There’s nothing that tickles the ovaries more than seeing the love between a man and his baby. Hands down one of my favourite moments so far this year was spending time with my dear friend Haley, her partner Noah and their baby Oliver. Seeing the relationship Noah has with Oliver and the totally unconditional love that he has for his son, was a big contributor to me wanting to write this post (thanks Noah!).
I haven’t talked about my relationship with my dad publicly before but you’ve probably noticed that I’ve only ever shared photos of myself, my mum and my sister. Recently I wrote a post about watching my friends become mums for the first time, so this Father’s Day I’ve decided to write this one to their other halves and the future fathers in this world using the lessons I’ve learnt (or haven’t learnt) from my own. Although deeply personal (perhaps a bit of an overshare) I decided to include the story about my relationship with my dad. It’s been a huge contributor to the person I am today but this wasn’t an easy story to share so please be nice! Get the violins at the ready…
My 10 Top Tips to Dads
- Take the time to do things with your kids that they show interest in and try to love it as much as they do.
- Be their hero. Dedicate yourself to showing them what a good man looks like.
- Choose to positively teach them important life lessons (and not through the mistakes you make).
- Show them what loyalty looks like. They’ll carry this through life.
- Teach them how to laugh.
- Love them for who they are and not who you want them to be.
- Treat their mum with respect, regardless of the circumstances.
- Work hard and provide for them, regardless of the circumstances.
- Remember the difference between words vs actions – they’ll learn the most through your actions so be the best possible version of yourself.
- Don’t think you can rekindle your youth by acting like a big kid. You are the parent not the friend.
When we’re kids, we’re raised with this idealistic notion that we’ll grow up with 2 loving parents, who will pass down all their wisdom to us, fill our lives with smiles, teach us, guide us, support us, love us and be there to hold our hands as we fly the nest and embrace the big bad world…but the reality for some of us is vastly different. As a young child, I never pictured stepping into adulthood without wanting my dad by my side – no child would, I guess – but as I approach my 28th birthday, I also approach the 10th year of not having a relationship with my dad.
Aged 13, my dad got me tickets to an Alicia Keys concert. I adored her as I was teaching myself to play the piano at the time and she had just come on to the scene with these uber cool piano-based R&B/pop songs that I was desperate to be able to play. My dad was never one to do much with his kids and I don’t have many memories of doing things with just him but this concert was one of the only times I can remember that he made an effort to do something just for me and with me. She was great and I remember driving back feeling as though I was on cloud 9. I got home and raved to my mum about how great it was and headed to bed to listen to Songs in A Minor on my DiscMan…cos I was just that cool.
A short while after, my entire world was flipped upside down. My mum and dad started arguing and I ended up overhearing that my mum had caught my dad having an affair and it wasn’t the first time. Though never good, the timing couldn’t have been worse. I was a couple of months into my first year of GCSEs at a highly academic school that I hated, ended up missing a lot of school and as a result, I absolutely tanked my mock exams (we’re talking grades deep in to the alphabet…though by some miracle, I turned it around for my finals). For many reasons, my mum chose to stay with him – a decision that at the time I couldn’t understand, which made my home life pretty miserable and the consequent years all became a little foggy. The one god send was that I moved to the American School for sixth form – a much needed change of scene, one that taught me how to party – something I was very grateful for at the time. It also blessed me with a handful of new lifelong friends. Every cloud and all that.
By the time I finished school, things felt calmer at home. There were less arguments and we had all sort of learnt to function in a very dysfunctional way. For a very short period of time, we were almost happy. That October, my laptop had died so I used my dad’s laptop to do something from. I went into Google to do a search and up came his internet history: DatingDirect.com and Match.com being top of the list. With a few clicks, I was in his profiles on each of them and rightly or wrongly, ended up reading the messages on there in which he had spun a wicked web of lies. I didn’t have the balls to talk about what I found straight away, so stayed quiet. I actually kept it to myself for about 5 days. It didn’t take long for my mum to check in with me to see what was wrong so I told her about everything I had found. When confronted with it, my dad denied it and accused me of making the whole thing up, but it was easy for me to open up the accounts again to show my mum and when I did, everything got nasty. I won’t go in to the details of what followed (I’ve probably over-shared as it is), but that marked the beginning of the end. My sister, who was 11 by that point, overheard everything that happened – until then, she had been blissfully unaware of it all. He refused to leave the house when my mum asked him to so between then and Christmas, we lived in this dire state of limbo. I threw myself in to university life to try and keep away from it but was conscious that I needed to be there to support my mum and sister. Just after new year was the final straw. My mum got a call from a woman he had been seeing who had this incline that something was off with him. She had been told he was divorced and then strangely asked my mum how I was doing. Turned out, he had fabricated a story about me having a car crash over Christmas and I was supposedly in a coma that the doctors didn’t know whether or not I’d survive. My mum and I then turned in to detectives – she discovered a second phone he had hidden in his car, one that revealed details of full on relationships he was having with multiple women – he had taken one of their sons to the football, bought them presents, been away with them etc. I managed to hack his emails and print out evidence of everything he had been up to. He was leading entirely double, triple, quadruple…heck probably more than that, lives. A few days later, he finally left.
I won’t bore you with all the details of what’s happened since but in short, they got divorced (it took 5 years to happen), my mum, sister and I very much became the three musketeers, there were huge financial pressures put on us all, my aunt (his sister) decided to blame me for it all (because I was the one to go snooping) and I chose to assume a role of responsibility that isn’t something most young twenty somethings experience. Believe it or not, this is the short version of everything that happened. The depth of the lies he told run much deeper than the ones I’ve included and even continued to unfold after he left. But you get the gist. He’s never made the effort I felt he needed to to salvage our relationship and at this point I don’t think he’ll ever really be able to, so I choose to not have him in my life. A decision that is not made lightly. Has that effected my relationships and the way I see men? More than you can imagine. Do I still believe good men exist? Somehow, yes…and I have seeing a handful of friends and their relationships (or even their parents relationships) to thank for that.
This was the first year that I feel I’ve properly dealt with (or am dealing with) what’s happened in my life. I started seeing a therapist back in March and I think it’s probably because of that that I’ve felt ok with publishing this post. We’ve all got our own drama in our lives, but I don’t think we always share as much as we ought to. When you start opening up about your experiences, you suddenly feel like a weight is lifted as you realise you’re not as alone in a situation than you originally thought.
A Father’s Day Thank You
Whilst I won’t be thanking my own dad today, there is a man in my life I do want to thank. I never knew my biological grandfathers. Both my dad’s parents died when he was a child and my mum’s parents got divorced when my mum was 9. A few years before I was born, my grandma settled down with Chuck. Though not related by blood, he has been the one constant male role model throughout my life and I have, and always will, see him as my granddad. He has a heart of gold and is an utter gentlemen. He shares life lessons, his many stories of days gone by, he makes me laugh and always has my best interests at heart. So, Chuck, thank you for always being there and showing Emilie and I what a great man looks like.