Someone once said to me “Any man can be a father but it takes a special man to be a dad”. A deep and meaningful observation which struck me as particularly poignant because I have had two fathers but I have never had a dad. My biological father walked out on my sister and I when she was a newborn and I was a toddler. Mum struggled to cope with us on her own and eventually met the man who later became my stepfather. My father visited us occasionally and sometimes we would stay at the house he shared with his new girlfriend, however, he was away every weekend racing cars so we were always left with this strange woman who didn’t like us and resented having us there. Visits were strained when mums’ new man was around, so my father, encouraged by his girlfriend, decided to move to Australia and make a new life. They later got married and he fathered two more daughters. Ironic? Probably.
While my sister and I struggled to comprehend why our father would go and live on the other side of the world from us, my mum and her new boyfriend were making plans to get married. This was mainly a financial decision, pushed along by the discovery that she was expecting our brother. I remember being unimpressed by this news and resisted any attempts to involve me in the wedding plans. Back in the seventies, on the rough council estate where we grew up, if your surname was different to that of your mum you were singled out for special treatment which involved being called a bastard at every opportunity. Confused, I asked my mum what this meant and was even more puzzled when she said it was a name for someone who didn’t have a father. This made no sense to me at all as I had two!! My awkward questions prompted some heated discussions between mum and her husband to be, after which my sister and I were sat down and asked if we would like to change our surname to that of our stepfather so that we all had the same name. We were both horrified at this suggestion, neither of us had any warm and fuzzy feelings towards him and we certainly didn’t want to share his surname. I never knew how my stepfather felt about our decision and to be honest, I didn’t really care!
My little brother was born and my mum was over the moon to have a son. He was her beautiful blue-eyed boy, a symbol of her rising from the ashes of her terrible ordeal and making a new life for herself. She enjoyed her status as a newly married, respectable woman with a baby. She lavished love and attention on our brother (he was nicknamed The Golden One from an early age) but my sister and I loved him dearly too. He was not an easy child. If he had been born later he would possibly have been diagnosed with with an Attention Deficit disorder and, in the absence of love or respect in their relationship, mum and Clive’s marriage collapsed. They probably should have parted ways back then but they stayed together for the sake of their son, not wanting to cause him any unnecessary pain. This was discussed openly with my sister and I which, as you can imagine was a bit of a kick in the teeth for us but we had learned to be resilient. Eventually they separated years later, after my brother left home and my stepfather had been diagnosed with a terminal illness. It might sound callous but after receiving counselling, where I discovered that I could allow myself to be angry about the way I was treated as a child, I have not wasted a single moment thinking about either of my “fathers”. I see my biological father once in a blue moon, if he decides to appear on my doorstep but I don’t seek him out. I have set myself free from them both.
I never really felt that I’d had a remarkable childhood until I met my husband. After our first date I knew that he was The One. It really did hit me like a bolt of lightening. He was the man I wanted to share my life with and I told my family this, much to their chagrin. I had not long come out of a long term relationship and they naturally assumed I was rebounding but I knew my own mind. When I met Vern’s family I was amazed at how close they all were. I was welcomed into the fold immediately, they were warm, genuine and lovely and I was so happy. We had only been together about six months when I fell pregnant with our daughter. It was a bit of a shock and tested our relationship but once we got our heads around it we were excited. We were already engaged so we decided to get married once the baby was born. The birth was traumatic and I was quite unwell afterwards so Vern had to help out quite a bit. This meant that he developed a special bond with her which was so beautiful to witness. I marvelled at his patience as she cried night after night. He would lie on the sofa with her nestled into the crook of his arm, singing softly to her as she screamed relentlessly. I would often come downstairs to find them both crashed out, exhausted after the long night. Our three children had a positive and loving childhood, sure there were trying times, especially during the teenage years but their dad was the rock who anchored us all to the bottom of the sea. The complete antithesis to my fathers, he is loved and cherished by them all and has passed on to them his generosity, his wacky sense of humour and his strong work ethic, all of which has turned them into fine young adults. I hope that I have been a good mum, however, my childhood experiences mean that I always hold a little bit back. I overthink every cross word, every difficult decision. I lack the warmth which comes naturally to some people but I try my best to let my children know I love them at every opportunity. I hope they realise that I do. Best of all, now our son is a dad to our grandson, I see the same paternal qualities in him. He is a patient, hands-on dad and his baby son adores him. It is heartwarming to watch them together.
So the point I’m trying to make is that just because you don’t have great parental role models doesn’t mean you won’t be a brilliant mum or dad, but it certainly helps! Happy Fathers Day to all the wonderful dads out there, you are amazing.
Thanks for reading. xx