- Family and Parenting
Like Father Like Daughter: The Challenges of Being a Girl Raised By Dad
From the day I was born until I was seven years old I was raised mostly by my mother. Then, my sister and I, who were three and seven respectively, were uprooted and went to live with our dad in a totally different state. For about eleven years I lived with my father and my sister. I'm not saying it was terrible or anything, but growing up with a man through your teen years? Not exactly a cake walk.
Puberty for me was a weird time. I remember a specifically hilarious moment when my dad discovered I needed to start wearing deodorant. He took this stage in my life like any dad would: whatever you need you got it. Bras? Done. Pads? Here's some money. Eating everything in the house? I thought I was safe from being eaten out of house and home!
It was a very funny time because I am the oldest and therefore the first one to go through the changes. My dad was probably as uncomfortable as I always felt. The one thing I can be thankful for is that he never gave me the sex talk. One thing a teen girl never wants to hear is her dad talking about how babies are made and being safe. Again, very thankful.
So yes, my dad had those bases covered. Acne treatments, new jeans every five days because I was growing so insanely fast, new shoes, bras, even one horribly embarrassing moment where I got my period. (Thankfully my mom was there too since we were visiting her).
The biggest struggle was the emotional changes. Teens are usually very moody during puberty, but my dad wouldn't have any of it. We weren't a family that really talked. I never mentioned boys I liked or talked about what I was really thinking or feeling. The main reason being it was awkward to talk to your dad about those kinds of things, but also he would poke and make fun at any show of emotions that was anything other than happy. My dad's main concerns for eleven years of my life were: good grades and keeping the house cleaned.
Not to say that my dad didn't try to talk to me about stuff. By the time he did though, I was more reserved about my thoughts and feelings than when I was younger. When he asked about boys, friends, or how I was feeling (on the days I couldn't help but being moody outwardly), I shrugged him off most of the time. There was always, and still is, a huge disconnect there that doesn't exist between my mom and me. When I talk I like to know I'm being listened to. Otherwise, I feel like I'm just talking to the air, which is no help when I have a problem. So my dad's tendencies to drift off in a conversation were less than desirable.
The thing about growing up is you have to make mistakes. You need to explore yourself and learn. The thing about parenting is that you want your kids to avoid stupid mistakes you can see from a mile away. This caused a connection issue between us because I hated being treated like a kid (sound familiar?) and he didn't want to be disrespected and see me make stupid mistakes. Even after graduating high school a year ago, my dad wanted to sail my ship for me. Since I was in middle school my dad had a general blueprint of my life ready for me. I, on the other hand, wanted to explore myself in a way I couldn't before.
At eighteen I moved away to live with my mom instead of attend college. This was probably the biggest shock to my family since I've been seen as the good one all these years. After eleven years you tire of a stuffy atmosphere with no room to explore yourself. I've lived here with my mom and have discovered a passion for traveling and being busy that I never experienced before. I got two jobs the second week I was here, dropping the second due to conflict in schedules, learned to loosen up and express my opinion in a way I couldn't before. My mom has taught me how to make big decisions mostly on my own rather than relying on someone to tell me.
I've made plenty of mistakes and have learned a lot about myself.
This is not to be seen as an article of my complaints about my dad. He did the best he could with what he had, and I definitely could have done more to really make things more open. My sister, for example, doesn't hold back from my dad and is able to get a lot more from the relationship than I did (though it's still only stuff money can buy).
I don't regret my decision to leave at all though. I'm here writing articles and running a blog because of a tough decision I made a year ago. As much as I miss them, the need to find myself and show my dad that I can be an adult without his guidance overpowers that for the time being. Every day I am learning more about who I am as a person. I've been able to explore my talents and personality in an open atmosphere.
So yes, growing up with just dad in the teen years is frustrating beyond belief at times, but as long as you find yourself in the end, it is worthwhile. Life is a learning experience. Take the lessons from trials and then move on. Stay positive.
A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.— George Bernard Shaw