My daughter hates me.
Why shouldn’t she? Her mother, Betty, hates me. As does her grandmother and I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure her grandfather hates me. Actually, he may still be planning on taking me to the wood shed and simply killing me. Of course, for a while I hated myself, too. Apparently, there is no shortage of people to teach her it is okay to hate. Plus, my daughter is twenty-one and the reality is twenty is an age full of conflicting loyalties and hard truths that fuel resentment and anger. Unfortunately, I made it easy and as a result there is no shortage of hard truths when discussing our intertwined pasts.
I decided to write this when I realized I’m not alone. There are good men out there who, like me, made mistakes. And like me, although despised, are working to atone for those lapses in judgment and character and aren’t using the situation to hate back. Which would be easy. Of course, discarded dads and redundant fathers generally don’t get much ink because most people already think the worse of us. No one wants to hear the rest of the story. Which is another hard truth, so we try to keep our heads down and not draw too much attention ourselves.
I’ve loved my daughter from the moment she was born on July 28, 1989. Sitting in the delivery room I held my beautiful daughter for the first few minutes of her life. Unfortunately, I had no idea what to do next. “The true test of character is not how much we know how to do,” wrote educator John Holt, “but how we behave when we don’t know what to do”. Which was the primary difficulty in my life: not knowing what to do next. So, I tucked my tail between my legs and hid. Says a great deal about my character, doesn’t it?
Making a child was the easy part. After all, it is the combination of simple mechanics and mystifying biochemistry. I did my part. I got the job. Raising a child is a combination of common sense and willingness. Which, I clearly lacked. So although, I got the job, I couldn’t do the job. I was the poster child for the Peter Principle of Parenthood.
In hindsight, Betty hating me is understandable. I was a lousy partner to conceive a child with. I made more than my share of mistakes and was unable to admit I was wrong. Not particularly endearing qualities. I wasn’t prepared at nineteen to be a father. Some men are. I wasn’t. Which is a both a lousy excuse for my behavior and a hard truth. The shame and guilt of this truth conspired within me for years to make matters worse. It is hard to do the “right” thing when you are constantly spending all your energy trying to hide from all the “wrong” ones. Of course, that was over twenty years ago and, thankfully, things change.
But I’m getting ahead of myself…