I’m three years old, and I’m holding your hand as we walk towards a baseball field. I feel safe when you hold my hand. I feel safe when I’m in your arms. I wish you’d hold me more. I wish you’d play with me more. I wish you were home more. My world is so small for now, but I know I love you.
I often wonder what you thought about when you and mom planned to have me. Did you think of my first steps? Or perhaps my first word? Or maybe you pictured the same blue eyes you have looking back up at you. Did you ever think that things would be the way they are today?
I’m six years old, and I’m putting on my shoes. I’m turning the egg timer as far as it can go then watching the minutes go by. I re-pack my bag for the fifth time. I ask mom where you are for the tenth time. I count the cars as they go by. I’m waiting for you to pick me up, but you don’t pick me up this time. There’s lots of times you don’t pick me up. I still love you.
I didn’t know then what I know now. Like how you were struggling with addiction and your own inner demons. Still, the pain of you forgetting about me or making an excuse to not see me hurt so badly. I loved spending time with you. Any shred of attention from you, any sign of affection or love, just being with you was enough for me.
I’m nine years old, and I’m feel so lonely. You still aren’t home even with a new wife and new children. I’m an outsider no matter how much I try to be a part of your new life. I don’t come first, second, or third. I come last in your life, but that’s okay. I just want a place in your heart. I still love you.
I was never angry that you remarried. I knew you and mom were better separate even at nine years old. However, my weekends were to spend with you, and instead it felt like a sleepover with kind strangers. I don’t know if making money was more important or if you felt like I didn’t need you around, but I did need you.
I’m thirteen years old, and I’m crying so hard I can’t breathe. You tell me I’m not your daughter, that I’m jealous of your new-new wife, that I am worthless. It hurts so much. A part of me believes you, but I also know that you’re wrong. I just needed you to listen to me. I needed you to believe me. I needed you to be there for me. I have to put up this wall between us now, because I still love you.
My next step mom wasn’t as kind as the first. I tried to tell you about her constant bullying and abuse. This moment of coming to you and telling you what she was doing to me scared me into never coming to you again for fear of having to hear you say those awful things about me again. It also made me second-guess myself, that maybe it was my fault, but I learned that no one ever deserves to be bullied or abused.
I’m sixteen years old, and I’m broken. I’m looking for love in all the wrong places. You taught me to hang onto the smallest affection thrown my way. You taught me that I don’t have to feel safe or loved in a relationship. You taught me that anyone I love can treat me however they want, because I still love you.
Despite being taught these lessons, I still don’t blame you. This isn’t some kind of blame game though I think you’d like to tell me it is. I was looking for someone to make me whole. You can’t make me whole. Relationships can’t make me whole. I didn’t realize that no one could make me whole but me.
I’m twenty years old, and I’m leaving an abusive relationship. He was like you in so many ways. I had hoped he could fix me. I had hoped he could fill the hole in my heart, but he couldn’t. I finally stopped loving him after five long years. I realized so much after leaving him: I don’t have to hurt so much; I don’t deserve to be treated so badly. I deserve to be loved, but I still love you.
My abusive relationship is not your fault. I think you feel some guilt after learning about the abuse I went through, like somehow you could have prevented it. The relationship taught me a lifetime of lessons that will never be forgotten. I came out stronger in the end, and I’m at peace with that.
I’m twenty-three years old, and I’m sitting on your porch with your new-new-new wife. I think our relationship has improved. You’re nicer, happier. I think. I gush about my fiance and our future wedding. I ask you to walk me down the aisle. Isn’t that what every little girl dreams of? You say no. My heart broke again. That’s what I get for letting you in, but I still love you.
I had truly thought that with your third marriage and with my youngest sibling and I becoming so close, that our relationship had improved despite me feeling that I was constantly walking on eggshells around you, afraid to have what little of what resembled a relationship ripped away from me. You shut me down so fast when I asked you to walk me down the aisle that my head spun. I felt like an outsider all over again in your new family.
I’m twenty-five, and I’m asking you to please dance with me at my wedding. You say yes. I pick our song. I call the DJ. I want it to be perfect, because we’ll finally have a father-daughter moment that every little girl dreams of… that I dreamed of. You leave the wedding after I say my vows, never reaching out afterwards or apologizing, just ignoring me completely. When will I learn that just because I still love you, you don’t know how to love me?
After everything I’ve been through with you, I had still held on to hope that we’d have a normal father-daughter relationship. You leaving after my vows and before our dance did not ruin my wedding day. It just taught me not to keep letting you in and to stop begging to have a relationship with you. You don’t know how to love me, and until you show me differently, I will keep my heart safe and my walls up.
This post was first seen on Normal Happenings.