Sometimes we can find gratitude in a tough situation.
My father is a hermit, an introvert, a loner. He’s a stubborn, crabby, and cynical old man. Growing up, he was as involved as he could be in my life and my sister’s. He worked hard and long, always bringing home his tension and stress. He was stern with us and things had to be done his way. But he was our daddy and we loved him.
My parents were divorced when I was 15 and I stayed with my mom. My older sister moved out on her own, and my dad followed his dream of living by the beach. As a teenager, my dad’s beach house was ,of course, the coolest thing ever and I spent significant time there.
When I started college and full time jobs, I didn’t see my dad as much. But, we still had long phone conversations or e-mail correspondence. Throughout the years, he started to simply not call or write back unless I incessantly kept trying to contact him.
My dad became increasingly cold, aloof, and hard to reach as the years went on. At this moment, I know that if I truly needed something urgently to survive, he would be there for me. However, our ‘relationship’ is weak and thin, with no substance or emotion. After desperately grasping at the hope of a normal father/daughter relationship with no luck, I’ve finally given up. He doesn’t know me anymore and I don’t know him. That’s the way he wants it, so I have to give in.
His distance and refusal to be involved in my life has killed any emotional ties we have to one another. I love my father and having such a strained relationship hurts. But, I’ve learned a lot from this pain and the situation we’re in. Here are the three most important things this distance from my father has taught me.
I will be the only one to determine my self-worth.
When your own father tries to dodge your calls and ignore your emails, it can give you a deep feeling of rejection. When I think about the relationship I have with my dad, I sometimes feel self-conscious about where I’m going in life. Is he disappointed in my career choice? Is he mad that my life didn’t go as he had planned?
Maybe he is, maybe he isn’t. But I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter. The problem with our relationship obviously lies with him and his insecurities. I’m happy with my life; I know I’m a good person, and I know I’m on a career path to self satisfaction. My own speculation of my father’s disappointment will not determine my self-worth. And for that matter, no one’s opinion of my life and my choices will determine my own self-worth or re-direct me from the path I’m on.
I will always make my children feel important.
I’m not a mother yet, but I can already tell you that if I have children, I will never become distant from them, no matter what. I never want my children to experience the hurt, deep scarring, and insecurities that come when a parent deliberately creates distance from their child.
The feeling of self-unimportance is overwhelming and I know it’s affected me in everyday choices and social activities, even if I can’t directly connect those dots. I want my children to be confident, self-assured, and fearless about their ambitions. I feel firsthand how distance from a parent can make you feel insignificant. I’m learning how crucial it is to always strive to make my future children know they are the most important things in my life, at all times.
I will never beg for love or acknowledgement.
It took many ignored voicemails and disregarded emails from me to my father to finally accept that he no longer wants to be in my life. Every time I reached out without a response, it felt like internal torture and misery. I was putting myself through unnecessary pain. I was trying to force something that just wasn’t there, and mostly for my own benefit. I wanted to feel loved, acknowledged, and accepted by my father so desperately. I was convinced that his love and acknowledgement were the only things that would give me confidence in my life and myself.
I finally understand that an email response from my father isn’t his love and acknowledgement anyway. It’s simply a hassle, a chore, a task that he completes every once in a while — probably so he himself doesn’t feel like a bad person. I don’t need to beg or obsess about my father’s acknowledgement because it doesn’t define me and I don’t need it to carry on with my life. I’ve learned that I love myself enough that I never have to beg for someone’s love or acknowledgement, especially my own father.
The increasing disconnect that I feel with my father is a hole in my soul that I’ll probably never get back. It affects me, it hurts me deeply, and it rocks my self-confidence. But I’ve learned about my insecurities and how strong I can really be, even when I feel defeated.
I am now more self-reliant, courageous, and more confident. I’ve also made a promise to my future children to always focus on making them feel like they are the center of my world and that will never change. My distant relationship with my father is one of the many experiences that have made me who I am. And for that, I have no choice but to be grateful.
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