Endless Strength Header

 photo blogheader-2.jpg

March 2, 2011

Always His Little Girl

A few years ago (when Helen was a baby) I began having serious reflections surrounding my relationship with my parents, my feelings about their divorce, the way I grew up and what that meant for my family. 

It's a solid statistic that most kids who grew up with divorced parents, end up in a divorce themselves.  I had become aware of that.  It was something I didn't want to face.  It was much like what I'd heard about victims of abuse.  Abuse perpetuates abuse.  Divorce perpetuates divorce.

I wasn't contemplating a divorce by any means.  However, I began paying a lot of attention to my own interactions with my children and with my husband.  I was attempting to comprehend this idea that so many people come to the conclusion that ending marriage is a good idea.

One of the catapults into this contemplation on my life was my daughter Dani and her relationship with her dad.  Dani and her dad are very close.  Even now, while Dani will tell me that she loves me, she ALWAYS prefers her dad to take her to a practice or to her games.  When we "pair up" kids for outings in different places, Dani ALWAYS chooses...and usually gets to go with...her dad.  She looks at him with stars in her eyes.  Really.

I am a "Daddy's Girl".  I say that, but for some reason, that doesn't even sound close to how I feel about my dad.  I think I probably look at him with stars in my eyes, too.  I literally have memories including my mother that I can count on ONE hand before the divorce.  Sure, I knew she was always around (she was a stay-at-home mom) but I remember the same recurring fights, and I remember a couple of traumatic instances from age 3-8 that include my mother...but everything else involves my dad.

Watching Dani with her dad reminded me of this relationship I had with my dad before he left.  I have memories...
  • there is the day he told me he was color-blind and I asked him how he knew which light meant "stop" and which light meant "go" on the traffic lights.  I was probably four or five.  He explained that he really disliked it when the stoplights were hung horizontally because that made things a bit more difficult for him. 
  • I also remember when I accompanied him to the barber shop on base and afterward, he got me an ice cream cone and told me that I shouldn't talk about it when we got home. 
  • Another thing I remember is holding his hand walking somewhere and trying to come loose because I thought I was big enough to get to walk on my own (probably age 5 or 6) and he let me for a short while. 
Most of my memories of my father are just being with him...not an event, or special time specifically.  Tickling.  Laughing.  Teasing.

My memories, though, are dominated by my feelings.  My dad was EVERYTHING to me.  I remember being sad when he wasn't at home when I was little and he would go to work or to school.  I remember the elation at his arrival home every night.  We played the game "Concentration" when I was very small.  "Concentration" is what we called the game "Memory" and it was played with a deck of playing cards (you collected pairs as you turned over the cards).  I was really good at this game for a little kid...or at least I felt like I was and my dad thought I was and I beat my older brother once in a while.  I remember always feeling happy because I could impress my dad.  His approval was my addiction.

One summer night, when my dad had finished law school and was studying for the bar exam.  It was hot.  We didn't have air conditioning.  I wasn't sleeping very soundly, but it was late and I was in and out of sleep.  My dad came into our room (I shared with my sister) to say good night, even though we had been in bed quite a while.  I heard him go to my sister's bed and tell her that he loved her and good night.  He made his way over to my bed and I was feigning sleep.  Did he know?  Probably.  Because he talked a little more to me.  But I'll never forget the words he said, "Michelle, Daddy loves you.  You will always be my little girl.  Good night."  And he kissed my cheek.

You will always be my little girl.

He has said this to me numerous times in my life. 

My father has four girls of his seven children.  And maybe he hasn't had to remind his other daughters of this as much as he has felt the need to remind me.  But even today, when I am 37 years old and a mother of five, I wouldn't be shocked to hear him tell me this.

Words are sometimes a double-edged sword.

You will always be my little girl
The words always made me feel good to hear him say them.  I always did and will want to be his little girl
You will always be my little girl.
The words made the abandonment when I was 8 years old more difficult to process.  How was I still his little girl when he wasn't in my day-to-day life anymore? 

6 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing your story. I love all your memories. It's amazing just how badly children want their parents approval and admiration.

    I've often felt that cloud of doom over my own head, dreading that I will somehow repeat the mistakes my parents made, despite my best efforts.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This Dad is one in a million.

    ReplyDelete
  3. My husband tends to call me a daddy's girl, but I truly don't feel I favored one parent more than the other. I gravitate more toward my dad, especially as an adult, but that's because I grew to like the same things he did. My mom sews, I can't keep a button on. My mom shops, and I detest looking at more than 3 racks most times. My mom talks a lot and I get tired after ten minutes.

    I like hearing how you watch and analyze your children's relationships with you and their dad. It makes me watch my kiddos more closely too. Savor the moments, the differences, and the similarities.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Michelle, I saw your comment over at Allison's blog and had to come "meet" you. Seems like we have a lot in common (we both work full time, both have 4 kids, and both are pregnant with the fifth!) What a cool small Catholic world :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. I have no words. Well, I guess I do have words since I'm typing, but I know that they are far from appropriate. This is heartbreaking, and you are beautiful.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I started to read this the other day at work and had to stop because the tears were coming.

    And as I sit here, reading the whole thing at home, the tears are coming, unstoppable.

    I know this life. I am the Daddy's little girl who wonders why he left. Even at 31, it still hurts. Every. single. day. Maybe not all day. Maybe not consciously. But every day.

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for reading. I enjoy reading other perspectives, please feel free to share yours. :)