To my daughter’s father,
Thank you for your absence.
Never did I fathom that one day I would be writing you a thank you letter. Never did I think I would have anything to thank you for when you chose to detach yourself from the responsibility of being her father. Time and time again you chose to miss out on every important moment in her life: Parent-teacher conferences, doctor appointments, practices, plays, concerts, recitals, competitions, graduations, birthdays. But as the years go by and my daughter gets older, I’m realizing just how many valuable lessons you’ve taught her with your decision to not be the father she wanted so badly for you to be.
Thank you for teaching her that the broken are not hers to fix. Thanks to you, she won’t be attracted to broken boys who need to be fixed. Instead, she’ll go after the ones who are put together, who can give her everything that you didn’t give to her.
Thank you for teaching her not to fall into peer pressure. Thanks to your alcoholism, she will not be influenced by her peers to take “just one sip” because “it tastes so good” and will make her “feel good.” Thanks to you, she knows too well the repercussions one faces after too many sips: the angry slurs, the broken bottles, the vomit that stains the white porcelain toilet seat.
Thank you for toughening her skin. Thanks to the number of times you’ve broken her, she has healed to the point where nothing anyone says or does could make the slightest crack. She’s learned that people break promises, all the time. That words are meaningless if the actions don’t follow suit. She’s learned to keep her heart hidden away and no longer on her sleeve for anyone to break.
Thank you for teaching her what real love does not look like. When she is ready to love she will know exactly what she will not accept. She will never allow anyone to treat her like she is unwanted and unloved because she’s dealt with a loveless love like that throughout her entire childhood.
Thank you for teaching her that labels are meaningless. Thanks to you never living up to the “father” figure you were supposed to be, she no longer attaches expectations to labels. “Boyfriends,” “girlfriends,” and “best friends” can’t mean much, if the “father” she had couldn’t even fulfill his role.
Thank you for teaching her that love can never be bought. Thanks to your choice to gift extravagant presents over spending quality time with her on her birthdays and holidays, she has learned that objects hold no value. For a while there when she was young, I, too, was afraid that you had bought her love with the newest iPods, iPads, and iPhones, but all she ever wanted was for your “I Love You.” To hold meaning.
Thank you for teaching her to stick up for her little sister. Thanks to every time you belittled her little sister, she learned how deeply she loves and cares for her. Sticking up for baby sister when you tear down her self esteem over and over again has only strengthened their bond and sisterhood.
Thank you for teaching her to keep her expectations low. Thanks to your endless disappointments, she won’t expect much from others, just as she learned not to expect much from you after your countless “I’ll try to make it”’s, forcing her to search for your face in the dark, crowded audience at every one of her shows, only to find out that you never even showed up.
Above all else, thank you for teaching her to hold onto her hopes. Thanks to every single time you’ve disappointed her, she has never given up hope that “this time will be different. This time he will want to be apart of our lives,” because all she ever wanted was for you to love her. And still, she holds onto the hope that someday, one day, you will be the father she’s always yearned for, the father she deserves.