Monday, 9 June 2014

That time my Dad left

Looking back on it now, I have no idea how you did that.

I was nearly 4 years old.

The same age as my youngest son is now.

I can recall what happened so sharply, it's like it lives in a special part of my memory which hasn't been clouded by time or pushed away by other, more important things. It lives in it's own wee space in my brain, just for me; to replay whenever I want.

Lucky me.

You are walking down the path.

It's a moment that tainted the rest of our relationship, and a moment, I am sure, to your adult mind that didn't really matter.

As an adult, you are less aware - and I know from experience now - of the impact you make on a child's life.

Of the long-lasting damage you can inflict with the tiniest, seemingly throwaway acts.

This is me
I'm so excited to see you - it's been ages!

It's so easy to dismiss the young.  To believe that they won't remember what happened.  To trust the future and that you have time to change it for the better. To figure that you'll be able to erase the bad and replace it with good.

Daddy's home!

I know that it wasn't all about me, as you pointed out when I was older.  I'm so lucky to have never been through divorce or separation in my own adult life, but I know enough to know that the child in that situation should not have been ignored.  Should not have been discounted, given the circumstances.

Where you going Daddy?  You come play with me?

Should not have been left out of your wedding plans to your new wife.  Should not have had to choose between you and the new wife when things went awry. Should not have been used as a pawn in the games between you two. Should not have had to watch you post my birthday card through my letterbox and disappear into the night without you even knocking the door to say hello.  Should not have had to explain my anger over a fraught telephone conversation at sweet sixteen years old in which you shouted me down for being 'too flippant'. Should not have been watched at my school gates on exam day.  Should not have had to reconsider a relationship with my own two brothers to avoid my own children being involved in some toxic relationships the way my sister and I were when we were only teenagers.

You coming home, Dad?  I got pictures for you!  I been playing outside, Dad!  Where you going?  What's in the bag?

It's been a great night out as we all chill in my brother-in-law's house.  We've had a lot to drink - everyone is laughing, spirits are high.  We get onto the topic of someone we know who has maybe fathered a child.  The guy's quite sure it's his.  Someone quips that the child in question won't care; the child in question will be happy with monetary recompense.  No dad - just money.  There's laughter.

And all of a sudden I'm shouting.  I'm shouting about how that's not true. How the guy should get a grip. That the child won't care about money, or gifts, or   how much guilt-laden presents it has to unwrap on Xmas day or masses of oodles of cash in a birthday card hastily shoved through the door, or a ton of chocolate eggs at Easter.  The child needs her father. Her daddy. And if she doesn't have him - the questions!  The pain! The guilt!  The longing! The constant wondering of why she was never good enough! That's what she'll go through!  Can't you see?

The room stills to a stunned and embarrassed silence.  Because it's embarrassing for them.  My oldest friend squeezes my hand secretly under the table - only he and my husband know what I've been through; they are the only two in this room that know me well enough to know my pain.  My eyes brim with tears and my husband holds my shoulder protectively.

I swallow hard, gulping back the threatening tears and take a drink as chatter resumes.  Awkward re-commencement of previous piss-taking.

The others are irked and put out by the little nearly four year old, the confused seven year old, the awkward eleven year old and the angry teen who has just walked into the room. They are annoyed at the realism suddenly intruding on their joke.  The girl with 'Daddy Issues' just spoiled the party.

I thought I was done with this kind of feeling.

I excuse myself and go to the toilet.

Daddy, where you going?  Can I come too?  You going shops?  I like the shops!

I don't know how you walked away from your daughter that day.  The wee lassie with the messy ponytail, big green eyes and full of fun. The same eyes my wee boys give me when they cheekily ask for chocolate, or want extra time to play or are sorry for spilling milk on the carpet.  How you managed to ignore the wee girl who was so pleased to see you as you entered the close door and went up the stairs.

How you met her enthusiasm and expectedness with mere indifference as you told her to 'wait there', pushing past her to get out of that door without explanation.

