When Father's Day rolled around once more, my timeline was awash with pictures of my friends and their dads. Father's Day is a weird day for me and many others like me. I grew up without a dad in my life, not because of a tragedy, but because that's what he chose.
You see a lot of statistics about boys who grow up without dads. They mostly revolve around how we will descend into a life of crime or how, without a male role model, we won't understand how to respect women. To be quite honest, it winds me up. More children are growing up without a father than ever before and the majority of them, like me, turn out fine.
My dad left my life when I was around a year old and I have no recollection of ever living with him. In the years that followed, I would see him sporadically, and those times that I did weren't the happiest times of my life. Being an alcoholic, evenings were spent listening to him ramble on about the injustices life had given him and how no one respected him in the way he felt he deserved to be respected. He went off to form a new family and had two daughters with his new partner and that spelled the beginning of the end of my relationship with him. Now, I don't even know where he is or what he does.
But I don't regret not having a dad. In fact, I'm glad I grew up without one. Not having a father has taught me a lot about what I want to be and about how I want to treat my children. I was also fortunate to grow up with a mum who had enough love to cover two parental units.
You hear stories of parents who stay together for the sake of their children and decide to live unhappily. This, to me, is incredibly unhealthy. Children aren't dumb; they can pick up on relationships and what is going on around them. If my mum and dad had stayed together for the sake of my brother and I, it would have made for an unhappy family. Instead, I grew up with one parent, but it was one parent who was full of love and compassion, rather than resentment due to the predicament they were in.
There's no doubt that, as a boy especially, there were times where I wanted a dad. My mum, bless her heart, wasn't into football the same way I was. Despite her best, and quite frankly cringe-worthy (sorry mum) attempts at having "the" conversation with me, it would've been better coming from a man. But on the whole, she played the part of both parents amazingly. The only other time I longed for some sort of relationship with my dad was purely to put an end to the awkwardness when it came up in conversation:
Them: "So, what do your mum and dad do?"
Me: "Well, my mum is a teacher and I don't know my dad."
Me: "Anyway, what do yours do?"
A few years ago, my dad contracted cancer. That's when my feelings towards him and our relationship began to get complex. I didn't understand whether I should care, or whether I should turn my head. I did neither. I reached out to him to see if he was OK and once he told me he was, I had nothing else to say to him.
He had taken no interest in my life, so why did I need to take one in his? He hadn't seen me graduate, play in band, kick a football or sip my first pint when I turned 18. And while I respect that it was his genetics that gave me life on this earth, that is all I have to thank him for.
However, about eight months ago, something triggered in me and I thought I should try harder. I'm a man now, and I wanted to be the bigger man and reach out. I got his mobile number and sent him a text, asking how he was, what he had been up to and why he hadn't bothered contacting me. He ignored the first two questions and went straight for the third one: "I haven't contacted you because I didn't think you cared".
That, to me, was the end. It taught me everything I needed to know about the man he was, and the man I wanted to be. I'd like to think that no matter what happens between me and the future mother of my children, I would always try with to be a dad to my kids. That's why I am glad I grew up without a dad, because I will become the man he wasn't.