I woke up this morning with a weird feeling but I brushed it off, I said my normal prayer and then hopped on the gram(Instagram)….all of a sudden, I started seeing all these “happy father’s day” messages and I started to feel a heaviness & sadness and my first thought was “can’t relate”....
You see, whenever the conversation about Fathers, Fatherhood, or anything related to being my father’s daughter comes up, I immediately get uncomfortable and sad….. and it has been this way for as long as I can remember. God has been speaking to me about my Daddy issues for a loooooong time. It is very hard for me to articulate, what I’ve been learning because the very nature of the relationship is confusing, but I will try.
At the beginning of this week, I started a Bible plan (shout out to “You Version- Bible App) called “Shape of your heart: Discover the building blocks of great relationships”. The synopsis of the plan said, relationships are not just about romance and intimacy, but that there are relationships that involve our heart in other ways. To be honest, I had no idea what this meant, I was just looking for a relationship bible plan that was relatively short (I have a short attention span) and this plan was 4 days.
Over the course of the week, the plan challenged me to answer questions about restoration, forgiveness, understanding, gratitude, boundaries, trust, and more. Every single reflection question always led me back to my relationship with my Dad….which is weird because to me that relationship is basically non-existent, and has been that way for a VERY long time. I’ve been struggling all week to understand that relationship and all I have is fragmented information with too many pieces that seem to be missing but I’m hoping that as I write, I can look back and see patterns.
Growing up with a Nigerian Dad is a trip for many of us, it’s full of ups and downs like any parent/child relationship in the world except there seems to be an UNSPOKEN dynamic in this one. How many of us really know our Dad’s? Do we know things about them? Or did most of us relate to them in terms of their financial ability and our ability to do well in school? I have spoken to sooooo many of my friends who say that they only went to their dad to talk about their grades and when they needed money……that was my experience too, except we didn’t even talk about school and since I became an adult and can fund my own lifestyle, there is LITERALLY nothing to talk about…..well nothing really other than “move back, wa roko”, meaning, move back to Lagos to find a husband(that’s another story). How did it get this way? How do we rebuild? How do I approach it?
Let’s paint the picture, shall we? I am smack in the middle with 2 older brothers and 2 younger sisters so I already have some “middle child tendencies”. Growing up, my dad was never really there, he was always working to provide for us all and I am very grateful. On the rare occasion that my dad was there, he was not really “present”…..he didn’t really know us (his children) as people with personalities, thoughts, ideas, I think he knew “about us” based on assumptions or maybe conversations with my mom but I can only speculate. As a kid, he would always say to me that “I was his favorite” except he didn’t know the basics about me like when my birthday was, what I was studying in school or if I was good at things, let alone deeper things like what makes me happy or sad and what my hopes and dreams were. This dichotomy in our relationship always caused me such dissonance – you say, I’m your favorite, but yet you don’t me—no wonder, I pick romantic partners, who tell me one thing and do another (refer back to my “Lessons from an Ex” post)….I simply don’t think I know what it means for a man to love me, it’s very confusing.
Because of that, I have spent the better part of my adulthood just being “defensive” about that relationship – saying things like “he doesn’t even know me”. This then morphed into “anger” – saying things like “he should want to know me” and then “sadness” – “why doesn’t he want to know me”, why doesn’t he see me?, what did I do wrong?.” Finally, I arrived at “indifference” because “I have other great relationships in my life and maybe this one is just not that deep” and I should get over it.
Don't get me wrong, no relationship is perfect, a huge part of me always greatly empathized with him. He has always been busy trying to provide for us all, he has other kids, a wife, a business, multiple side projects, he didn’t have great experiences with his father and so on and so on, so it seems unfair to expect more from him. A part of me hoped that when he retired, we would get time back, but it’s been 3 years and nothing has changed, but then again all this time has passed and I’m a “grownup” so I shouldn’t really need him right? …..I thought I had forgiven him for just being a human with flaws who couldn’t recognize that I am his daughter, a person with feelings, not a return on his investment to be paraded at owambes – (parties)….I thought I had moved on and didn’t really need my dad to check in on me because I’m a grownup now….. but then it started to affect me because guess what, I want to have a relationship with him, he is getting older I don’t want to regret not building that, I want to have a great father’s day, I want to laugh about inside jokes with my dad. I want to call on him when I’m heartbroken and when I have great news when I get married and have my own kids…..but how do you move forward if you don’t know what broke?? It’s almost like trying to explain what a healthy diet is to someone who doesn’t understand the concept of food…. where do you start from?
…..so right about now, you are probably like “ok girlie, are you being a bit dramatic?, at least you understand the love of God” and to that, I would say yes-ish but even that has been a journey. For the longest time, I didn’t know how to relate to my heavenly father because I didn’t know how to relate to my earthly father. I’ve always known Jesus to be a friend/savior, the holy spirit to be a comforter and guide, but God the father has always been a mystery. It wasn’t until I had an identity crisis in my career/purpose that I saw His love for me so clearly, where he revealed my identity as a daughter of the king and told me that no matter what I did he would always love me…. (but that’s another story for another blog post lol).
I’m not gonna lie, I have been very emotional writing this, so I took a break and attended #churchonline and wow so much HEALING! This morning’s service was a conversation with 4 dads’ in our church about their fatherhood journeys. It started off very light, dad jokes and escalated very quickly into fathering in a pandemic and a race war, (yea my church goes there)…..but it wasn’t until we started talking about broken father/child relationships did I completely break down. There is still so much processing to be done, but here are some points that I took away.
A father is someone that establishes identity – which is why I started understanding my role as a daughter of God when I went through an identity crisis at work.
A father is supposed to be raising Men, Husbands, Fathers, Women, Wives & Mothers, and not necessarily kids. This means that your kids are going to grow up into adults and they need to be equipped with unconditional love, right teachings, and strength – Proverbs 22:6 – start children off on the way they should go and even when they are old they will not turn from it.
Parents are supposed to grow with their children as their children grow with them – Malachi 4:6 – he will turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the hearts of the children to their parents….which means we are supposed to be better than our parents, we are supposed to learn from their mistakes and not repeat them.
Fathers need to tell the stories of who they are to their kids…. we want to know about you, the things you struggled with, why you are the way you are, or else their kids will always be left with so many unanswered questions and will have to speculate – Joshua 4:6 in the future, when your children ask you, what do these stone mean? Tell them about it.
Another thing I learned was that, even if you have a broken father relationship, God says he will not leave us there by ourselves - John 14:18 – I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you!
Lastly, your heavenly father will restore your broken relationships 2 Corinthians 6:18 – I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughter to me says the Lord Almighty.
I am encouraged today and compelled to figure out what broke while simultaneously building a relationship with my Dad. I want to at least try because it affects all of my other relationships, especially the relationship I will have with my kids and their kids and many generations to come.
If this resonates with anyone and you are also looking for answers, check out some of the reflection questions from the Bible Plan “Shape of my heart”
I do NOT have the answers, but I am committed to growth, so maybe this is the beginning of the conversation for me. Seeing as we are still in the place of deep introspection and reflection (thanks COVID19)….I’m sorry that this is not a neat little wrapped up bow of an ending lol BUT nevertheless progression, not perfection.
Happy Father’s Day!