When I was younger, I tried to hide from people the fact that my Dad wasn’t my ‘real’ Dad. Isn’t that just about the worst phrase by the way? Not real, seems to indicate; not true, not valid, not whole.
School friends of mine were kept deliberately in the dark. I didn’t want my Dad to seem lesser than theirs. And I’m ashamed now to say that I felt ashamed back then. It’s a common theme which emerges in conversations with friends who’ve been in similar situations.
My Dad came into my life when I was only two years old, after my Mam had been left in the lurch by my biological father (he who we politely call ‘the sperm donor’) when she was 19 years old.
It seems bizarre now, but it took me up until I was about 25 before I started to tell people that my Dad had not been in my life since day one. I suddenly wasn’t in the slightest embarrassed about it. It wasn’t a snap decision, but a dawning realisation that rather than being covert about it, I should be shouting it from the rooftops.
This absolute legend of a man didn’t have me landed on him by genetics – he actually chose to love me. This was despite the fact that from what I hear I was pretty mean to him when he first came into our lives!
What is even more wonderful is that when he and my Mum split up when I was 8, he chose, yet again, to keep me. Because I was his. There was never a time where he picked my brother up for the weekend and left me behind. In fact he has never for any minute given me reason to think that he views me and my brother (who is genetically his) any differently. In fact I have a sneaking suspicion that he prefers me. Ha!
Becoming a parent myself has made me appreciate what Dad has done for me even more. Because as much as I try to convince myself, I don’t know that I have the same capacity for love within me. Could I really truly love a child I didn’t produce as much as one that I did?
The initial rejection from my biological father affected me more deeply than I ever admitted. And would you believe that the person I could turn to when I needed to talk about that was my Dad. When I was about 20, my biological father made contact with me and asked to meet up. Although I wanted to get to know him, I was riddled with guilt about how my Dad might feel.
If Dad felt any sadness, he hid it well. Because that’s what we do for our children, don’t we? We put their needs ahead of our own. He actively encouraged me to explore the issue. To find the answers I thought I needed. And when it didn’t work out and I felt rejected by my biological father all over again, guess who was there to pick up the pieces?
What a gift my Dad has given me.
Unconditional love, unconditional fun, unconditional support. Every day.
Seeing Dad with my kids is one of the biggest joys in my life. There is no question in my mind that he is the one who deserves this relationship – their love and their dependence on him. The idea that our relationship would be more valid if he shared my DNA just seems ludicrous. Dad is so soft with my kids. Free and easy with the ‘I love you’s’ and the ‘I’m proud of you’s’. We couldn’t ask for anything more
Thank you Dad. There’s nobody in my life more ‘real’ than you.
Sarah Hughes blogs at www.thegoodthingisthough.co.uk – a platform focussed on optimism, hope and finding the positives in the shit-storm of everyday life!