I never really had a good relationship with my father. I remember once buying him a card for Father’s day because my mum told me (at the tender age of 9) that I really should, that read “Anyone can be a Father, it takes a special person to be a Dad”. There was a certain smugness in that card, and even at 9, the intention behind the words was clear to us both. He wasn’t a dad and he knew it, he certainly never earned the title but my mum did.
My dad left us when I was just 4 years old, and despite having contact with him sporadically he was always one giant let down. One disappointment after the next. As a parent now I find myself even less likely to forgive him for his behaviour over the years, so really, all of this has left me with a bitter taste in my mouth, especially on Father’s Day. Except for one thing: my mum.
Mum has always been there to pick up the pieces really. Every time he promised to turn up and I sat for hours as a child with my hair in freshly plaited pigtails, or when I would return from his house after a weekend of being disillusioned and disheartened because I’d been reminded that I wasn’t really slotting in well with his new wife’s idea of “family life”, mum would be there to hug me and reassure me that I was loved beyond measure. Mum would be there when I was in tears because he hadn’t made it to my school play at the age of 6 and mum was there when he got married in America without telling me or asking me to be the one thing I’d always wanted to be, a bridesmaid. Mum was there for every Father’s day he didn’t want to spend with me, and eventually every Father’s day I wouldn’t see him because he’d burnt the only bridge we’d ever have.
It’s not an unusual story is it? The absent parent who has moved on and left you behind like unwanted luggage.
It’s also not unusual to find that the single parent left with their child or children takes on so much more than one person should ever have to. I look back now and I struggle to comprehend how she did it. How she became two sides of the parenting coin with such effortless grace, almost over night.
There are so many women out there who are blissfully celebrating their children’s dad’s brilliance as a parent this Father’s day, whether they are still together or not, looking on with pride as their children celebrate and love rules supreme. I will be one of those women because my husband idolises our children and he does all in his power to make them feel loved, secure and happy. Then there are going to be countless women who will be picking up the pieces and trying, so desperately, to compensate for the fathers who aren’t there. I don’t mean physically – think of the troops or dads who are working away – no, I mean the emotionally vacant parents. That’s worse.
So, if you are in the sad position of being that mother, just like my mum was, sit back when the day is done, pour yourself a wine and know that what you have done today won’t go unnoticed amongst the sadness in years to come.
Oh, and Happy Father’s day mum.