Illustration by Erin McPhee
It’s a social experiment but we are making the blog series “Queer Brown Girl Trying to be a Parent” into a column! So get ready for a monthly blog about all things Queer, Brown and Parenting! This month’s blog: My Own Parental History.
CONTENT WARNNG: This blog includes personal information about family violence , domestic violence and child abuse.
This is an account from my memory of what happened when I called my father on September 14th 2015 about the letter I had sent him two months prior.
Me: Hello, dad it’s me Andrea. Dad: Oh hiiiii. Me: How are u? How are u feeling? (silently referring to his lung cancer condition) Dad: Oh, I can’t walk up or down stairs anymore. I used to be able to no problem, but I can’t walk up the stairs any more so if I get stuck somewhere, I can’t move. Me: That must be hard. Dad: I’m used to it. We all get old. I’m sick you know… Me: So, how are you? Has the doctor cleared you for travelling? Dad: Oh yes, I am going to Trinidad next week to visit my niece and my brother. Me: (Disgruntled and annoyed) How long you going for? Dad: Five days. Me: Oh. Dad: I will want to see you and Adli when I get back. Me: (Annoyed) Yeah ok. Dad: But, you and your partner are doing well, yes? You are going to Mexico soon? Me: Yes, dad but I put that trip on a credit card the bank recently gave me because me and C— have never been on a vacation like this (I wanted to say in 9 years, but didn’t). Dad: But, you are doing well if you can do that, you can pay your credit card? Me: Whatever dad, so did you get my letter? Dad: Yes, I did. Me: So…do you want to say anything about it to me? Dad: Yes. There are three points I want to make about the letter. And I want you to know that I wasn’t apprehensive about giving you my address because of the letter, I gave you my address, didn’t I? Me: Yes, dad but you did seem apprehensive and reluctant to give it to me. Dad: I don’t give my address to anyone. You are not the only one. I don’t give it to anyone, I am a very private person. Me: (I am not anyone. I practically had to beg for it) Anyways the points… Dad: Ok. First the first point is about me hitting your mum. Your mom always would nag me and nag me. If you wanted your mom to stop taking, she wouldn’t. She would always just keep nagging and nagging…she would follow you into a room… Me: (My blood pressure rises). What? Are you saying you beat my mother because she was annoying? Dad: (Silence) Me: (This man is fucken bullshit, whatever he says it can’t hurt you, it can’t upset you, you can do this, stay grounded) (Silence) Dad: The second point is that I don’t know why you are making a big deal of it. I drove you to daycare drunk a few times. What is the big deal? Me: (Blood pressure continues to rise). What is the big deal!!?? It’s actually violence or the actual threat of violence when you drive drunk, not to mention with kids, not to mention it’s not the normal experience of most children to have their dad drive them to daycare drunk multiple times. Dad: And, about the night you are talking about… Me: I don’t want to hear it. Dad: What do you mean you don’t want to hear it? Me: You are just dumping all this information on me and frankly, it’s messed up what you are saying and I don’t want to hear you making another justification for what happened. You cannot possibly explain what happened that night for you. There is no telling your side of the story. It was violence. Dad: So, you wrote me a letter… Me: I wrote you a letter to get these feelings out and hope for some accountability from you. Dad: You wrote this letter for yourself. You may have expectations of me but you wrote it for yourself. Me: I wrote this mail in hopes you would understand but you don’t. You have never in 5 years tried to get to know my sister or me but you just want to have superficial conversations about your vacations. Dad: Leave your sister out of this. Me: Fine. Dad: You want to talk about things but you don’t want to hear about my perspective. Me: Your perspective is not why you did violence; there is no justification for what you did to my mother and us for years. Dad: You are an angry person. It’s only hurting you. Me: You take no responsibility for the pain and trauma you caused us, you aren’t grateful in the least about how much we have risked to allow you back in our lives and at the first chance of a real emotional conversation you say it was my mother’s fault for why you beat her? Dad: You don’t know anything about anything. Me: (Click).
My first thoughts after this conversation were that I couldn’t lose it: I have to roll this anger in and think about and care for Adli. But my involuntary thinking made me dial my partner, and cry, share and get support.
Days later, I told my sister about this conversation. Her bottom line was that my father and I aren’t cultivating anything of substance that is changing us for the better and at the first sign of realness this guy hurt us again. Intentionally or unintentionally, I don’t know.
My best friend says that (not that we need to give our fathers a break) but they think they are being good parents; they don’t know of the love and affection that is required of child rearing today, a parenting system that asks men to be affectionate, vulnerable and in touch with their feelings; a system of child rearing that demands for fathers to be soft, patient and do what was/is considered women’s work compared to the world they grew up in. And even then, when my dad was growing up, nurturing was not a common parental practice per se, with many children being born within a family due to lack of access and availability of birth control, as well as the need for children to work the land if you owned some.
Some fathers think they are doing a stand up job because they do more than their fathers did. They simply don’t know any better. And we as children, require more.
So I am taking my sister’s advice and questioning if I should keep connected with my biological-sperm-donor-parent-who-didn’t-raise-me-father-type person. How that will affect me? And Adli? And what I will say to Ads in terms of these stories and memories and misplaced moments? And if my child asks about whether his grandfather exists, loves him, why he doesn’t actively do anything to be a part of his life since he is not dead? Why abandon us both?
Or, maybe I can look to this as an opportunity to be free; to intentionally create relationships with chosen family for Adli that are healthy, thoughtful, caring and nurturing. Maybe no links to the violent past could create more space for a safer future?
The missing link is that my screwed up parent holds a particular key for Adli about where he came from. I can only do so much. And he will already have a part of himself that will never be mirrored back to him in that he is a donor baby.
Decisions, decisions. Should I stay or should I go? How do I create a pathway to Adli’s ancestors when his elders have so much of their own work to do, starting with keeping us safe and not hurting us?
I need a personal guide to understanding my lineage and ancestors for activists in the world today, in lieu of my daddy issues. Ok, maybe I will have to write one myself….