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    What Am I Missing: Lessons Learned Without A Father

    Many of us grew up in the care of grandparents, aunts, uncles, foster families, friends, single mothers, and queer parents but that doesn’t mean we need anyone else or are missing out on life-lessons. I think that we turned out pretty ok.

    I was recently scrolling through Facebook and came across an article titled, “Six Reasons a Girl Needs her Dad.”

    As a woman whose father was absent most of her life, I felt this sudden pang of sadness and angered confusion. Am I less of a person, let alone a woman, because I did not have a father there to teach me lessons only a father could? My heart raced as I clicked open the article to find the answer to a question that had subliminally haunted me since my own father left a few years back.

    My eyes settled on the opening paragraph and I began to read.

    The article spoke of how mothers are nurturing and caring, but a father can do all of that and more. I was once again greeted by confusion and wonder. Really, what AM I missing? I thought to myself, fingers flicking my mousepad and eyes eagerly searching for a simple answer. Is it something I can fix? Is it something biological? Is there something wrong with my family and how we live our life?

    I continued reading, eager for an answer.

    And then, I came across the 6 reasons.

    -He teaches her how to play sports

    -He teaches her to drive

    -He lets you get away with things

    -He teaches you how to build stuff

    -He helps you be a little taller and strong than usual

    -He shows you how a man should treat you

    I stopped. I took a breath. I took a sip of water.

    I couldn’t tell if I was more relieved that I could do these things without a father or angered that someone was unknowingly perpetuating a stereotype that girls and women cannot do these things without male guidance.

    For anyone who did not have a father growing up because of divorce, death, work, or the sexuality of our parents, we know all too well the stereotyped treatment that is associated with being a fatherless child. It usually starts off with a look of pity and it ends with the person offering up their husband, boyfriend, brother, or all-too masculine self to help with building, lifting heavy things, or being an overall protector.

    I love my family and I would not trade our love for the world, but, when I see articles saying that I need a father to make my life and family complete, it feels like a punch in the gut. I begin to question myself and what I thought I believed. I thought I had been raised well, but apparently there are lessons only a father can teach. I thought my mom did a good job of teaching me to be strong and eloquent, but apparently my father is the only one who can be strong. I thought that my family was normal, but apparently society thinks otherwise.

    What am I missing?

    I want to scream.

    All of my life, it has been as if I was on the wrong side of a gate, guarded by the superstition that families are only ‘normal’ if there is a father, and moreover, a father who knows how to do everything stereotypically masculine like barbequing, working out, and building things as he sips his ice-cold beer.

    The implied generalization that all girls need their fathers to teach them these ‘lessons’ was really mind-boggling to me because when I reflected on my life, I was taught the same values by and participated in the same activities with a multitude of people in my life.

    My aunt taught me to play sports in her backyard, my grandpa taught me to drive down his dead-end street, my mom let me get away with things like eating ice cream for breakfast, my brother taught me how to build stuff when we moved and got Ikea furniture, and my teachers helped me be a little taller and stronger than usual when I felt like an outcast at school.

    But, I think that the last item, needing a father to provide you with your own definition of self-worth, was probably the most upsetting.

    It is an undeniable fact that we learn how to act in relationships through observing how people treat us and others, but that does not mean that it teaches us how to love and respect ourselves.

    A person could have the most loving relationships in the world, but still battle with self-image, self-esteem, and self-worth regularly. This is because our self-worth is something that we develop from within by practicing self-care and gratitude. There are no set rules that someone can pass down to you because how we value ourselves is so unique and individualized. We learn to accept ourselves for our own limitations and praise ourselves for our strengths. Depending on others to define our value makes us weaker because only we can determine what we are worth to ourselves; an inside out process, not an outside in.

    So, you tell me…

    Do we need fathers?


    Do we need role-models to teach us to be strong, brave, gentle, and loving to ourselves and others?

    Many of us grew up in the care of grandparents, aunts, uncles, foster families, friends, single mothers, and queer parents but that doesn’t mean we need anyone else or are missing out on life-lessons. I think that we turned out pretty ok.

    As my anxious fingers came to a slow and I concluded the reading, that longing feeling of what am I missing started to flicker because I knew that I was missing…nothing at all.