Personal Statement: An Open Letter to my Absent Father

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Illustration by Katie Spak

 

Tuesday, January 31, 2017 - 8:53pm

How did you do it?

Maybe how isn't the right question. The logistics of “how” began when mom filed the paperwork and you moved out. You belabored the legal process with unlawful tactics in the courtroom, certainly not on behalf of me and my brother. The asinine time span — nearly nine years — was of your choosing. Were you aware the average time to complete a divorce is about 11 months? You were disrespectful, malicious, accusatory and immature. You neglected us, you lied to us, you forced me and Jonathon into situations that were unnecessary and painful. Throughout the divorce process, you did not once ask for parenting time. Mom took over the job you so quickly disregarded.

Years later, we received notice that you were requesting parenting time. I was 13, and Jonathon was 17. I didn’t want “parenting time” with you after the divorce — I didn’t want to “strengthen” a toxic relationship.

The phrase “parenting time” always bewildered me. Shouldn’t the right to see your children on a more frequent basis be granted to actual parents? It boggles my mind that, every day in the United States, parenting time is granted to parents who have previously overlooked and recklessly weaseled out of their responsibilities.

Parenthood is exemplified by the outstanding effort Mom put forth — and continues to do so today, mind you, despite my legal adulthood. In times of hardship, sickness and the ever-returning vengeance of the malignant biological father of her children, she’s there. Creating and bringing a child into the world, although something I have yet to experience, is something that requires great responsibility, initiative and strength. You may have kids, but this does not make you a parent. It is up to the parents of a child to raise, foster, encourage and provide the necessary resources within their means to maintain the quality of life for that child. Parenthood requires effort, selflessness, acceptance, nurturing, spontaneity, flexibility and reassurance. Parenthood is about instilling in a child a sense of confidence, safety and belonging. And if the parent does not encourage these things, how can the child trust that the rest of the world will?

Mom let you see us frequently on the weekends, and encouraged me and Jonathon to “have a relationship with our father.” Every holiday, she helped us arrange time for you to see us, taking you into her home to foster a relationship with her children, who — at the start of the divorce — were just 6 and 10. Every chance she had, she tried to encourage us — the children she unexpectedly had to raise on her own — to see our father — the man who disregarded her and his responsibilities.

The facts of our case I understand. But, considering the standing of our relationship, what I possibly might never understand is: How did you do it?

I don’t understand how you left your wife to take care of your two young children on her own with little, if any, support. Or how you abandoned your home, your responsibilities and forced adversity into our lives. Only after seven years of having to avoid Father’s Day for fear of crying in front of the other kids cutting out paper ties for their own dads did you decide to emerge from an abyss of neglectful and emotionally abusive parenting. Only after the “daddy-daughter” dances ended did you decide to resurface as an illusory parent, artificially ready to take on the role as Dad. Only after you gave Mom no other choice but to take on the role as not one parent, but two, did you finally decide it was time to materialize from the proverbial woodwork and demonstrate that you “cared.” It seemed as though you intentionally subjected me and Jonathon to these moments of neglect, just so you could make your debut as “Dad” — and even then, only at times that were convenient to you. How did you do it?

“I want to spend time with you,” you told me time and time again when I asked why, seven years after the papers were filed, you decided to re-enter our lives. I found it both painfully comical and hard to believe, considering you expressed no interest in spending time with me between ages 6 and 13.

There is a stigma attached to girls who grow up without a father. People view children who are products of divorce as less successful, less mentally secure and less likely to enter into healthy relationships. Fortunately, Mom was able to ensure Jonathon and I would not be a product of these stigmas. I can’t imagine what would have happened if she decided to make the same decisions you had and refused to acknowledge the responsibility that she willingly took on. I can’t imagine if both of my parents neglected their jobs for no reason other than an inability to recognize the necessity of selflessness. Other children who have experienced divorce might not be lucky enough to have one parent who can do the job of both.

There is a stigma behind girls who grow up without a father. I always thought it was ironic that girls were said to have “daddy issues.” I don’t fit into this stigma. After all, I have confidence that my mother raised me properly enough to know I would never have the heart — or lack thereof — to abandon my own children.

I was successful throughout high school, making way for the fact that I now attend a phenomenal university — without guidance and support from the paternal side of my lineage. I was able to participate in numerous extracurriculars throughout childhood and adolescence, joining organizations and racking up service hours. I was able to gain lifelong friendships and foster my faith. Despite being cursed with one parent who clearly was selfish, immature and malevolent, I was also blessed with an equally selfless, mature and benevolent mother who is responsible for me becoming the person I am today. I’m forever grateful for my mom who ensured I could have the opportunities you denied me.

Your apathy created a situation which forced your own children into growing up fast. You denied me of the opportunity of having a father, who was supposed to take on the role of not only dad, but friend, mentor, guide and protector. When it came down to it, I never had Dad to play baseball with. I never had Dad to help me make Mom breakfast-in-bed on Mother’s Day. And I never had Dad to wait at the front door and pretend to intimidate the boy I would go on a date with. Even after all this turmoil, I still don’t.

Why should you request the rights that dads are given, when you never did the things a “dad” is supposed to do?

After essentially being absent for years, how did you do it?

The day I turned 18, I felt comforted by the liberties I would be awarded. Mom no longer had to encourage me to call you on your birthday, or ask if I was going to get you a Christmas gift. I knew you could no longer pull any erroneous legal shenanigans. I knew I would no longer be tied to a past of hating you and having parenting time “every other Saturday 2-5 p.m. unless the child and parent agrees to arrange otherwise.”

Now, years after I last interacted with you, I think you probably believe you left our home in ashes. You are probably happy with the way things went — you were able to start a new life, leaving Mom, Jonathon and me behind and forgotten, disregarded once more. You certainly don’t take the phrase “out of sight, out of mind” lightly.

Unfortunately for you, I’ve never been more content in my life than I have in the time I haven’t been forced to interact with you. I feel mentally refreshed and independent. No longer do I have the weight of seeing my father shackled to my existence. I have overcome the stigmas and misconceptions. I have one parent, and a damn good one at that. I don’t have you in my life. And I’m happy.