I Don't Need No Daddy
It's been a troubling semester, but not because many of my students passively and/or actively resist the knowledge that I try to pass on to them. It's been frustrating not merely because government regulations and mandates have made me into a secretary filling out a myriad of online forms. It's been disheartening not only because leftist propaganda surrounds me and I am but one small voice in the academic desert trying to teach true American core values.
No, it's been a sad and sometimes heartbreaking semester because many college students' assorted troubles are related to the fact that they are bereft of wholesome father figures. The combination of resentment, hurt, anger, and defiant pride run through their writings. It affects everything they do, from having trust issues with the opposite sex to taking direction from anyone they view as an authority figure. Most carry an enormous chip on their shoulders and take offense at the slightest thing.
The following are unedited and reflect some of the Herculean struggles these young men and women face.
Now that I am older I see that you no longer hold that title for me to call you dad. Your absence in my life did not hurt but definitely helped me. I do not hold you accountable for your actions of only conversating with me through a Hallmark card and an $100 check on the inside to make it seem as though as if that was to help my mother or help me. Growing up I would always question where were you on important days like birthdays, Christmas and my birthday or even my 8th grade prom.
I have to admit that I do not miss you. Even if we never have a conversation again, I would feel no different because for 19 years I have trained myself to never feel neglected by a man again. You do not understand how many memories you missed out on. That father and daughter relationship is broken. I do not feel sympathy for you. You had two choices. Be a man and take care of what you put out or be a coward and walk away from your responsibility
Another young woman wrote:
Growing up without a father figure had to be one of the hardest situations I would possibly go through in my life. It made me feel more or less incomplete in many aspects of my childhood. Over the years I have had to accept the fact that I must stand on my own and move on with my life as the strong young woman that my mother raised me to be. If I was able to meet with my father I would explain to him how selfish he is for putting my mom in the situation where she struggled. More than likely I would cry with much anger because simply not having a father in my life can allow things to become so difficult. I also feel like I would talk down to him making him feel less of a man.
Yet, mired in this vortex of emotions, this 19-year old also explains:
Even though I do not know my father I would say that I miss him because truthfully I would like to get to know him. He may not be a bad person; he might have just made a mistake that is regretful for him. What makes me so angry is that he could have been present in my life if he simply took responsibility for his actions and been a man about it. And I do have trust issues with guys. I feel like I need to be extra careful with the situations I get involved with. I feel like I have become neurotic because I am scared to be heartbroken like my mother. I do not forgive my father because as a young man he should have been more aware and responsible for the actions that he took. This still places a burden on my shoulders with what I get into but I hope there are greater hopes for my future.
A similar poignancy can be perceived when another female student writes:
If I were given the opportunity to spend a day with someone in my past, it would be my father who passed away when I was five years old. If my father were here I would be so happy because I was the only daughter and he spoiled me and treated me like a princess. When he passed I went to school and all I was doing is crying. After a week I got kicked out of school because every time I went to school I wasn't doing my work; all I was thinking about was my father. I miss him so much. I wish he was around to tell me good advice in this world. I make my own decisions and sometimes they are wrong. If my father were here I wouldn't be working two jobs and going to school at the same time. I always needed a father to talk to me when it comes to boyfriends and men and how I should be treated.
Many of my students have serious psychological issues requiring the use of anti-anxiety drugs and depression medication. Often they will come and speak to me apologizing that they could not be in class because their chronic depression became too much to bear and they simply could not function in a classroom setting. Often they are intellectually bright, but the mental illness mires them down. Furthermore, they are often trapped in a situation where they act as a parent to their younger siblings.
Being the oldest of four siblings is a tremendous responsibility. The oldest automatically becomes the babysitter. From 8 years to 14 years old my grades suffered, my weight suffered and my childhood suffered. I had no time to do homework. I was exhausted by the end of the day. I could not make friends. I had to grow up fast as my mother worked and my stepfather made me take care of siblings while he went to the race track or drank beer with his friends.
The worst was yet to come. My stepfather mentally and emotionally abused me. I was told that I would never amount to anything. I begged my mother to divorce him. I would cry and write her notes but she never did anything about it. More than once I thought about doing something drastic such as running away or even ending my life. I was so unhappy living the life I was living that I had no problem with either option. Except that there were three little kids that needed me.
Thus, with no support from her mother and constant abuse and rage-filled encounters with her stepfather, this young woman reached out to her biological father, and they went to court. The judge did not feel it was safe for her to be anywhere near her mother, and so she went to live with her own father. At age 16 she "finally cut all ties" to the family.
I do not believe that there is a single event that made me defiant. I think it was almost when my stepfather started attacking me; that was just the straw that broke the camel's back. I knew that I was being hurt in that house. I now suffer from depression, anxiety and an emotional imbalance . What I took away from this experience is even though a person expects family to be there to protect, this does not always happen. I learned that I need to take matters into my own hands if I want anything to change. The only thing I regret is leaving my siblings. Those three kids were my life and they deserve better.
Grandparents play an inordinately important part in many young people's lives. Their influence is much larger than an after-school milk and cookies moment. But when her grandmother became ill, this student of mine "was required to baby-sit her third sister" while her mother went to work.
I was the oldest of eight children. There were times when taking care of my sister became so overwhelming. My babysitting duties went from every other weekend to every weekend and also the whole summer before high school. I began hating my mother. I was just a child and knew nothing about taking care of a child. I became cold and angry which lasted through my adulthood. It wasn't just the babysitting. It was her constant yelling, her running off with friends at any given moment.
I couldn't stand to be around her. I felt she took away my childhood and broke my spirit with her evil and mean words. I spent so many years in anger and not allowing anyone to get close to me.
Finally I realized that my mother is a hurt woman inflicting pain on others. My mother lives in pain and it's all she knows. I began to feel sad for my mother. It does not excuse the wrong she has done but it helps to view her in a different light. My relationship with my mother is still a work in progress. However, I've forgiven her and make more efforts to reach out to her.
But in a hopeful vein, in response to an essay question "what makes a good marriage," a young man had the following to say.
The key to a good marriage is made up of many things such as trust, loyalty and even courage. A good marriage is also when two individuals are willing to go above and beyond for their love for one another. A marriage commitment is different from living together because people are not as emotionally attached. When individuals live together they are not stuck on the fact that 'this is going to be the person I spend the rest of my life with.'
People are also hesitant to marry and get in relationships because of the people we look up to. They see their role models happily together with someone from looking at a simple picture . . . but in reality they don't know what goes on in their relationships. Then once the 'perfect' relationship doesn't work out, people give up on the idea of monogamy. That's why this is not a monogamous generation. At a young age most girls don't receive the love they need from their fathers because most fathers are not around. So they look for love in teenage boys who think they have the whole world figured out but in reality they couldn't care less about love at this point in the life. Like most boys with raging hormones at that age, they only want one thing. So boys do what they can to get that one thing and brag about it to their friends while the girls are left hurt. And while girls continue their search for a soul mate young men look for more and more young women who want love [and] use them to get what they want, sex. Because of this at such a young age, women don't give guys any attention as they get older from past experiences of a heartbreak. They develop a mindset that all men are dogs.
My advice that I would give to someone who wants to make a more lasting commitment is to have patience and understand that seeds don't grow in one day. Meaning that the relationship will take time to fully develop and grow but when it does, it will be something beautiful.
These ideas are replicated from semester to semester in my various classes. There are many decent and hardworking students careworn with responsibilities that they should not be obligated to shoulder. As long as the underbelly of popular culture with its anti-responsibility and anti-nuclear family messages reign supreme, these young people and generations to come will be battered and wounded. They deserve better.
Eileen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.