When I was a little girl, everything seemed like it was the way it was supposed to be. My surroundings seemed light-hearted and curiosity bloomed from inside me. I never really noticed my family breaking apart or how what we were experiencing was not like what most families experience. This is what it means to have people that care for you. You never really see the bad when they are working so hard for you to only have the good.
Growing up, I never saw both my Mom and my biological Dad together. I would have technically seen it at some point but I was only a one-year-old when they split and began relationships and marriages with other people. For some, this doesn’t really mean anything however, over the years there were many times in my life that I would question what it was like to be in a family separate from divorce. I wondered what it felt like to not have to worry about going to the other parent’s house and only to see them every other weekend.
Out of my earliest memories, I remember the fighting. Snapshots flash through my mind from time to time. Vivid imagery of different instances where my child mind didn’t know how to act. My mom coming to my Dads house to pick my sister and I up. The screaming matches through the front door. Missed phone calls. Visitations canceled. Apology after apology. The way my Dad looked at me like I was choosing sides and would say “You know I love you, right?”.
I resent it sometimes. I resent that when I think of my Father, the one who was supposed to be my biggest supporter and strongest shoulder to lean on, I do not see what other people do. I do not see what other people see in their own fathers who took them to Daddy-Daughter dances and taught them how to play the family sport. I do not see someone who would protect me in any instance, or teach me how to change a flat tire on my car. I do not see any of these things but more than anything, I wish I did.
When I was eight years old, it was my Dads weekend for visitation and my sister Karli, who was thirteen at the time, and I arrived just how we did any other weekend we were supposed to stay over. My sister was already moody at this stage and complained about going to my Dads house pretty often, but I felt like something was off upon the arrival. She was really upset. I didn’t understand what was going on, but suddenly my weekend went from normal and relaxed, to my sister and Dad blowing up at each other. I was in my bedroom and raised voices and crying trickled through the wall. Being so young, I thought her anger didn’t have a reason outside of her adolescence but it turns out she was the first one to figure out that she too, was sick of having a father that didn’t act like a father.
Karli called my mom to pick her up to go home that night and from that point on, she never joined me again for our scheduled weekend visitations. I used to feel sad that I had to go over to my Dad’s without my big sister but now that I am an adult, I can completely see why she stopped going. That memory has become a turning point in my life over the years because that’s the first instance that I realized that everything was not normal within my family. Though I had no idea, this was the first example I had of what it is like for someone to stand up for themselves. This was, in her case, getting out of a situation involving someone undeserving of her time.
It was after this night that I can remember all of the tears and the hurt. My Dad shut Karli out like she didn’t exist and tried to hang on to what he had left of me. But in the back of my mind, this made me cautious. I saw things in him that would only hurt and disappoint me so I stepped back a little further, not completely ready to leave the way Karli did. Over the years I began to notice how more visits were cancelled or how he would never show up to any of my sports events or dance performances despite the fact that he never missed any one of my brother’s games. I saw a man that would never be able to own up to his mistakes or
Fast forward to college years, and he was still affecting me. At the end of my Freshman year, my Dad told Karli and I that him and his wife, my step-mom, were planning on having a celebration to renew their wedding vows. After all of the neglect and the dismissive behavior there was not one second that I wanted to be a part of that. I didn’t care. Karli and I spent weeks debating on whether this was something we felt we needed to go to and ended up making ourselves extremely anxious over it. Neither of us knew any of the family going to this event. It was frustrating to picture everyone together, pretending as if we were a big happy family. The truth is, they were all ghosts in my mind.
My mom decided to plan a weekend trip the same weekend as the wedding so that Karli and I could go out of town and have a legitimate reason to not go, which we were thankful for. When we told our Dad, that was the end. He texted us both how disappointed he was in us for not going. This sparked fury with inside me. How dare he be disappointed in us. He didn’t know what disappointment felt like compared to what we had experienced. All ties were severed at this point and I have yet to hear from him since.
My Dad is a major part of my life and why it has gone the way it did. There is so much more to the story; a never-ending slew of memories that I can recall instantly. But if it weren’t for my Dad, I might have never looked at my life the way I do now. As much as it hurts not having the relationship with my biological Dad that I grew up wishing for, I cannot pretend like I am unlucky. Not long after the divorce, my Mom remarried. A man, my step-dad, who was worthy of having children. At the time, my sister was old enough to question this new marriage and work her way into the “You’re not my real Dad” stage. But for me, he is all I know. And I’m thankful for that. Not everyone gets a second chance at having a parent but I did. And he has loved me unconditionally and never once acted as if I was anything other than his daughter. Though he has changed me forever, I will never be able to give enough credit to the person who truly shaped me into the woman I have become today. My Mother.
A natural part of childhood is not noticing all of the things parents do for us. I spent so much time wishing for my Dad to act like a real parent that I didn’t understand how much my Mom was doing right away. I have always had an empty spot inside of me from all of the wishing and hoping but she filled most of the void. Through all of the tears and pain, she was there. A number one supporter to both my sister and I. The reason I have been able to carry on and the one person I can trust is genuinely looking out for my best interest. My mom’s education never went past high school. We never had a ton of money either. But for most of my life, I never saw this and I never once, at any point, thought that I wasn’t capable of doing whatever I want with my life. I have always been ambitious, setting new goals and creating new hobbies. But I never would have been this way and I never would have believed in myself if it weren’t for my Mom.
I have experienced both the good and the bad sides of parenthood. I have had a side of the family that I couldn’t live without and I have had another side of the family that I do not even know. Though there is so much bad through it all, I am unbelievably lucky to have had the good. The older I get, the more I discover about myself, but today I know that I am strong, intelligent, hard-working and that I am capable. I am shaped by the hurt; the sadness; the anger. But I am also shaped by the love, support and the generosity. I am shaped by my family. And I would not change a thing.