This week, Chiamaka uses a personal lens to take a peep at daddy issues, discussing the buzzword through her lived experiences.
Before we get started, I just want to make it clear it isn’t extremely unfair when people use the phrase daddy issues in a derogatory manner. The onus of fostering a healthy relationship with one’s parent should be on said parents ー, especially as a young child ー and not the other way round. I speak for myself, and perhaps for many others, when I say as children, it is deeply unsettling to struggle in your relationship with a parent or both parents while you watch others have a close and loving relationship with their own caregivers. You badly want your family to be like others, you want daddy to hug you, tell you he loves you, you don’t want him to always speak out of anger, you don’t want him to constantly punish you, you don’t want him to be absent, you don’t want him to be unkind.
When I was younger, I wondered why my father inspired fear and anxiety in me ever so often. On the rare days when he was sweet, he was really sweet. This was very conflicting for me as a child because I always wondered why he couldn’t remain sweet, remain tender with me and the rest of our family. After his brief moment of sweetness, he would resume normal service: telling me lies and spiteful things about my mother, things that years of therapy haven’t successfully erased, being mean to everyone, being unavailable.
I do not blame my mother for my father’s behaviour. I know that in her own ways, she tried to protect us and save her marriage. I know that she tried to bear the suffering and pain for as long as she could to please people who will blame us for attempting to live our truth. I know that she bore, and still bears countless unimaginable things because, apparently, a woman living without her husband in Nigeria is a crime against humanity. It is sickening to hear people attribute my sister and I’s so-called ‘rebellion’ to a lack of a father figure at home. Never mind that it’s demeaning to my mother, it also cannot be farther from the truth.
As an adult, I am the way I am because I had a faulty relationship with my dad growing up. I became bold because I had to learn how to advocate and love myself from the ground up. I became brash because I taught myself to communicate where I had previously learnt to cower. I am me because I have a ton of daddy issues.
To me, daddy issues simply manifest because you didn't have the best of fathers have good fathers growing up. In today’s world, daddy issues has become a weaponized buzzword as a result of the patriarchal society that we live in. Men are allowed to be horrible fathers and remain largely unaccountable for their behaviour. Meanwhile, other people are blamed for their shortcomings. Daddy issues do not mean we are irrevocably damaged beyond words. On the contrary, while I admit I have issues to work through, I am not hopeless. Every day I give myself just a tiny taste of what I deserved as a child, I come to appreciate life a bit more.
There have been so many ways my siblings and I have been blamed for our father’s failures. Asides from men throwing up that phrase to detach themselves from me or cower from the sight or thought of intimacy, many people have also tried to poison our mother’s mind against us by telling her that my sister and I behave the way we do simply because our father is not around to subjugate, punish and belittle us.
Unconsciously, I have sought out love in meaningless places because I felt bereft of it as a child. Rather than approaching dating from a fun and intentional perspective, I was giving my all– too much, too soon– to people who were undeserving of devotion. In fact, I was too young myself to feel a lot of the emotions I experienced and expressed as a child. I had poor self-esteem, one of the consequences of second-guessing myself and never being brought up to be self-assured. I let friends and romantic interests walk all over me and speak to me unkindly. Advocating for myself felt like the hardest thing ever. The effects of my conflict-filled home, the effects of my childhood trauma and ‘daddy issues’ resulted in clinical depression and chronic anxiety. I feel like I will spend my entire life recovering from my dad’s emotional abuse, which is extremely overwhelming. I wish I did not have to deal with all this, I wish that I had a balanced relationship with my emotions, they were not out of control and overpowering, almost like they control me wholly. Most of all, I wish I grew up in a healthy family. I owe it to myself to have a healthy home in the future.