Friday, June 19, 2015

Are You a Father?

If you're a man and have children, you're a father.

You help shape and influence how your children begin to view their world.

The role father's play are invaluable and can affect how we parent, see ourselves and navigate life. 

If we are born, we've all had a father. Everyone's Dad has meant something personal to them, good or bad.

Still many people are grieving the loss of what they had, thought they had or never had.

I wish I could say I'm proud of my father, but I can't. But I can be thankful for the role models provided for me. I can also choose to not let the hole in my dad's heart contaminate mine.

If you've read some of my other posts, you've gathered by now that my relationship with Dad wasn't so hot. While his temper was pretty hot, our relationship was pretty cold.

This post isn't about lecturing on parenthood or making someone feel guilty. I'm not in your shoes nor am I a guy.

But I had a father and what I am ... is ... his daughter.
When I was born, mom told me I was the apple of Dad's eye ...
but I never heard it from him.
Amazing how in the midst of our family storms, life went on...

Boyfriends, girlfriends, braces, prom, babysitting, ten speed bike. Listened to music such as the Doors, Lynyrd Skynyard, Simon & Garfunkel, Jim Croce, CCR, Grateful Dead, Carol King. Mom took my brother to Cub Scout father-and-son soap box derbies. Dad challenged me to eat raw clams on the half shell with hot sauce and by god, I determined to like them and did.

Living with Dad was like playing Russian roulette. I never knew what would make him pull the trigger or when his bullet would strike. Was he in a good mood? At least content? Or at least was he in a non-confrontational mood?

Did I fold the laundry wrong? Was it because I folded laundry? Did I let the door slam? Was I on the phone or on too long? Did I look at him wrong? Did I look at him at all? Was it because I watched television? Did I? Did I? Did I? Tip toeing daily around mind games exhausted me.

Somehow, through the insanity of my home life, I received the message that my life wasn’t so bad. It could’ve been worse. Well this is true, something can always be worse, but does that make it okay? If this wasn’t abuse, what was it?

Maybe it was another bad day for my father, for Mom, or for me. Maybe this is how families are. They made it clear they provided a roof over my head and put food on the table. That is, when the dinner table wasn’t being turned upside down.

Frankly, the dinners seemed to take more abuse than I did.

Sure, I was pushed, shoved, hit, dragged and thrown, but I mean, to put it in perspective; nothing broke ... on me that is. So I guess that wasn’t abuse. 

Name calling, verbal attacks, constant devaluing, well those weren’t physical, so suck it up cupcake.

The times me and my sister crouched in the bathroom with mom, while Dad smashed glass on the other side of the door was only a drill for finding shelter in the event a real hurricane tore through the house.

So what if my father didn’t hug me like his princess. He worked when he wasn’t laid-up from his disability, which wasn’t his fault.

The beating on my bare bottom with his hard calloused hand, belt or buckle, was his parental guidance.

I mean, had I ducked quicker the flying door and rocking chair wouldn’t have hit me. That was my problem, not his. Had I walked down the stairs faster, he wouldn’t have had to lunge up and grab my ankles to drag me down the rest of the stairs. It was my fault for disobeying.

Nobody told me I couldn’t have friends over all the time, but because my day to day seemed unpredictable, I rarely did.

Because Dad drank and gambled in the back room of his Sunday club while Mom taught Sunday school was no reason for me to be confused about who God is.

The cold penetrating icy stares were his bad day.

The physical and verbal attacks were his parental wisdom.

When he threw his family out of the house, I guess he needed space. After all, he was the head of the household, his prerogative. 

But ... because he's the only father I had, I wanted to feel his approval and love.
I wanted to be his little princess. A young adult in my 20s and a new strain of tension with Dad, I tried one last time to reach out before I moved to California.

Father's Day weekend 1986, I called Dad to remind him I was leaving. Reserved, but optimistic, I hoped the reality of this news would stir in Dad, 
a desire to see the apple of his eye.

With a steady, cold, unemotional tone, mixed with a hint of disdain, his final words to me were, “Have a nice life.” This was the last time he and I spoke.

I met my fiancĂ© in California, we married and two years later divorced.
Crushed, I was unsure what a nice life should look like.
1970s sister, dad, me
My broken father-daughter relationship skewed my self-image, confidence, relationships, jobs, marriage and view of God, (material for another blog post).

