So the other day I made a tweet where I asked if people have healthy relationships with their fathers, that I don’t hear people speak on it enough. I was pleasantly surprised by the response, especially from a lot of young women who mentioned how great their fathers were. I wasn’t expecting heaps of hate messages but I also wasn’t expecting such a positive response. I was genuinely happy to see and hear that as my own experience has been a bit different.
For the most part I grew up in a single parent home and I didn’t meet my biological dad till I was 6. A lot of the time I remind myself that it isn’t THAT bad, I mean, some people go through their lives never meeting their fathers, so the fact that I did is a blessing. At the same time, I’m also reminded that many fathers were present besides their wives, holding her hand as their child made their debut into the world, and took their first breath, throughout their childhood all the way up into adult life.
It was my first holiday with my mum to Nigeria and I was too young to understand that my dad really didn’t want anything to do with me. He had come to London 3 years prior but was annoyed that my mum was trying to reach out. I guess it was Gods plan for him to be responsive on that holiday because of what the future would hold. I remember walking into his office and my mum pointing to him saying “Immanuella that’s your dad go and say hello” and yes I remember vividly. “No, that’s not my dad” as I cuddled back into my mums arms. I burst into tears. I was underwhelmed and it’s hilarious looking back. I was aware that I had a dad but he was not around. I pictured him to look a certain way and all those years of him not being present made me eagerly anticipate the day I would finally meet him. I looked forward to him being all I had expected. He looked nothing like the image I built in my head. Not only did I have big dreams of him I had dreams of the moment I’d run into his arms and he would pick me up. My fairytale was crushed in that moment and I laugh as I type this. That’s not to say he wasn’t amazing, but for 6 year old me, it just didn’t match that pictuure in my head.
The resemblance between us was striking and anyone that saw me and him would say “ahh omo Niyi leleyi” = this is definitely Niyis child. Blood is truly thicker than water and we soon became best buddies. Those 5 weeks in Nigeria were great as I got to build a bond with my father after 6 long years of him being absent and denying me. I met his mum (my grandma), his sister (my aunty) and they all showered me with love and kindness.
During a visit to my Grandmas house I saw 2 young boys in front of the TV playing play station. There was another woman in the house. She was tall and dark skinned. Again I was too young to understand fully. My mum said to me “Immanuella I think those are your brothers”. My eyes lit up. “Really?”. I asked. It didn’t make sense. I had no clue I had siblings. I was excited.
Later on that year my dad came to London with my 2 immediate older brothers. My mum would take me to see them everyday. I remember the buzz I felt after school to put on my best clothes to see them. Pure happiness. I was so ready to be a little sister. Brothers? Even that still felt strange to me, but I was filled with so much joy. It was exciting knowing I had people I could look up to. People that I shared the same blood with. That looked just like me. How did my mum not mention this all along? But all those questions didn’t matter. All those years of my dads absence didn’t matter. Being around him was fulfilling even though for a short while.
The following year my mum and I went back to Nigeria and by this time my dad couldn’t walk or talk. His words were inaudible and it all sounded like mumble. I was just 7 years old and it didn’t make sense to me. He had a stroke and by the end of the year he didn’t make it. One day I walked into my mum, my aunty and my uncle praying. I didn’t know what was up. They all looked at me in shock and despair, like they had seen a ghost. Apparently they were praying on how they would break the news to me. They didn’t know if I overheard. When my mum finally told me I was heartbroken and torn but numb for the most part. I cried and cried. Our relationship was beginning to grow and blossom beautifully but was cut short abruptly. Life would go back to him not being around which was what I was used to. But why did it have to happen that way.
As I grew older little things started to add up more and resentment started brewing. Why wasn’t he there from the beginning? Why was he so cruel to tell my mum to get an abortion? Why did he have so many children? Then I’d channel my anger to God and ask him more questions. Maybe I’d be more functional and “normal” if I had grown up with both parents around. Why did his life have to be cut short? Why was I denied the opportunity to have both parents around in a loving environment. Those are the questions I’d ask. Still, I’d get no answers. The more I grew the more I realised we don’t get answers to all these questions. And it’s not for us to throw a pity party but to make the most out of now.
This experience has shaped me into the girl or woman I am today. These are my own “daddy issues”. A father is supposed to be a girls first love, so they say. The standard of what a man should be, how he should treat and love a woman. Right? So what happens when you have never seen that. What do your standards look like? Where do you look to for this example when it was never there. And you’re left with a blurred picture of how things should be.
Although I may have not gone down the stereotypical route of “looking for love in all the wrong places”, I realised that I didn’t really know how a man is supposed to treat a woman and what a woman is not to tolerate. You see it on TV and movies but when it comes down to implementing it in your own life you’re lost because you never had that fatherly love to set the tone. You never had that demonstration of your father loving your mother the way a man should love a woman. You end up almost “settling” and accepting what you’re given. If your dad has always treated you like a princess why would you settle for a guy who treats you less? But When no one is there, you’re more likely to tolerate a lot more nonsense. In some cases male attention fulfils you, it validates you because you never got it from the beginning, now you feel special when anyone looks your way. Anyone that seems genuine and sincere even if they’re not deserving. Some women even look for a father they never had in a partner.
My story isn’t all sad. When I was 17 my mum married an amazing man who has played the role of father from then till now. He has shown me how kind and loving a man can be. How sefless and giving a father can be, towards his other children and even me. He will never replace my dad, or make up for those crucial years when I needed a male figure in my life, but I am grateful for the role he plays and I am happy and blessed he takes me as his own. Although it isn’t the same it is a blessing.
Many of us have daddy issues. Some fathers were present but distant and never really there when you needed them. We all have our own story but I hope you can relate to mine somehow.