Life without Dad

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ILLUSTRATION BY NICOLL EARL BUSTAMATE

Kimmy enters the classroom worrying about the day. After a gruelling day, she goes home exhausted.

She brushes her teeth and looks in the mirror, thinking, “I’m not as pretty as Sarah. Sigh. I wonder if I will ever have a guy to love me.” She retreats to her bed, her mind wandering to the future. She’s anxious. “Will everything be okay?”

You may wonder why Kimmy is like this. You see, Kimmy’s father passed away when she was 9 years old. Without a father, Kimmy became susceptible to having low self-esteem and low self-confidence.

Diosdado “Bong” Quiamno, a guidance and career counsellor at the Office of Counseling and Career Services at De La Salle University, describes the importance of a father. “The father becomes the leader, the protector, the family provider and a model of manhood. He is the model of fidelity, dignity, spirituality.” The father therefore becomes a source of direction and identity for his children.

Bong also defines the importance of fathers for boys. “Fathers usually like to push boundaries and go out to explore different places, engaging their sons in sports and outdoor activities. All these activities are essential in helping the child grow up confident.”

Take back the years

Gabrielle “Gabe” Borromeo (19, University of the Philippines-Diliman), who was not with her dad for the first four years of her life, says, “My dad seemed to be doing everything he could to take back the years he lost. He brought me to school and fetched me daily; he took me to parks, and we ran all around the place; he told me jokes that wouldn’t make me stop laughing. I enjoyed my dad’s company.” “This is where the father’s discusses things to look out for, how to handle difficult situations, and encourages her to stand up for herself,” Bong says.

Gabe also talks about the security a father gives. “It makes me feel like I’m not missing anything in the world, that I’m right where I should be.”

Not all of us will experience getting our dads back. The first step to overcoming the challenges of coming from a fatherless home is to be conscious of its effects on you. Depending on the age you lost contact with a father figure, it will have different effects. Children who lost their fathers at an earlier age usually have issues with identity or sexuality. Children who lost their fathers at a later age may suffer from depression, loneliness or a lack of direction in life.

Consulting a guidance counselor or psychologist to know about the effects of fatherlessness on you is a good decision. Going to one does not mean that you are insane; in fact, it simply means that you are courageous enough to overcome any effects that having no father may have had on you. It may be painful to revisit bad memories, but the first step to healing scars is acknowledging that you have a wound.

After knowing the effects, you can now make adjustments so that the effects will not persist. Such would involve a lot of healing and building relationships. Healing involves sharing your struggles and crying, if needed, on people who care. Building involves people encouraging you in your potential, and building a positive self-image.

Alternative father figures

Finding alternative father figures may be a good move, but must be done with great caution. People have been successful by looking at the best available venues they knew of. Trustworthy relatives may fill the part; good uncles and loving grandfathers may help you out.

Responsible and able older friends who are willing to mentor you and guide you can be good. Other people have found it in a fellowship setting in church, where people treat each other like family. Frequent consultations with trusted priests, pastors and counselors may also help you.

We could also be fathered in other non-fatherly relationships. Good friends who encourage you and push you to do your best, rebuke you when you are doing wrong and wish for your success are excellent choices. It may seem hard to find such friends, but keep searching and you will find them. Also, try to be such a friend yourself. People are unconsciously in search of good friends themselves.

Getting into a romantic relationship might not be the best move. If you are insecure and have low self-esteem, you will always look for validation in your partner. If your partner also struggles with insecurity, you will be like two leeches trying to suck the life out of each other. Instead of adding to each other, you would bring out the worst in both of you. When you have found yourself healed, secure and confident, that would be the better time to pursue such a relationship, as you can offer yourself positively to someone else.

Do you still remember Kimmy? Since she lost her dad, I decided to help her out and become a little father figure in her life. I helped her become conscious of the effects of fatherlessness on her, listened to some of her struggles, and built her up in the ways I could. With the help of other people bringing goodness into her life, she has become more confident and secure. I also noticed that she has grown this loveliness in her heart, and any decent guy would totally like her.

Just this Sunday, Kimmy gave me a “Best Dad” Toblerone. Sometimes we wonder why we have to go through tough times like these. I don’t really have an answer for everyone, but that “Best Dad” chocolate bar taught me something. Even if we had an imperfect start, we can still choose to have a perfect end. With the help of both our loving God and loving people, we can still be fathered.

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