By Jess McGuire
People always talk about the teenage years in such a delicate way. In some ways, excuses are made for us because of the challenges we face during those years. Not only do we have to cope with our bodies changing and the influx of hormones that sometimes send us mad, but we also have to make some pretty big decisions. We have to decide where we want to go to university, what we want to study, if we want to move away from home. Those are not easy decisions to make, and each of them have their own potential benefits (but also crippling consequences); we don’t always understand the weight of our own decisions, especially not at that age.
My parents separated when I was 11 years old. After that, my life just seemed like a never-ending series of highs and lows. Every time something good happened, it was mirrored by something worse. I became a teenager and had a year of school trips to Paris and Holland, which were amazing. It was closely followed by the death of my best friend. I later passed all my exams with flying colours, only to be told not long after that my grandad had dementia. I was accepted into what I thought was the university of my dreams, only to find out that it was a far cry from anything I’d ever expected, which eventually drove me back home. I graduated university with a first class degree, which was closely followed by six months of unemployment and a bout of depression.
During these years, my father was pretty absent. He lived a five minute drive away, but he might as well have lived on the other side of the world. As easy as it would have been for him to drop down and pick me up for a day out or evening celebration, he never did. As easy as it would have been for him to come to my door and ask if there was anything I needed or just to give me a hug, he never did. As easy as it would have been for him to accompany me on a shopping trip to pick up things for my new flat and talk to me about how I felt about moving out, he never did. As easy as it would have been for him to just say ‘if you need anything, you know where I am,’ he never did.
He’s had the easier job as a parent. He didn’t have to take me to school every day and pick me up. He didn’t have to make packed lunches every day and do my washing. He didn’t have to beg me to tidy my room or look after me when I was poorly. He didn’t have to break disappointing news to me or punish me when I’d done something wrong. He didn’t have to sit and wipe my tears away when my best friend took her own life. He didn’t have to pick me up late at night when I fell out with my boyfriend and wanted desperately to go home. He missed out on all of those day-to-day struggles.
And yet, now the most I get from him is a text saying ‘any news?’
Maybe it’s just the type of person I am, but I still believe that actions speak louder than words and I have so many issues with this technological age. For a parent to think that a bi-monthly text equates to supporting and loving your child is unacceptable when they live within walking distance. When I graduated, he never asked if he could attend or if there was anything I wanted to do to celebrate. When the time came he didn’t even remember when it was so I received a belated card from Moonpig saying ‘well done.’ It was the most minimal amount of effort he could have made for perhaps the biggest moment of my life.
For a long time I thought that I was the issue. I tried incredibly hard to be the kind of daughter that he’d want. I made an extra effort to get along with his wife and her daughter. I put more time and effort into gifts. I carried the weight of the conversation at rare get-togethers. I kept him updated with my life in hopes that he might show genuine interest in something. For years and years, I just stuck my head down and worked through my schooling, never daring to do anything that would tarnish my reputation as the ‘good girl.’
Yet somehow it still wasn’t good enough. I still didn’t get invited to the annual McGuire barbecue, even though my brother did. I didn’t get invited to his house on a Sunday afternoon, even though my brother did. I never had my graduation photograph displayed on his mantelpiece despite his claim that he’d print one out (because the professional photograph was too expensive, of course).
This whole time, from 11 to 22 years old, I let my father’s half-hearted attempts at treating me like a daughter break my heart. There are countless times I spent sobbing on my bed or throwing things around my room in anger over his latest sad attempt to show interest. He didn’t care about the big things and he sure as hell didn’t care about the little things. With him everything just felt obligatory, not sentimental. He didn’t make me feel worth celebrating and it hurt, especially when I’m the kind of person who tries to find something worth celebrating in everyone. He never sees that.
Now, feeling like I’ve found my place in the world, I decided that I have no time or place in my life for people who treat me like a burden and not a blessing. I’m proud of everything I’ve achieved, I’m proud of the relationships I’ve built with my family and friends, and I’m incredibly happy in my job.
I just want to move on from my father’s half-hearted relationship with me.
I’ve grown up without his support, encouragement and fatherly influence and I’ve made it out of the other side okay. I’m proud of who I am and proud of making it through some tough years. I know who I have to thank for helping me through, so I’m just going to concentrate my efforts on the people who build me up, love, support and encourage me in hopes that I can do the same for them.