Collateral damage

She stared straight into my eyes, the tears flowing freely from hers.

The round cheeks, slightly protruding forehead and elf like ears made for a very cute picture. However the look in her eyes was far from babyish. As she poured out her heart, it was all I could do not to grab her in a tight cuddle. But I had to let her be, and respect the gravity of her very grown up feelings. 

In my experience the parenting role comes with a strong desire to protect my children from the tough things of this world. Of course I know that no one can actually stop everything bad that may affect their children. But I can at least foster a sense of us against the world, make them feel I have their backs. Even on those bleak days that I am merely going through the motions of prayer, it is unlikely that I will omit the invocation of God’s protection over them.

Now Baby daughter and I were sitting on my bed, both our hearts breaking with sorrow. Her pain was from the shock of a father who had decided to ghost her. Mine was from being the cause of the mess that we both found ourselves in.

“Mummy just tell me, what is wrong with me? Why doesn’t he like me?!” she cried.

What was I going to say that would make sense to an eight year old? Would I give vent to the anger I felt whenever someone hurt my child? Would I bite my tongue and remember to honour her parent no matter what? Somehow I had to figure out a way to validate her feelings while not making her father the villain of the story.

To complicate matters further, for a long time the little girl had seen her father as a hapless victim of circumstances and me the tough cookie who kept him away.  Whether it was to her class teacher, a youth pastor at church or the friendly couple next door, Baby daughter had expressed sadness that mummy would not let her have time with daddy.

It was hard to defend myself against this perception and I could understand why she believed the problem was me. The handful of times they had met were intensely exciting.  Like many so-called Disney dads he would never be available to do the heavy lifting of day-to-day parenting. He was more like this fun uncle you saw once in a while, treating you to Café Javas and toys from the supermarket when he visited.  Baby daughter thought he was just lovely and she had no clue that I had to come up with all sorts of strategies to keep them in touch.

But now she was older.  She had had many sleepovers at her best friend’s home and seen what a present father was like. Even the friends in the neighbourhood whose father did not live with them were assured of hearing his car horn at the gate several times a week.  

Before, I could explain that daddy ran a very busy enterprise, that his living in a far-away town and constant travel made it hard to nail down dates for physical meetings. But when he stopped taking her calls or responding to her heartfelt messages and my overtures on her behalf were rebuffed, Baby daughter had to face the cold hard reality that her father was not interested in a relationship with her.   

Her eyes flashing with anger and sorrow, she now searched mine for an answer that would explain what she needed to do to gain her father’s interest. I held back my own tears. She had stopped speaking. I opened my arms. She stiffened, resisting my hug. When she started to sob again and fell into my embrace, I rocked her, letting her pain melt into me.

“I am so sorry baby,” I said. “This is so unfair.”

To me, Baby daughter was a gift that I am yet to get over. After nine months of bed rest with huge fibroids trying to force her out, I will never forget what if felt like to finally hold her in my arms. Watching her personality bloom is an exquisite pleasure and I have always told her so. I was not going to let her self-worth and confidence be smashed by this.

We faced the truth together. She did not deserve to be treated this way. When she said she wished I had not chosen a father who did not want to be her daddy, I winced. Then I nodded.

“I am sorry,” I said.

And I truly was. My choices had led to this, and even though I accepted and continued to suffer the consequences of entering a relationship with someone I should not have, an innocent child had become the collateral damage of my selfish and wrong decision. Because I have accepted God’s grace, I am no longer burdened with shame about this. However, one of the consequences is that I have to stay alert for and head off any daddy issues that may affect my daughter. This is something we are both going to grapple with for a long time.

It is said that a father lays the foundation for his daughter’s self-esteem and sets the standard for how the men she allows into her life are required to treat her. My father was a great dad and I have found this to hold true in my case. This foundation of affirming love is what has helped me to walk away from toxic relationships, friendships, work places.

Times like this keep me grateful for the relationship I have with God, the ultimate Father. If healthy paternal models lead to daughters who are hardwired to see love as unconditional rather than transactional, then what relationship can be better than that with a Father as good as God. Not even my own exceptional dad could avoid withdrawing when I did something to disappoint him or make him look bad. He was human.

As it stands now, none of my daughters has a dad, not even the one whose father is alive and well. As their mother, I cannot fill this void. Thank goodness, I do not have to.

Psalm 68:5 describes God as the Father of the fatherless. I believe that God’s fatherhood does not merely fill the void left by a fatherless life, it transcends it. Every good thing comes from Him, and he supplies our needs according to his riches in glory not according to earthly standards. Even I who experienced a good earthly father cannot compare that to the security I feel in the unfathomable inexplicable love of God.

My prayer is that in my role as a mother, I will guide my fatherless children to continually seek and bask in the love of their Heavenly Father.

One thought on “Collateral damage

  1. This right here… I am not a single mom, yet your writing transcends that experience alone. I have been in this moment with my daughter for different reasons. We are both writers, you & I, yet we both know that there are those moments when there is no turn of phrase… When we feel inadequate in ourselves to address or heal the pain that fights to drown our daughters. As you so beautifully stated, we thank God, that because of Him, we do not have to. As long as we remember that… Love your writing, sister… You should tag to a wider audience. You have something to say… Much love.

    Liked by 1 person

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