Vinnie Wong grew up without a father, but it wasn’t util he became an adult himself that he realized the affect it had on his entire life.
As far as I can remember I never had a father, or a father figure in my life. I don’t have any brothers or sisters, was never even remotely close with any of the few uncles I had, or either of my grandfathers. I remember asking my mother, “Why do all the other kids in school have a dad and I don’t?” Kids were teasing me because I didn’t have a father, and I never understood why. All my mother said was, ”He cheated on me,” and that was all. She didn’t elaborate on how or why, and I never asked again. I must have been around 5 or 6 years old at the time. I don’t even have memories of them arguing or anything of that nature, so all of that happened in the first few years of my life. All I knew was that I would be on my mother’s “side” and that dad was a bad guy.
I’m thirty four years old now, and to this day I don’t know anything about my father. I know he has remarried and has a family, but that is the extent to what I know. I do know I wouldn’t want a father who didn’t ACTUALLY want to be there. That might have been worse. I honestly can’t say that I want to know more about him, and I certainly don’t want him in my life now, but I still wonder what exactly happened and why. I still wonder why I was basically abandoned by him.
I remember exactly one of the Christmas gifts he bought, one birthday gift, the one time he picked me up from school, the one time he brought me to a monster truck show, and then seeing him at my grandmother’s funeral when I was 14. That is basically the extent of the contact I had with my father. I specifically remember feeling awkward, anxious, insecure and unsafe during those times. All of those feelings and emotions would follow me through life specifically because I knew I couldn’t trust my own father. They would spill over into other aspects of my life, in the form of trust issues, and being anxious and self conscious at a very young age.
I wouldn’t want to change any of that though. I learned during those few interactions between us what NOT to do as a father. I know it has also made my mother a stronger woman, working full time and more to support the both of us, although her health isn’t the best. It also makes her twice as important to me.
It wasn’t the fact that he wasn’t there that hurt me, it was the fact that he abandoned me, in a harsh world, not caring about or teaching me how to be a man, affecting every aspect of my life in a negative way. I was just another unwanted child in this world. All that I have learned in regards to being a man has been from a very few people who I would consider as friends, one of my cousins—who was my best friend when I had no others—and the internet, reading about dysfunctional as well as cohesive, functioning families, trying to learn from the mistakes, the experiences, and of course, the strategies and successes of others.
Discovering and learning about the cohesive family structure was fascinating, yet heartbreaking at the same time. Not to say that there is a “perfect” family, but it hurt, learning about the positive experiences of others, while realizing what was missing and what I didn’t have in my life.
One day, not too long ago, scrolling on Facebook, I stumbled upon “The Good Men Project.” I was reading about “relationships” I believe it was another page which shared an article from the “Project” in regards to relationships, and I was reading, specifically because I didn’t have many experiences in that area as well. But that’s a whole other subject and article for another day. That article, (I don’t remember which one), because of the honesty and vivid expression of emotions, brought me to tears. At that point, I knew I had a lot more to learn, and I became a follower of the “Project.” I never would have thought I would learn and feel as much as I did in such seemingly short articles, but it hit me like a bag of bricks. That article compelled me to type this, to try to contribute back to the “Project,” to try to reach out to those who have experienced what I have experienced in their lives, to remind them that they aren’t alone.
To the men, boys, (and women), who are reading this, who have had similar experiences, I type this in the hopes of conveying to you all to not let your personal situation and circumstances in life define, determine, or dictate your self worth. Don’t let strangers determine your self worth. Don’t let any abusive people in your life dictate your self worth. Don’t let the mainstream media and the stereotypes common in society determine your self worth.
Because of the media and stereotypes, people think they should conform to fit in and if you don’t, there is something wrong with YOU. The difficult part is realizing and learning who you actually are, and letting your personality and skills shine through as your strengths, and not be defined by your weaknesses, through all the nonsense that is the consumer economy/”man box.” I always felt unwanted, worthless, useless, felt that there was something wrong with ME, always felt anxious, extremely self conscious, and felt that it was my fault. It has taken me a very long time to recognize what happened, and to be able to process how it actually made me feel, not just through my childhood, but now as an adult.
I’m obviously still learning about myself and about my experiences, processing the affects on me, and hopefully will till the day I die. I am still very much in the fight. I will certainly be affected by those experiences my entire life. The positive aspect of all of this is that it taught me to question EVERYTHING. In a way it’s a double edged sword, but I feel like I’m more informed and have more clarity in my own life and in the world we live in. I also feel that while my experiences make me weary about becoming a father someday, it can also make me a better father than I could ever imagine myself to be.
Photo: Tom Godber/Flickr