Letting Go

Every little girl’s dream while growing up is to be Daddy’s Little Girl.  We strive to be the apple of our daddy’s eye.  We idealize them and are completely unaware of any of their faults.  In fact, a lot of us, as little girls, even somewhat blamed our mothers whenever our parents would get into arguments.  Our dads could do very little wrong.

Personally, my dad was quiet and reserved.  He rarely spoke, and I never really heard him yell.  My mom wore the pants in our house, without a doubt.  I always thought he was a gentle spirit, and I knew I wanted to marry a man just like him someday.  A lot of little girls end up looking for men who remind them, perhaps even unknowingly, of their daddies.  And in this case, that wasn’t a bad thing. 

Sure enough, I did grow up a daddy’s girl.  I remember many times throughout my childhood, even into my teens, when he and I would stay up long after my mom and sister went to bed and would watch the NBA Finals, a football game, or even all seven long games of one World Series or another.

Things in my relationship with my dad were great, in my jaded world at least, up until I made a poor decision to date the future father of my children.  The bottom line is that my dad hated him.  For good reason or not, my 16-year-old inner know-it-all was determined to prove my dad wrong.  He said there was no way in heck that I was allowed to go out with this guy.  What did that mean to me?  That there was no way in heck that I wasn’t going to go out with this guy.  As you can imagine, my relationship with my dad quickly spiraled downhill at that point.  I was on a mission from that point forward to spite him because he didn’t trust me.  Because he wouldn’t let me make my own decisions and mistakes.  Because he wouldn’t even listen to my side of things, and he was set in his thoughts that I would fail. Oh… and because I was 16, and did I mention I knew everything?

Anyway, my relationship with my dad struggled over the next couple years as I worked my way through high school.  I did my best to stay his little girl, however, by making the honor roll every semester, getting accepted into a good college, and graduating in the top seven percent of my class.  He had to be proud of me, right?

Of course.  That is, until he found out I was pregnant.  That’s right.  I found out I was pregnant only a few weeks after graduating.  Sure, I was still on track for college and my future plans, but the bottom line is that I was pregnant by the guy my father couldn’t stand and forbid me from seeing.  To make a long story short, I moved out of my parents’ house and in with future sperm donor the day after graduation.  I started college, had my baby, and we ended up getting married.  As you can imagine, my dad did not see me that day.  Or for many, many days after, I might add.  My mom and sister would drive all the way to Charleston every weekend to see the baby and me.  Every once in a while, I would go there, and those are the only times my dad had even seen his first grandson and oldest daughter. 

As you all already know, my husband ended up being a monster.  Every time I would hear someone say that a lot of women end up marrying men like their dads, I would laugh.  Not me, I would say.  My dad didn’t drink or scream or abuse my mom.  My husband did drink and scream and abuse me.  The studies were wrong this time.  I ended up with a husband far from a man like my dad.

Or so I thought until recently, as my kids have gotten older. 

They don’t see their dad anymore really.  Generally, over the last couple years, he would see them for a week around Christmas and maybe for a few days over Spring Break.  This past year, though, he didn’t see them for either of those.  If I recall correctly, he saw his kids for maybe four days total all year.  Four.  Out of 365.

When that fact first dawned on me, it made me a little uncomfortable.  At first, I thought the uneasiness came from the fact that my kids don’t have a relationship with their dad.  But really, when I thought about it, that was actually a good thing.  So why the depressing feeling that came with it?  Suddenly, it dawned on me.

He was like my dad.  He had little desire to see his kids, and unless someone else did all the legwork to make a visit happen, he could go a very long time with no contact with his children.  That was my dad, too.  He had more important things to do than to see his oldest daughter and had excuse after excuse as to why visits had been so few and far between.

I recall a woman my dad had dated for a few years after he and my mom divorced (which was shortly after I left for college).  She would often “nag” him into meeting the kids and me for dinner or in coming to visit us.  Sure, she had her share of issues, but my sister and I always agreed that she was great at keeping him connected with his daughters.  They eventually broke up, and now that push to see the “apple of his eye” is gone, too, I guess.  Other than seeing him at my sister’s wedding a year ago and her housewarming party four months ago, I haven’t seen my dad in years.  Nope – not even for Christmas.  I can’t recall a time he’s ever seen his grandsons (even the one who’s named after him) play a sport, even though they excel at several.   

