She went to enjoy a movie but walked away with a profound understand of what happens when fathers are absent.
Ant-Man was well acted and exceptionally produced. But this is not a movie review.
The plot and its rich character development included two absent father scenarios. The first surrounded the main character, Scott Lange, who was separated from his seven-year-old daughter, Cassie while he was incarcerated. The second and less obvious was between Dr. Pym and his daughter, Hope.
The two situations each represent realities of Fatherless Daughter-Absent Father scenarios. Let’s take a look.
Ant-Man, a Non-Residential Father due to his incarceration and difficulty transitioning back into society.
Scott was a dedicated father whose passion took a serious wrong turn landing him in prison for a non-violent crime without drugs or alcohol. After serving his sentence, he was released only to be enticed with a risky but promising criminal job. Scott declined emphatically, confident he would find legal employment.
Days later, Scott arrived unannounced at his daughter’s birthday party. Cassie was as thrilled to see her father as he was to see her. Her protective step-father believed that Scott was a bad influence on Cassie. The mother advised Scott he could see Cassie only if he would “get an apartment, get a job and pay child support.”
This is where Scott becomes disheartened, and I get frustrated for the real-life kids and their dads who experience this. If this situation resembles yours, consider the following:
- Check with a father’s advocacy organization in your state or your attorney and your divorce decree. If applicable, learn if the child’s father has visitation rights and if the mother can or cannot legally withhold visitation.
- If the father does not pose an obvious physical or psychological threat AND there is no legal reason the two should not visit, allow a responsible extended family member to host regular visits. That way, if the father can’t get an apartment right away, the stability of visitation will help keep him motivated while also reassuring the child that he cares.
- As an alternative, the step-father and mother can tell the father this: “Although you are making an effort to spend time with your child, you aren’t supposed to be here. Let’s meet at a public play area after the party. We will stay while you two visit.”
Like many ex-cons, Scott falsified job applications only to land a low-paying position and was fired after the background check. Recognizing that he was far from meeting the mother’s requirement for visitation, Scott acted in desperation; he agreed to do the criminal job.
Like many well-meaning fathers who are misguided ex-cons, my father included, Scott couldn’t seem to get on the right track, if not for the help of Hollywood, that is.
Enter Dr. Pym.
Dr. Pym, the residential, Absent Father due to depression and work obsession.
Dr. Pym is a semi-retired scientist who was the founder and CEO of a successful corporation. While in the prime of his research and development when his daughter was seven, his wife died. Dr. Pym discusses how and why in the movie, so no spoiler here!
We meet Hope as a young professional adult and can see that she is an emotionally cool perfectionist. We later learn that Dr. Pym became obsessed with his work after his wife died, consequently neglecting the young Hope in ways money cannot buy, even though she lived in the same house with him.
When a residential father is depressed, drunk, or so obsessed with his career that he is not able to be attentive to his daughter’s emotional needs, he is emotionally absent. In the real world, girls who are neglected by their fathers usually question their value and worthiness of love and attention. Many of these grow to be women who are typically externally motivated.
Scott’s daughter, Cassie, on the other hand, appears to be internally motivated even though Scott was not in residence. She knows her daddy loves her and will visit her when he is able. Girls like Cassie are more likely to grow up not developing Fatherless Daughter Syndrome.
Some young women of absent fathers compensate for the lack of attention by continually achieving more and higher goals to prove their worth to themselves and their fathers. Others are underachievers and, lacking self-confidence, they won’t do anything they cannot do well–a form of perfectionism. I recognize in myself a combination of these two, also not uncommon.
Some women stopped seeking their father’s love long ago and are emotionally distant. Others cling short-term to a man who has a similar experience, who seems to understand her. Watch for Hope doing exactly that.
Two important considerations for Absent, Residential Fathers in the real world:
- If, without depression and substance abuse a father is absent due to his intense career, confer with loved ones to see how the extended family or community can help the father spend quality time with the child and find a healthier work-life balance.
- If you are close to a situation where a residential father is absent due to his depression or substance abuse, for the sake of the child, intervene cautiously. Those situations must be handled with care and generally with professional assistance.
While the Ant-Man movie is fantastic, they engage us with realistic characters experiencing real-world problems. We don’t have the advantage of a superhero fix. Still, there are solutions.
I am interested in your circumstances related to Absent Fathers and Fatherless Daughters, your struggles and solutions. Join me to participate in my research in preparation for my book on the subject and our public Group Page on Facebook.
Photo: Flickr/ Harsh1.0