Your black and white, striped, shoes walking up those cold stone stairs, back down again and out of the self-locking close door, completely ignoring your daughter, your little girl, as she put her small hands on the  fractured safety glass and watched as your 6ft 4inch frame grew smaller and smaller, until it disappeared into the sihouette of her outstretched palm.

She cried.  A lot.  Confused, frightened tears.

Dad!  Where you go?  Dad?


I don't know how you did that.

Whether it was misjudgement, pure desperation, cruelty, disrespect, emotion...I don't know.

I look at my youngest son now and I just know how much it would destroy his whole life if I did the same now.  Or if his daddy did the same now.  I can't imagine it.

I'm at a playpark with the kids.  I'm helping the eldest climb the climbing frame - it's tough going, but we are getting there.  He's clumsy, with feet too big for his body.  He's going to be tall.  He's always been big for his age.

I feel like I'm being watched - someone's eyes are making me uncomfortable.  A tall man with black and white striped shoes disappears into the distance.

This is how we communicate now.  Through sometimes-you, sometimes-strangers -who-look-like-you-in-the-distance.  You are a figure in the showreel of my mind.

Always walking away.

Always disappearing into the distance.

Single words.

Flashes in the crowd.

I guess I'll always be the girl with 'Daddy Issues'.

I'm getting there though

Family as it should be!


  1. Oh Genna, this one hit me hard. I have a very little girl and it literally makes me cry to imagine you as a child not much older than her, suffering that heartbreak. I strongly believe we can learn just as much, if not more, from the bad parents as the good and it sounds like you've taken those horrible experiences and learned how to be a better parent. Thank you for sharing something so close to your heart.

    1. Thanks Emma. Yeah - I suppose it was a bit of a rough ride. As a parent now, it's so hard to imagine doing that to my own children. You certainly do live and learn :)

  2. This really made me cry! This is the same hurt and pain that I'm trying to avoid for my son; however, his father does not realize how his disappearing acts are truly affecting my son. He just figures that he doesn't care. But as my son gets older, I do recognize the signs. I went through it too as a child, finding out that my parents were getting divorced. It's just so incredibly sad how us as parents don't realize the impact we have on our child's life.

    Thanks so much for sharing this post on Turn It Up Tuesday! We love having you!

    1. my mum tried so hard to avoid it for me too Natasha - it was such a hard role for her - trying not to be angry at him in front of us and trying to maintain our relationship with him. It's hard for adults to keep a child's perspective when they have so many difficult and complicated emotions themselves. It's so hard, isn't it?
      All parents can do is their best - which I am very sure you will. And that is what your son will remember when he grows up and begins to evaluate it. Kids know who have been good to them. They always work it out.
      Thanks for reading :)

  3. Beautifully written Genna. My mum abd dad have been separated since I was 4 too but I don't have one memory of us all together. It doesn't bother me I guess, I don't really like him and maybe see him a handful aof times I year. But now I'm a single mum which isn't what I wanted, I want to have a family unit, I don't want my son having issues. But luckily his father does want to be in his life. I kinda feel I missed out a little I guess, maybe that's why I'm a hopeless romantic, just looking for the right guy. X

    1. Thanks.

      It's so important to be happy - I would never advocate staying together for the kids. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a single mother - in fact hats off - you are all super women. Any guy who doesn't stick around is not worth it.

  4. Another gorgeously written emotional piece. I love it.
    I relate completely. My Mum and Dad split when I was 15 years old, and although my dad and I are in touch, once he re-married I was reminded every time that I saw him that I was no longer his number one (in ways other than being told verbally of course)... it began when I was seated at the back of the room on his wedding day and ignored almost completely at the reception... I was the only close family member not mentioned in his speech... He didn't understand then and doesn't understand now. It hurts a little less each day... but he is the only man that ever broke my heart and it makes me very sad everyday.

  5. Amazing post, so moving. I've been there and know how you feel xxxx

  6. Beautifully written. My son is 5 and his Daddy means the world to him. I can't imagine what kind of hurt he'd go through and all that emotional turmoil, so so sad :(. You look like you have the loveliest family and your mum sounds like an awesome lady xx


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That time my Dad left