If you find bad language offensive, best ignore this post because there’s rather a lot in it …
Father’s Day is coming up, which can be a bit of a strange day for some, myself included. For years I’d look at the rows of Father’s Day cards in the shops, and think that none of these sentiments were relevant to me. If I’d ever sent my father a card that said “To the best Dad in the world,” after the age of about fourteen, he’d think I was taking the piss. And he’d have been right. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to wish him Happy Father’s Day, I just wanted a card that said, “Dad, you’re kind of a dick, but I love you and Happy Father’s Day anyway.”
These days, I like to send a card to my father-in-law, who, despite the fact he hasn’t actually been my father-in-law for six years, I still think of him as one, and he still thinks of me as his daughter-in-law. In recent years I’ve come across a range of cards directed at mums on Father’s Day, so I like to send those to my mum. Some of them are touching and sweet, and some of them are brutally honest and hilarious. I prefer the latter and this is the one I’m sending her this year.
Now my biological father might be reading this post but I’m not worried, because he has a great sense of humour and we’ve come a looooong way in recent years, so I think he’ll see the card I’m sending mum, laugh, and say to himself, “Very good Carrie, very good.” These days he’d be the first person to put his hand up and say, “Yep, I was a Twat Dad.”
And this Father’s Day, I’m thinking of all the Twat Dads out there, or “Twads” as I prefer to call them.
I get that parenting is tricky. Nobody prepares you for it. You might find yourself a parent way too young in life, you might have had crap role models, you might have had kids with someone it turns out you don’t want to spend your life with. You might, quite simply, be an asshole. We’re all human, and taking care of a little human is TOUGH. There are all sorts of things that make someone a good father, and make someone a bad father, but I think that there are two fundamental basics to being a father, that may determine whether you’re a Twad or not …
- Always, always have the utmost respect for the woman who is raising your child. Whether you are in a relationship with her or not. This means talking to and about her with kindness, empathy, and support. Always. You might not love or even like her anymore, but if you can’t afford the woman who is raising your child some appreciation and respect, then you’re probably a Twad.
- If you’re not a stay-at-home dad then do whatever you can to share the financial responsibility for raising your child. If you don’t have a job that means you can’t afford to support your child, then bloody well get one. It doesn’t matter how much money the mother makes. Be a responsible parent. And if you do happen to have more money then the mother of your child (who may not have followed the career path she had hoped for because … oh yeah … she’s raising your kid) then don’t go spending that money on yourself and your new hobbies/girlfriend/family/house instead of school uniforms or a washing machine for your child’s home. If you can’t share any wealth you have, or make an effort to get a job, then you’re probably a Twad.
This is just my opinion (and I’m not mentioning the crap mums out there because this is about Father’s Day), but I think that being a good father is actually more about how you treat the mother, than how you treat the child. Chances are, if you’re able to treat the mother well, you’ll treat your child well too. Because whether or not you’re with the mother, you’ll be providing the first role model of how human beings should treat each other. And being a great role model for human interactions is the best gift you can give a child.
If you’re a Twad, chances are at some point, your child is going to have “issues” with you. Your own relationship with them will likely not be a happy one. In my case, I had an on-off relationship with my father for thirty years. Thirty years! I went through periods of cutting him out then letting him in, then cutting him out and letting him in, over and over again, only to discover every single time that he was still a Twad. The longest period I went not speaking to him was ten whole years.
When someone cuts you out of their life it can be tempting to think that it’s intended to be some kind of punishment. I never intended it to be like that, and it certainly never felt like that. Sometimes you need space from someone, and it’s not space to think about that person and all the wrongs and the disappointments and the he saids and he dids. It’s about needing the space to NOT think about those things anymore. To just get on with the joys of life without having to deal with a person who consistently disappoints. So if you know deep down that you’re a Twad, don’t be surprised if at some point your child says, “Enough is enough.”
Now, all credit to my father, during those ten years he would make attempts to reach out. I found them to be totally inappropriate … occasional emails, a Facebook friend request, and once contact through a geneology website, to which I childishly responded by clicking the button that said, “I am not related to this person.” I still needed my space to not think about him, BUT he was letting me know however he felt comfortable, that he was still thinking about me. And this is actually a key message to all Twads who have been cut out from their child’s life. To gently, kindly, not too intrusively but consistently, respect your child’s boundaries but let them know that your door is open to them.
Because one day a few years ago, when I’d accepted that I would never have a father in the way that some people have them, I sat down and handwrote a little card to him, saying that he was welcome to make contact in person, and that I had no expectations. And this is a key message to all children of Twads. A Twad will never be the father you want. And really, that is OK. It’s sad, but it’s the hand that some of us are dealt in life. I wrote the card not because I needed or missed a father in my life, but because I didn’t need one anymore. We are not given a choice in who our parents are, and I actively made a choice to have him in my life again. Not as a father but as a friend. I didn’t need anything from him. I just didn’t want to cut him out anymore. Not because of any pain that might be causing him. But for something … I didn’t know what when I wrote the card … but for something that cutting him out was doing to me.
He called me the very same day my card arrived. We had a very normal chat, like people who’d only spoken a few days earlier. I had always enjoyed talking to him, had always loved his sense of humour, and had always found him easy to talk to. He was the one I’d call to send me condoms when I was in Japan — I never felt that anything was taboo with him and I’ve always preferred being around people with whom you can talk about anything. It had never been him as a person I didn’t like, it was him as a father. I shouldn’t really have been surprised that we connected again right away. And to be honest, I think that period of no contact was necessary for us ever to have any kind of “nice” relationship.
He lives overseas so we weren’t to meet in person until about six months later. Again, we connected right away, and I enjoyed his company. We didn’t discuss “us.” I had no desire to bring up anything. There was nothing I needed resolving because I had had the space to do that on my own. And I didn’t (and still don’t) want to spend what little time I may have with him, going over the past. He was obviously more emotional than I, but that’s understandable … as you get older I guess you become more aware of what you’ve missed out on because of ways you might have treated people. That must be tough to deal with. I wouldn’t want to be coming toward the end of my life with that kind of regret.
I mentioned that I wanted to pick up a mirror I’d spotted in a secondhand shop that was exactly what I’d been looking for to go in my bedroom, and he insisted on paying the £10 it cost. It was a really small thing, but it meant the world to me. Of course I didn’t need him to do it — I have enough money for whatever I need. No, it meant the world to me because of what he said when he bought it, “Of all my kids, you’re the only one who’s never had anything from me.” It’s not technically true because he bought me my first car, and he took me shopping once at university where he filled the trolley with all these expensive branded items when I would have just thrown in a few tins of beans and packets of pasta and not taken advantage of his wealth. At 45 I’m the eldest, and his youngest is about five, and with a few more kids in between, a long time ago I got used to the different levels of financial and emotional support we’ve received, but still, it meant so much to me that he acknowledged that I’ve had very little from him when compared to the others. I truly treasure that mirror.
So on this Father’s Day, I want to say, obviously, try not to be a Twad. But there are a lot of them out there so if you’re one of them, give your child space to be Twad-free for a while if they need it, but keep your door open.
And if you’re unlucky enough to have a Twad for a dad, it’s OK to want to be free of him, and you don’t ever have to “make up” if you don’t want to, regardless of any pressure anyone might try to put on you. It’s up to YOU, and you alone. But don’t be surprised if one day you feel that you do want him back … It was only the day after his phone call when I realized why something was telling me to reconnect.
Because when I woke up the next day, I felt at peace. Like a little bit of my heart had mended. And I hadn’t even known it was broken.