it all. But i have. It’s taken years, but I had to forgive you. Because i’m not willing to walk around with a Father shaped hole in my life, it’s too painful. I just don't have one, and that’s going to have to be ok. I will fill that hole with the love I am surrounded by, my self-esteem despite the foundation you laid, and my pride in my capability of living happily without you. I will also allow myself to shed a tear on Fathers Day for what i’ll never have from you.
That being said, My Mother did a great job attempting to fill your shoes, forget about the accolades you may read about in the papers, I also know how to build shelves, paint, mow my lawn, change a light bulb, fix a fuse, change the oil in my car, and the tyres should i have a blow out, she taught me to ride a bike, drive and above all, if worst comes to worst, that I can still be a great woman without the support and love of a man.
Everything I am, My Mum can take credit for…she’s been a fantastic Father to me.
To any father reading this. You matter. And you will always matter. Do not let anything get in the way of you being there for your child. Not irritation, not embarrassment, not hard work, not distance or time. You are so necessary. Take it from someone who feels it, every single day. I never wanted the £20 notes. I wanted the time. This is what i insist my daughter's father provides. Time. We ALL have that to give, and I promise you it will be the best thing you ever chose to spend.
To the mothers restricting fathers access to their children (which my mother did not) because of money or personal feelings, you are making a catastrophic mistake. You have to put aside your own personal feelings toward him for the sake of your child’s future. Sure, he may have been a terrible partner, but if he loves his child and you feel you’re punishing him by keeping him away…just know the person who’ll suffer most is your child.
To both of you, if you choose not to change now, your child will walk around and be brought to tears seeing other people buying fathers day cards, or well up at the sight of a man looking for christmas presents for his little princess. They’ll feel a tug when their friend mentions their Dad is coming to help them paint a room in their house or taking them to the airport. They will feel a twinge walking past the card shop on his birthday, thinking, I want to buy him a card, but i don't even know where to send it.
Having an inconsistent father does not get easier with time, these are not scars, this is not the type of damage that heals. It is an eternal open wound, and it takes years to develop the capacity to continue on despite feeling it's constant pain.
Now is a good time to change things, right now. You can do this, and your child needs this.
Believe me, one of the worst things a child has to do, is take their coat off after waiting too long for him to show up. It took me almost 28 years.
Happy Fathers Day x