Sure, he tells me that I’m welcome at his house anytime, that we can come for dinner whenever we want, but that’s the extent of the warm and welcome attempts at spending time with his little girl.  Don’t get me wrong – I do get a text on Christmas and my birthday (if my mom reminds him), and in some ways, that’s more than my kids get from their dad, so I guess I should be a little thankful, at least. 

No, I don’t want him to beg to spend time with his daughter and her family, but a little indication of forgiveness would be nice.  Yes, I was wrong when I was a teenager, and yes, he was right in that my first husband was a jackass.  I may have even been wrong to have kids and get married so young.  But the fact remains that I am a well-educated, college graduate with two beautiful and intelligent young men, a loving husband, two stepchildren, and a job that I love.  I made a ton of mistakes growing up, but I’ve turned out pretty damn well.  It is, after all, those mistakes from which we learn, right?

I’ve been praying that my owns kids will eventually learn to let go of their unrealistic and idealistic hopes for a future with their father, when after all this time, I finally see that I should have been letting go of the same myself.  Maybe this memory I’ve been holding onto from childhood was nothing more than my wishful thinking all along. 

My dream of being Daddy’s Little Girl is over. 

21 responses to “Letting Go

  • ardenrr

    😦 You’re MY little girl. I love you Alicia. I never asked about your Dad but he did cross my mind a time or two since I knew how close you are to your Mom and sister. I’m sorry you had to go through that. I love you!

  • donofalltrades

    I never really understood how family can be so cold to family, but my kids are young still, so it’s easy for me to say. He may just be a stubborn man, and at this point, he may feel as though he can’t change his mind for whatever reason. Have you ever talked to him about it or sent him a nice handwritten letter sort of throwing it all out there? You could probably be his little girl again. I’m sure he longs for that relationship from time to time. That’s the dad in me talking.

    • aliciabenton

      It’s weird because he’s not mean or anything, but he’s just so laid back that it’s almost like he has no desire whatsoever to work at fixing a relationship. He’s also very quiet, so I imagine he may not be very good at expressing himself or his feelings. I don’t know. But I’m 32, and I’m tired of trying to hang on to something that doesn’t exist anymore and, quite frankly, maybe never did. Maybe I’ll try the letter thing someday.

      Thank you for your encouragement!

  • vickidean123

    Wow! Heartbreaking. You know how they say that you have a twin somewhere in the world that is experiencing your exact same experiences? Well, that is me. It’s actually crazy how similar our experiences are. I’m so happy that you have found love and your children are so lucky to have you. I really enjoyed reading this post.

    • aliciabenton

      You just gave me goosebumps! It’s hard to imagine not being all alone in these experiences. It’s like we’re virtual soulmates!

      Thank you for your kind, thoughtful words – I’m so grateful. 🙂

  • Dadicus Grinch

    Your writing voice gets stronger with every post. Honest, open, and dead on. I come from a fractured family, and I must say that the families we are raising now will be different. We will not allow these relationship to crumble. As you let go of the past with one hand, hold tight to the future of the family you are so lovingly building today.

    I am working on a post about family estrangements–your words really resonated with me. Part of the reason I am even blogging is because I’m trying so damn hard to let go.

    Thanks, Alicia.

  • icescreammama

    ohh i’m sorry. i completely understand losing the childhood idolization of their father. it’s heart breaking to let go of the person you thought he was – or at least it was for me. so disappointing. thankfully you have a strong family besides him.

  • The Cutter

    Ill try to remember this when my daughter inevitably brings home a guy who I can’t stand

  • Cowboys and Crossbones

    Sorry to hear about your situation, Girl. I agree with DOAT though – send him a letter sometime. That way if you look back on life, this wouldn’t be a regret that could surface…just a comment from the outside looking in!

  • mollytopia

    Wow – that was quite a revelation you ended up with there lady. A very astute one. We all make mistakes, but man have you recovered nicely from them. You’re awesome Alicia.

  • Daile

    I don’t have a perfect relationship with my Dad either – after my Mum died he said to us (his 5 kids) “I didn’t want this.” We have had our moments but ultimately we have kept in contact and have a reasonable relationship. It’s really sad to hear about your relationship with your Dad especially for your kids too.

  • draliman

    It must be tough when the relationship with family members breaks down. Maybe you can make the first move and take him up on his open offer of popping round?

  • Nadia

    I’m sad to hear about your relationship with your dad. For years, I’ve felt the same about mine with my mom – if I didn’t pick up the phone or visited, I would not see her at all. Things are better between us now, but I know how your situation can hurt.

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