This is very personal for me. I was very close to my dad when I was a little girl. I was, in fact, daddy’s little girl. Being the first born had a lot to do with it, and soon thereafter he had two other girls to dote on. My father was a good father, when we were small. But things changed. He always seemed to like me best, as my sisters would say. That is, until I went through puberty, and started to show interest in boys. My dad was harsh! He didn’t let me look at boys, never mind talk to them. I was quite the tomboy and I used to play softball with the boys in the neighborhood. I remember my father telling me that I wasn’t allowed to play with them anymore, and I couldn’t understand why. I was very naive. I found out later, from my mom, that because I started to mature and my breasts were growing, my father didn’t want me running bases and having the boys see my breasts bobbing up and down. The thought never even occurred to me. I was really innocent and knew nothing about boys or sex. How could I? I was raised by very strict Cuban parents, who didn’t talk about those things.
Anyway, my father became distant. I remember that he seemed quite jealous of any boy who looked at me or tried to talk to me. As a teenager, I wasn’t allowed to date, as a matter of fact, I didn’t go on a date until I met my husband, and I was already 25 years old!! My father put me in an all girls Catholic High School!! He wanted to keep me sheltered, away from the male species. I used to cry all the time because there was a boy that I liked in my neighborhood, but my father told him not to come near me nor near our house. Poor boy, was scared of my father and stayed away. I asked my mom why dad was so mean to me, why I couldn’t have any friends who were boys. All she said was that he thought all boys were like him. Then my father told me that he knew what the boys wanted. How was I supposed to understand that? I had no idea what my parents were talking about, so I went to school, went home, did my homework, went to work (I worked at Burger King), and stayed in my room.
I missed the junior prom, but I begged my father to let me go to the senior prom. He finally relented, but only if I went with the boy he chose, and if he brought me home by 11 p.m. There was a nice young boy who my father liked. I think, it was because he never showed an interest in me, and I didn’t like him either, at least as a boyfriend. My father trusted him, because he knew the boy’s family. So, I had to go to the prom with him. The only reason I wanted to go to the prom, in the first place, was because all my friends were going, and I would have been the only girl in my class not going. I went with this boy and we had a nice time. He was very respectful and he knew how my father was. He had strict instructions to get me home by 11 o’clock. Well, the prom went until midnight, and as much as we tried to get out of there early, we couldn’t. I stepped into my house at about 11:30 and my father reamed into me. I wasn’t allowed out anymore! The boy apologized and tried to cajole my father, but he was in a rage. I cried and went up to my room.
I never did go out again after that. Just to school and then work. After high school, I wanted to go to College. I was looking at schools out of the area. Gee, I wonder why. I searched for schools in New York. We were living in New Jersey at the time, and I really wanted to go to a university in New York. Well, to my surprise, my father actually went with me to look at a couple of them. I remember him taking me to Columbia. I could never get in there! I didn’t have the grades for an Ivy league school. I wanted to go to Stony Brook. I didn’t end up going to any of the schools in New york. My father urged me, actually, he practically forced me to go to Caldwell College, an all girl’s University in Caldwell, New Jersey. He said that he wasn’t going to pay for me to stay in a dorm, and Caldwell College was close to home, so I could drive there and come home everyday. I was not happy.
I went through the motions. My teenage years, my adolescence, and my twenties, were probably the worst years of my life. My mother tried, but she had her own problems. My father treated her badly, cheated on her, and our family was falling apart. I longed for an affectionate dad, a caring father. I needed the warm father-daughter bond desperately. My sisters suffered too, I don’t want you to think that it was just me. Actually, I believe my sister Kathy (the middle one) had it the worst. My father rarely showed her any attention, good or bad. At least he gave me some kind of attention, even if it was bad.
Later on, our family moved to Florida. Things got much worse there. My father was abusive to my mother, and he was verbally abusive to us girls. We had to work and go to school, and pay for everything ourselves. It was like, he wasn’t supporting us anymore. I got so uncomfortable when he would come home, that my body shook when I heard him open the door. In Florida, I went to a co-ed College. My father pulled us out of New Jersey in my last year of college there, so I wanted to finish and get my degree. I went to Florida Atlantic University and graduated with a BA in Chemistry and Biology. I worked full time while I attended College, but I was determined to finish. There were a lot of young men who wanted to go out with me, but I wasn’t interested. My mind was focused on getting through school and getting the heck out. Once I finished (it took almost two years), I met a young man, and fell in love. It was the right time, for me. He was 5 years younger than I. My father had a fit when I introduced MIke to him. He forbade me to go out with him. Mike made arrangements to take me out to a nice restaurant for dinner one night, but my father locked me in, and I couldn’t leave the house. I cried and cried, and my mother fought with my father. She told him that I was old enough to go out by myself. I was 24 years old! I never got to go to that restaurant with Mike, but my mother was so opposed to my father’s rules, she snuck me in and out of the house, and covered up for me, so that I could see Mike. Mom used to drive me to the beach, where Mike and I would spend an hour or two together. Sometimes she took me to the mall where Mike would meet me. She risked her life and well-being so that I could spend some time with the man I loved. This went on for a year, until Mike proposed and we decided to get married. Then, my father kind of accepted Mike. He never really accepted him fully, my father just couldn’t let me go. We got married a year later, and soon after, my father disappeared. I was pregnant with our son when I lost touch with my father. I haven’t seen him since. It has been over 27 years!
I wonder, many times, why I have a problem communicating with my husband, Mike. Why I like to spend so much time alone. I look forward to the times that he goes to work, and I am at home by myself. I even took a year and flew off to Sicily to stay with my best friend. It’s like I can’t wait to be away from him. I love my husband very much, but my father did a job on me. At least, now I can admit that. For years, I nestled these feelings deep within me, and refused to let them out. I floated through each day doing my duties and raising our children, all the while I was unhappy inside. A father-daughter bond is crucial to a woman’s self-esteem, to her bonding with other males. I know that now. Communication , trust and time spent, are the issues that are affected by an abusive father-daughter bond. According to psychologists, girls who have good communication with their fathers, compared with those who don’t, show good communication with their boyfriends, husbands. Girls, with high levels of trust with their fathers also had significantly better communication and trust with their boyfriends, or husbands. Finally, the time spent with fathers, hasn’t directly been shown to affect communication or trust, but quality time spent with fathers, builds a bond that affects how girls relate to males later in life.
My daughter-in-law has such a special bond with her dad. It is so wonderful to see them together. He is affectionate, joyful, and loving with his daughters. He has always been that way, all throughout their lives. He never stopped being affectionate with them when they went through puberty. He didn’t look at them as maturing women, he saw them always as his daughters. He taught them to do guy things, like change a tire, use a hammer, build things. My father never did those things with us girls.
I look at my son, now, with his baby girl. I smile because my son never met his grandfather, (my father). He has a great bond with his father-in-law, though. Thank God!!! I want my son to be the father that his father-in-law is. It warms my heart to know that my granddaughter has a warm, loving father, to mold her into a wonderful, fulfilled adult. She will have a chance to build terrific relationships with men, later on.
Fathers are so important in a child’s life! I can only share my experiences as a girl growing up with a disfunctional father, but I know fathers are also just as important to boys. For those of you who have terrific father’s, let them know on Father’s Day, and every day. For those, whose fathers have died, be grateful to God for your blessings. For people like me, I can only be grateful to God for guiding me and my husband in raising the most terrific children ever! God had his reasons for taking my father out of my life when He did. I wonder what it would have been like for my son and daughter had their grandfather been around. Thank you Lord for your timing.