I have a father, obviously, it is a biological must for procreation. (Unless my mother is some kind of reproduction wizard, or is a biblical dungarees wearing miracle.) My dad and I don’t talk, are strangers in the street, created no sepia toned memories and he has never had the joy of seeing my son’s crooked smile.
My parents separated when I was a baby, my mum left the house with me and little else. We went back to my maternal family and he faded from my life swiftly after it had begun.
I grew up in Powys amongst grass and sky, spending most of my time on a farm on a hill. I am ever grateful for having the childhood of a country girl. Everything was outside, everyone was your friend or your family, and everywhere had a sense of security (except for electric fences, deep ponds and standing behind granddad’s horses.) As a child I did not know different and this green stage of childhood was unappreciated. As a teen I, of course, hated all of these things, but as a woman looking back across the years, I can only be grateful and glad.
What does ‘family’ mean to you?
When I was younger I don’t recall any apparent pangs of ‘missing out’. Family was me, my mum and when I was six, my little brother (who is now six-foot-huge). No memories linger of the time where his dad was with us, even when I scrunch my eyes and urge my brain to try. I learnt that father’s leave and that my mother could do everything.
There is no anger left, time has taught me that parenthood is hard.
My grandfather was the only constant male presence in our lives. Happy hours were spent with him in the barns. He built me a tool bench and I stole his best hammer. I would stumble after him bringing in the sheep, demand piggybacks and follow him everywhere on a little orange tractor. He is a quiet man, his praise worth more than gold and his disapproval still can bring me to tears. As he drove wooden fence stakes into the ground I remember thinking he was a giant and the strongest man in the world.
To this day I am still unsure of a father’s role within a family. That sounds silly I know, but I have no normative template of reference.
I met my father when I was six and he flitted in and out of the years, caught on the wind but never constant. From my granddad I learnt what a good man looks like. I may have missed out on having a dad, but I had a grand ‘father’ that took both roles in his muddy booted stride.
Whenever I feel the cold touch of regret, or the sadness I think of him and those feelings are soothed.
After my sons birth I tried so hard to grasp the idyllic ‘perfect family unit’ that I thought he needed. Two adults and one child. A father and mother together. I held onto the idea until my hands bled as my relationship with Leo’s dad crumbled after his birth.
Eventually I realised that what a child needs most is happy parents, together or separate.
We work hard to ensure that little boy spends time with his dad wherever possible. Although they don’t live together when I ask him ‘what do you think when I say daddy’, he gives a sweet unassuming smile and just says, ‘my daddy’. He does not doubt that daddy loves him, will be there for him and it is not a breathless, empty description.
Leo also had a ‘stepdad’, a diminutive term for such an generous role. My partner is his Lego building accomplice, they can talk about Transformers all night, and they tease me and bicker with each other. I had no father and Leo has two. If karma exists then I give it a nod.
Leo will learn that dads stay. That they love. I hope one day, if he wants, Leo will be a daddy himself, one that his children deserve.
Family life is not always easy but I learnt from the dad I never knew that it is worth everything.
On father’s day we will send our grandads a lovingly written card. I will call my mum and cook dinner for my partner and present him with a bizarre five-year-old-chosen gift. Leo will spend the day with his dad and no doubt eat too much ice cream.
It’s a day to be thankful.
If you enjoyed this post check out: The reality of separate parents and shared parenting: a Mummy’s feelings on weekends with Daddy.