Bull in a China Shop


Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Fathers be good

A few days ago dooce (see dooce.com) posted a blog entry that was a tribute of sorts, to her father. And her husband's father. It made me tear up, as many of her entries do. But it also made me think. It was a Valentine's Day entry, and it was particularly moving to me because, well, let's face it ladies.... for many of us our first Valentine was Daddy.

Now, I have never been a Daddy's girl, but it wasn't for the trying, let me tell you. My real dad died when I was just 9 months old. My sister was 13 and my brother was 6. (How my mother managed will be another day's entry.) When I was 4, my mom remarried a widower with 6 children of his own. It worked. We all grew up, went to college, have jobs/careers, no one has been to jail or rehab or joined a cult or anything. It was no "Brady Bunch" though. My step-father, though he was not physically abusive, basically ignored me. I was 6 years younger than the youngest of the brood. That meant that when my sibling closest in age went off to college, I was 12, and all alone. I was to be seen and not heard. That much was clear. So, I skulked through the house trying to be quiet. I never had friends over. I sat in my room and read. ALOT. I built model airplanes and race cars, I wrote poetry and short stories, I mixed concoctions with my chemistry set. I listened to Donny Osmond and Shaun Cassidy and later I melted when Genesis or Foreigner or Styx or (sigh) Journey crooned from my Sears display model stereo system.

When I was 15, we were having dinner in the dining room, as was required. The news was on. No one spoke. I decided that maybe I would comment on the meat in the pot roast; that even tough it was tasty, it was getting stuck in my teeth. My step-father came back with an idea that maybe it was just stuck because it was getting tangled in my braces. I had not had braces for nearly 2 years at that point. It became painfully obvious that he barely knew I existed. When it came to Valentine's Day, and especially Father's Day, I struggled to find a card that expressed how I felt. There are no "Gee Dad, Wish you could be proud of me, and maybe even acknowledge I exist. Happy Valen-fucking-tine's Day" cards. Nope. There are plenty of those cards that say, "You do so much for me, I learn so much being with you, thanks for being my Pop" cards. But... that just doesn't cut it.

So, here's where I'm going with all this. I know now that the way I act with men is a direct result of being ignored. I can fall in love at the slightest indication that a man might think I am the slightest bit interesting. I am a sucker for a little validation. Just please remember that when you interact with your children. Know that when your daughter is approaching puberty, and is feeling ugly or stupid or uncomfortable in her own skin, that YOUR acknowledgement of her means EVERYTHING. What she will expect from the opposite sex is based in part on the signals you did or did not give her when she was just getting used to her sexuality.

So, as the song goes... "Fathers, be good to your daughters; daughters will love like you do."


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