There is no such thing as a “typical” family, but as far as outward appearance goes, my family has always looked like the “typical” family. I live in a house, I have pets, I go to a good school, I have a mom, a dad and siblings. Even though everything may seem ordinary, the relationship between my father and I has always been far from the norm. He has always been in my life physically, but has not shown up for me, emotionally, in years. He does not spend time with me or my siblings outside of the household. I rarely see him since he gets up for work after I leave for school and comes home every night after I have already gone to bed, which means that I only see him on the weekends. For most of those weekends, we will exchange a sentence or two, or not talk to each other at all.
Ever since I was younger, my dad has never known the names of my teachers, never bought birthday presents, and to this day, has never come to my school to see a project that I have done or an accomplishment that I have made (other than elementary and middle school promotions). There are teachers and other students that know more about my life and what I have gone through than my dad. While most of the time he is absent emotionally, any other interactions with him typically turn out much worse than silence. From road rage to arguments over pointless topics, he usually only shows his emotions through anger.
I remember on my birthday one year, after going to breakfast with my mom and sister, we went home so that I could open my birthday presents. As we walked in the door, my mom mentioned something to my dad that turned my day completely upside down. While the topic brought up wasn’t a big deal, my dad reacted the way that he always does; through anger. He grabbed the television remote and threw it as hard as he could at the tv. I instantly felt this pit in my stomach as the remote broke into a ton of pieces and a crack spread like a spider’s web, across the corner of the tv screen.
While this wasn’t the first time that he had ever acted like this, it is certainly a time that I will never forget. Since then, I have always felt that pit in my stomach return at the sound of negativity in his voice. I stay silent in his presence, in my own home, in fear of how he may react to anything I say. But silence still isn’t good enough. In his eyes, someone is always doing something wrong. I clearly remember this one night that he came into my room. I thought that he was coming to see if I was still awake to say goodnight after not seeing me for the whole day. I had this warm feeling, because I thought that for once, he was going to ask me about my day like other fathers do. That warm feeling shattered the moment that his eyes turned dark and his face turned red. His voice grew loud and aggressive as he started to yell at me about something of his that was missing. He thought that someone must have misplaced it and that no one was going to sleep until it was found. I went downstairs to help him look for it and remembered that I had accidently bumped into it earlier in the day. I thought that I had picked it up, but a piece of it was missing. I explained to him what had happened and he coldly responded, “Well why didn’t you think to pick it up?” He talked down to me like I was stupid, like I was less than him. Even though it was an accident, I felt like I had disappointed him and it was my fault that he was angry.
Other than his anger, one of the hardest parts of the whole situation has been growing up without a good father-like figure. It hurts to see the relationship between other people and their fathers, as they listened to whatever music they wanted to in the car, could make jokes with their friends, and were completely open with their father because they didn’t have to worry about what would upset him. I wonder what it would have been like to have a dad that I don’t have to walk on eggshells around, who is there to take care of me, makes me feel safe and that I can go to, to ask for advice or even have a normal conversation with.
According to “The Father Code”, “It has been shown that the effects of emotionally unavailable fathers were almost identical to those where the father was physically absent” (The 9 Devastating Effects Of The Absent Father). This is not only an issue in my own household, but it also affects a lot of other families across the country. Other than the emotional burdens of lacking a physically or emotionally present father, there are many other ways that this issue can affect children who have dads similar to my own. “The Father Code” also states that individuals raised in a home with an “absent” father can have a greater chance of becoming depressed and/or anxious, abusing substances, dropping out of school, divorce or relationship issues in the future, and 5 times the average rate of suicide (The 9 Devastating Effects Of The Absent Father). There are many ways that I have been impacted by my father’s behavior. For example, I am a very quiet person around people that I am not comfortable with. I think that part of this may be due to the fact that I have never been able to confide in him and have always had to filter what I said around him in order to make sure that he wouldn’t get upset.
I think that the pressure that Society puts on men may be one of the reasons that so many families struggle with this issue. Scott Cunningham and Matt Dwyer from Montana State University wrote that, “Statements like ‘take it like a man,’ ‘boys don’t cry,’ and ‘No Fear’ communicate the idea that expressing emotion equals emotional weakness. This forces men to hide fear, anxiety, pain, sadness, and self-doubt behind a façade of confidence and competence” (Traditional Views of Masculinity Limit Men). Not saying that this is the case for everyone or even my own father, however the pressure that society puts on men to act tough and to conceal their emotions may contribute to the reason that they react in anger and have a hard time making emotional connections with their families.
This problem is an ongoing cycle that needs to be stopped in order to prevent the emotional and physical effects that it has on families lives. Deryl Goldenberg, a clinical psychologist, said, “I had promised myself that I wouldn’t repeat and recreate the hostile relationship I’d had with my own father, I felt almost compelled, unconsciously, to reenact my own childhood with my son. Here it was happening to me, not as extreme, but still a strained relationship, and this broke my heart that I was still so psychologically immature. I ended up on quite a roller coaster of a ride as a father. My son is now a grown man and we are currently sorting out our relationship. Now I am the father open to dealing with the issues with my own son. I am willing to acknowledge my shortcomings and listen to his childhood experiences, as painful as they are to hear. We are slowly making our way through our troubled history moving towards something of a relationship” (The Psychology Behind Strained Father Son Relationships). Goldenberg didn’t want to be anything like his father. Still, no matter how hard he tried, he ended up recreating his childhood for his own son. However, he made an effort to fix his relationship with his son, even if his timing was a little late.
Since this is an issue that affects my family and the lives of many families throughout the country, it is society’s job to change this mentality that it sets for men. This is a problem that will never be fixed if boys who grow up with dads like these, repeat these actions when they become a father themselves. If society started telling boys that it is acceptable to express their emotions and that they can be different than their father, more sons could have a greater chance at bringing an end to this cycle and more children could grow up with a father who supports them and is always there for them.