By: Kiera Lewis
As a little girl, your first real love is for your father. After all, he’s always there to pick you up when you fall, scare the monsters underneath your bed away, and even teach you how to ride a bike. The first relationship a woman will ever experience with a man is the one between her and her father. The bond shared between the two is a special one, one that I was not fortunate enough to experience.
My story is a common one, but one that is commonly swept underneath the rug. At the age of 19, my mother, fresh out of high school, gave birth to me. A young, single mom, she provided for me in every single way that she possibly could. She attended school and worked all while raising me. When I was four, my mother had second child, my younger brother, with a different man.
Around the same time, my mom enrolled me into dance school and I attended every Saturday from the morning until the afternoon. Ballet was always my favorite class; I loved helping the teacher lay down the colorful circular mats in different places and positions. At the end of every dance year, we would put on an annual recital and perform the dances that we learned.
Everyone in the entire school attended the rehearsal for the recital; we sat in a large auditorium by class as other classes went on stage and performed their routines. I remembered my group going up and doing our dances as parents and other dancers sat in the audience and watched.
When we finished, all the girls in my group and from other groups shifted in our seats and began to make our way back up the stairs to the stage. I looked around, confused to see people coming down the isle from the parents section. It was then that my mom came to sit with me and when I looked up, I noticed everyone on stage had been joined by their fathers; and then, there was me.
That day stuck with me for years. I never forgot the way that I felt watching my friends on stage with their fathers and me being the only one sitting in the audience. As I got older, I began to feel resentment; resentment towards my friends, resentment towards my mother, and resentment towards my younger brother whose father would always come over and spend time with him.
When I was about 13 years old, I began to act out of character. I got in trouble, I began to make friends in other crowds, and I began to talk to boys older than me. I started to feel as if I was disappearing underneath my brothers’ shadow so I acted in ways that required me to be shown attention. My mother wasn’t sure why I was acting the way that I was so she did the only other thing she could: she sat me down and for the first time, we spoke about my father. He stuck around for the first couple of days after I was born; then, nothing.
Anytime I was picked on by my peers, it somewhat lessened my self-esteem further. I felt alone in every aspect. Being that my mother was raised in a household with both of her parents; I believed she couldn’t relate to how I felt, so I chose to keep it to myself. I had no outlet, no way to express my emotions and channel my anger.
I took my frustration out on my younger brother; I shut him out of my entire life. I ignored him, resented his presence, and would often times try and avoid him completely. I felt that hurting his feelings would make me feel better about myself. I hated that he had his father in his life. It seemed unfair that I had to watch him have a relationship that I would never be able to experience. I felt that my mother loved him more than she did me, honestly at times I still do.
After years of being angry at my father, I’ve began to make peace with his absence. The actions and decisions of someone who was not present managed to dictate majority of my thoughts, actions, and behaviors. For a large part of my life, I felt like I needed to be approved and accepted by my peers. Being a young, African American female growing up in a world where society creates this standard as to what defines beauty and what does not made it even more difficult for me.
I often times did not perceive myself as being good enough or beautiful. I harbored the mentality of ‘if I was not good enough for my own father to want me, what makes me think that anyone else will or even like me for that matter?’ Well, I’m going to let you in on a secret: the truth is, if you love and accept yourself, all else is irrelevant!
Acknowledging and embracing your self-worth and value is what matters the most. Surround and keep those that are and have been present in your life close. Dwelling on the “have-nots” can often take away from what you actually have in front of you. As far as my father’s concerned, I would like to meet him and potentially seek some form of relationship with him one day. I’ve finally began to forgive, but not regret. After all, his absence helped shape who I am today: a proud, young black woman and I matter..