Last Sunday, we celebrated Father’s Day in the USA. I never got to celebrate a Father’s Day with my own dad, not counting when I was an infant of about five or six weeks old.
I was reminded on Sunday of a paper I wrote for my college English class back in 2014. I decided I would like to share it with you. I had to edit it as it was too long for a blog post, but I hope you’ll enjoy what remained.
My childhood was wonderful in countless ways, filled with love and laughter. I was nourished, cherished, and to be completely honest, spoiled. However, there was a definite absence of testosterone in my family. My grandfathers died years before I was born. My father died when I was four months old, and my mother never remarried. One aunt was divorced. Another aunt was widowed. My four cousins were girls. The only males in my close family were an uncle with no children of his own and my brother, older than me by 21 months. While I regretted not having a dad, I didn’t understand how deeply that absence affected me—and the decisions I made as a young woman—until later in life.
My father didn’t leave by choice. His life was taken from him when the small plane he was in crashed and burned during a hunting trip. But the way that he left did not diminish the effect a fatherless home had on me. No matter the reason for a dad’s absence, it is felt, and it is felt as strongly in a daughter’s life as in a son’s. Perhaps, in some ways, more so.
Monique Robinson, author of Longing for Daddy: Healing from the Pain of an Absent or Emotionally Distant Father, calls the absence of fathers an epidemic in our society. “It has hit homes from east to west, north to south, affecting the wealthiest and the poorest, male and female, as well as all races and ethnicities. Society has allowed it, and the church hasn’t been able to stop it. Children, teens, adults, even the elderly are all crying on the inside because of it.”
Furthermore, Bravado Garrett-Akinsanya, PH.D., LP, a clinical psychologist, states, “Despite their importance in the home, researchers have described the decline of fatherhood as one of the most basic, unexpected, and extraordinary trends of our time. In 1960, only 11% of children in the U.S. lived apart from their fathers. By 2010, that share had risen to 27%.”
From 11% to 27% is a drastic change, and it happened in my lifetime. As a child in 1960, I had only one friend who, like me, was fatherless. All of my other friends lived in two-parent homes. Such isn’t the case today.
Garrett-Akinsanya went on to say, “More specifically, the researchers found that the quality of fathers’ involvement with daughters was the most important feature of the early family environment in relation to the timing of the daughters’ puberty so that girls growing up in father-present conditions reach puberty later than girls growing up without a father present.
“The information is important because multiple studies show that when girls reach puberty younger, they become sexually active earlier and are more likely to get pregnant in their teens. Daughters of single mothers are 53% more likely to marry as teenagers, 111% more likely to have children as teenagers, 164% more likely to have a premarital birth and 92% more likely to dissolve their own marriages.”
Gabriella Kroch, Ph.D., a psychotherapist, says “a little girl needs to see herself reflected in the love she sees for herself in her father’s eyes. This is how she develops self confidence and self esteem. This is how she develops a healthy familiarity with what a positive expression of love feels like.”
My mother often told me that I was the apple of my daddy’s eye, but I never got to experience those positive expressions of love from him. I know I would have benefited from them.
In a paper published in the College Student Journal, Franklin B. Krohn and Zoe Bogan quoted statistics from the Getting Men Involved: The Newsletter of the Bay Area Male Involvement Network, (Spring 1997). The last statistic struck a nerve with me. It said that fatherless children were 20% less likely to attend college than those with fathers
At the age of 16, college should have been on my radar, but it wasn’t. To my deep regret, the same was true for my daughters. Because I didn’t attend college after high school, I didn’t have that expectation for them either. Had my father lived, however, I’m convinced I would have had very different aspirations—for myself and later for my daughters. Thankfully, many years later, one of my daughters has received her BS, the other will soon get hers, and I myself am a college student, working toward my own degree, delayed though it has been.
Are there still missing pieces inside of me because I’m a “daddyless daughter”? Yes, I’m sure there are. But I am more than a girl who grew up without a dad. I am a woman of faith, and I believe that anything that happens in my life can work for my good—even the loss of a father—if I respond the way I should, if I am open to change and growth with God’s help.
That is my choice, so that is what I choose.