I can remember for the longest just yearning to be “daddy’s little girl” because I’ve never had that feeling before…and still don’t know what that feeling is like. Instead I was in fear of him for majority of my life. The biggest fear was judgment and not being enough to him in his eyes.
“Who are you really trying to impress? Him or your father?”
I can remember when I was younger being a sports fanatic. Well, only with basketball. I wasn’t the best, but I could out run you any day on the court, LOL. When I was in the third grade, I was on my first team ever for a local community center. And I thought I was big time because it was a co-ed team and there were only two girls on the team, a longtime classmate, Arienna and myself. I felt as if I could keep up with the guys and that boosted my head up just a tad bit. My dad was at all of my games and practices. He was my biggest cheerleader. I admired his attention at the time more than the love of the game itself, it was what I thrived off of because I had his undivided attention. My father also wasn’t much of a talker when it came to my own personal interests. You know when you have something you really want to talk about in depth with someone and your mouth is running faster than your mind? Yeah, that was I most of my childhood. But, have you ever had someone not take an interest in what you were saying when you were so excited and you just completely shut down? Yeah, that was me too most of my childhood with my parents. So it made sense for me to keep playing basketball to keep the interest and attention of my father. From this I made an agreement in my head that whatever I chose to do, say, or feel had to please them in order to feel that feeling of “daddy’s little girl”. If I didn’t attain that feeling then I was hard on myself and thinking I have to make my next move into something they want.
This is something that is pivotal for all children. They say at such a young age children are so impressionable, I agree. But, we also don’t always recognize the fact that children are always trying to do what they think is right to please you and this is all based off ones (the adults) reactions. As many of you know I am an elementary school teacher in South Memphis. Many of my students come in “mini-adults” already and they think the know everything! (And sometimes they think they know too much and I respectfully have to put them in their place, lol.) But, one thing all these children have in common is that they love to get the positive reactions and reinforcements of the teacher. They want to do what’s right so they can be the helper, the star student, just to receive the praise. This has been a lesson for me because I have had to be so conscious about how I respond to my student’s “best” or their “personal gratification” when they are doing something that makes them proud and maybe not necessarily myself. Have I always executed this correctly? No. But I learned from it quickly when I see a student’s whole entire face change when they don’t get the response intended from myself or any adult in the building when they put their all into something. Something as simple as making you a paper, MVP ring for being best teacher, or wanting to be recognized because they raised their hand instead of shouting out answers.
Anyways, fast forward, I ended up playing basketball all of the way up until 8th grade. I started to feel the lack of interest in the sport because I knew I was doing it out of appeasement for my father. Then I discovered volleyball and everything changed for me. I knew what true passion and love felt like. There was not a day, not a minute where you didn’t see me practicing and putting my all into this sport. I decided to drop basketball and make this my passion. I knew what happiness was once I stepped onto that court. But, that’s also when I noticed the interest level of my father go from 100 to 0, real quick.
Since I noticed the level of disinterest go down, I was trying to do everything in my power to impress him in almost all aspects in my life. I would adopt his favor color, his favorite food would become my favorite food, I even would watch boring football games with him sometimes and act as if I was interested. Don’t get me wrong, I like football, but not enough to watch it regularly.
I still didn’t feel like I was getting the desired attention, so I would seek it elsewhere in guys I dated. I’ve made some horrible decisions in the past when it came to picking men, but I felt complete satisfaction from the attention I was getting from them when I needed it. And when I didn’t get it, I was so hard on myself I started asking myself questions that no young women should even have to worry about. “What is wrong with me? How can I keep his attention? I wonder if I change my hair, clothes, body, would that make things better? If I did what he wanted would that make things better?” I quickly realized around the age of 18-19 I was living a lie. I wasn’t being true to myself, instead I was trying to be what others wanted me to be, especially in relationships. And I realized I officially had “daddy issues”. I was feeding my soul this concept of me not being enough and believing it. Worst of all, I was complacent with it.
I can remember my last serious relationship having lots of turbulence and drama. So bad to the point I felt such low self-esteem, not a lot of self-worth and nothing to offer. If there was any moment in life where I needed to be “daddy’s little girl”, it was now. I was so confused and lost I decided to try and talk to my father about it. I walked into his office, sat in his guest chair across from him ready to talk. “Daddy, I really want to talk to you about something going on with myself and ****, I’m confused.” His response was he didn’t want to hear anything and be involved in the drama. I don’t physically know what a ton of bricks feel like falling on you, but in that moment I felt something pretty close to it. The first time I felt vulnerable enough to talk to him I was completely shut down. I felt like my thoughts and words didn’t matter, so I kept them to myself. Hell, at this point in time I definitely felt like I couldn’t even tell him how I was sexually abused at a young age. I was scared to open up. Not just with him, but also with friends, family members, whomever. I felt judged. I felt ashamed. I felt like I didn’t have a voice considering my own parentals weren’t even trying to listen to me.
Accept What You Can’t Change
As time went on, I went through life feeling whatever I had to say was not of any value. I started to over-think what I wanted to say, how I wanted to say it, how the other person(s) would receive it. I ultimately had made an agreement with myself to lock away the most precious thing anyone can offer to this world, his or her voice. I became prisoner to my insecurities based off of what happened to me in the past. I can recall for the longest using the cover up of “I don’t like conflict” or “I really only speak up when I really need to”. The real truth though was that I just became afraid and hesitant of my own thoughts, my own voice.
But, it also started to affect me in another way as well. I started to become defensive, even at/to the smallest things. If I did muster up the courage to say something and I felt like you weren’t seeing where I was coming I got defensive. When I felt like you were “coming for me” in a manner I didn’t like, even if there was no ill will behind it, I would become offended and that turned into me being defensive. I remember a best friend I had in high school and she was mad at me for something (I can’t remember, it was soooo long ago) and I felt there was no reason for her to be mad so instead of working it out I became offended and defensive. Eventually we ended up talking about it and it got nowhere because I was so busy trying to defend the fact that her reasoning for being mad was stupid. This festering defense inside of me was severely affecting my actions, and at that moment my relationships. I was still young at the moment and didn’t realize it quite yet, but as time went on I always think back on that moment as a reminder to myself of how I refuse to let my actions be overcome by my past.
It was this very lesson that led me to try and understand my father rather than be mad at him or resent him deep down inside. Long story short, I came to realize that he never really had anyone to talk to growing up. His father was absent from his life, he grew up in a household of 6+ siblings in one of the roughest neighborhoods in Chicago. Needless to say, I kind of put the pieces of the puzzle together and realized he didn’t really know how to be very expressive with his emotions so he was probably nervous of what I had to say to him when I was in high school. He probably was nervous on how to respond. I truly believe that in my heart.
The ultimate test of forgiveness, so to speak, came this year from my mentor, Tom. He knew about my internal struggles regarding my relationship with my father and he told me to write him a letter. The letter would not be meant for him to see, but rather a release for me to say the things I have always wanted to say to him. He said, “This will be the first step in changing your life.” I wrote the letter. I wept intensely from start to finish. I also felt this burden lift from my heart. I was still living a life trying to impress daddy and be “daddy’s little girl”. Well, truth is I’m grown. I can and will make my own decisions and choose to accept what I let affect my path in life to become who I am destined to be. I love my father with all my heart, but I love me the most to make everyday better into stepping and discovering my higher self.
Through all the lessons I’ve learned in life from my adolescence to now, I’d say the most impactful one we all must adopt is accept what you cannot change. I had to stop and check myself because it is not my job to judge my father or his actions. Nor is it any of our jobs to do that towards anyone.
Rather it is only suitable for us to love them right where they are.