We can't help but be shaped by what came down the pike at us, good or bad, but we can help how we respond to the hand we were dealt. Change doesn't usually happen overnight but it can change when we're ready to try. 

With effort, I turn my soil now and again to plant fresh seeds so I don't get strangled by bitterroot.  

My husband, an asymptomatic alcoholic, and I, abused from an alcoholic father ... wait, like seriously, who planned this relationship? Oh yeah, God's design with a twist of humor ... anyway, we do make efforts to be positive. Although he's better at it then me :-)

We're not perfect and have off days, but try hard to find, as my husband would say,
"the chuckle factor in a situation".

A few years back in the woods of Maine we watched a couple of guys get out of the car with a six pack of beer. As they headed to the stream, a can fell. The other guy shouted, "Oh no, alcohol abuse, alcohol abuse!" We laughed hard. Found the chuckle factor.
L-sister  R-me

I never received my fathers’ love in a way that would make a little girl believe she was a princess, wanted, loved, pretty or approved by him.

What little girl should not want that from her daddy?
1970 Homemade Card
Dear Daddy
we very very much love you
that day we love you.
Love Tammy

However, Dad had a rough upbringing (disability and foster homes along with never knowing who his father was). But rather than conquer it he carried it into our family.

Unfortunately his prideful pain pushed us away 
rather than pull us close to love.

A Father's rejection can leave a huge hole 
in a person's heart ... 
and if left unchecked, 
the pain risks oozing it's infection from 
generation to generation...

Dare to be the Dad determined to 
show his family love and 
Dare to believe that your fatherhood is important to those around you!

None of us are perfect. We all try and fail and try again and make mistakes, but 
by God's grace and new mercies every morning, we have another shot at it and
we do have victories!  Pause, look up and fight for your hope in your tomorrow.

~ whether you are the dad, step-dad, foster-dad, play the role of dad ~

If you have children, let them know you love them.
If you've made a mistake, tell them you are sorry.
Pride puts up walls.
Honesty breaks them down and sheds light.
Expectation and lack of forgiveness kills everything.

If you have a daughter, don't complicate it, 
just let her know she matters and consider telling her why.
1970 Card - Inside
For Daddy,
I love you very much.
Thank you for all you do for me.
Love Tammy
1970 Homemade Card - Cover
Dear Father's Day?

 During the peak of our family decline, my teenage years, divine interception placed key father figure's
in my life who loved me like their own. 

I didn't know at that time the value of those men. 
Only when I look back do I realize their 
everyday lives interrupted what could have 
led me astray. 

Never underestimate the worth of your fatherhood and the positive seeds you can plant in a child's life.


Tiffany Blackwell said...

I love your transparency in this post. Thank you for sharing your heart. I also have a complicated past with my father do I can relate here. Father's don't know the power they hold for their families whether it's used for good or bad.
:) Tiffany Blackwell

Tammy Sue Willey said...

Tiffany, thank you for sharing your struggle. It does become a balancing act between loving unconditionally and forgiving and still finding healthy boundaries.

CT single mom said...

Thank you for writing out your story. The future can bring positive change. I've seen it in my own son. I lived through h*ll without the bruises growing up and swore I'd never let a child of mine grow up without the security of unconditional love. Unfortunately my 'Prince' became controlling and verbally/emotionally abusive once our son came along. Recognizing the direction the 'family unit' was going, I did leave with our 4 year old son. Long story short. I raised him on my own giving him unconditional love. Guidance through example, honesty, compassion, joy of giving, and love of everyone. I couldn't give him the father he deserved but did find men he could respect and learn from and asked them to counsel him as appropriate. I'm looking forward to the day when my now adult son becomes a loving, responsible, husband and father. I'm very proud of the man he's become. He does know and love his own 'father' but understands not all males are good fathers and you can still love them but not necessarily like them or respect them AS a father. Fatherhood needs to be earned and something a man should be proud to serve and set an example by.

Tammy Sue Willey said...

Dear CT mom,
My heart breaks for what you went through but now rejoices for what you've come through. It took strength to be determined to "break a pattern" and courage to do "it". God love you. I imagine it has not been easy but it sounds like your efforts showed your son a healthy view of men. Coming to a place of loving forgiveness (as it sounds like your son has) does not mean we give license to how we were wronged. But taking the high road offers grace and compassion. Now there is room for your son and his dad to continue healing. And with that there is victory because you didn't drink the bitter poison. Thank YOU for sharing your heart and story.