For 12 years, I’ve had the pleasure of raising our child. She has your almond-shaped eyes. She walks on her tippy toes like you. She’s got your charisma and charm. There are enough similarities that I’d think you’d be ready to sport matching t-shirts to the nearest, corniest father/daughter event.
It’s been heartbreaking for her — which makes it heartbreaking for me — to see that you don’t plan to be bothered with her at all. Last fall, after you dissed her because you didn’t agree with her having a boyfriend, refused to call her, and gave her your behind to kiss, she started acting out. That grade school crush has come and gone, but phone calls from teachers have been coming fast and furious.
Today, the principal let me know that Skylar has been cutting herself. I dropped everything and hauled to the school, bawling all the way. Our child is hurting. And she’s hurting because she needs you.
Up until now, your participation in child-rearing has been selective — when you feel like it, you drop her a line on a holiday or buy her a pair of sneakers for her back-to-school wardrobe, that kind of thing. You’ve been a no-show on birthdays: no phone call, no card, no gift, no sitting through painful High School Musical-themed parties like a trooper.
Easters and Christmases, you weren’t up until 2 in the morning stuffing baskets and wrapping presents, sorting which ones were going to be labeled “from Santa,” and working extra hard to disguise your handwriting. In the mornings, you didn’t bust Academy Award-worthy performances to match her enthusiasm about the goodies these figments of pop culture left for her to enjoy.
You missed out on a whole, whole lot.
You haven’t sat through squeaky clarinet recitals and hours of painful practices at home. You haven’t been there to applaud every dance routine, lip sync every oratorical presentation, or endure every parent/teacher conference. You didn’t have to fold yourself into those tiny little elementary school desks to color and craft, dole out punishment for back talking and bad report cards, or entertain a sleepover where you had more giggly little girls under your care than any sane person should feasibly volunteer themselves for.
I’ve watched her become more confident, hit her stride, turn into a cool, intelligent, gorgeous, enthusiastic, idea-filled young lady. Not a girl, a lady.
I am so proud of our child.
About two years ago, she started asking for you. Wanting to call you. Leaving you voicemail after unanswered voicemail. Emailing and texting. Receiving little feedback from your end. I know because I watched the expression drain from her face time and time again after she checked the phone log and didn’t see your number there or scurried to look through a message-less email inbox. Last night, she explained that she felt unloved because you just dropped out of her life. In other words, she's been acting out.
But that’s all ancient Egypt. Starting now, I want you to step up. You’ve had a 12-year vacation from any real responsibility in raising this child. You’ve abstained from painstaking decision-making, from the minute (like when I decided to dreadlock her hair) to the major (like when I was shopping for the best replacement school after that public charter failure). Some girls fare well without a father in their lives — I’m one of them. But every individual, every child is a different case and this girl is needing her father. I’m afraid the hoops you’re making her jump to nurture the relationship that should come naturally will set the standard for how she’ll pursue men in the future.
Remember when we agreed that because you didn’t have a real relationship with your father and I never laid eyes on mine that we would make sure this child we created, even though we were young, would have the benefit of both parents? So far, that hasn’t happened. Me, your family, your mama: none of us have held you accountable.
How well do you actually know our child? What’s her favorite color? What does she want to be when she grows up? What’s she afraid of? Who does she look up to? If you can’t answer these questions, find out. Have a real conversation with her. Understand her. Appreciate her. Love on her. Don’t let your hatred for me — unwarranted as it may be — prevent you from being a blessing to her. She’s hurting, inside and now out.
Be the man she needs you to be. I can be a lot of things to her, but I can’t be her father.
Prayerfully, Hopefully, Expectantly,
The Mother of Our Beautiful Child
Image via photosteve101/Flickr