When I started the DaddyIssues Instagram account, I didn’t put much thought into its name. I chose it because I do have daddy issues (but probably not the way you think of them), and because the expression makes me giggle. I never imagined that my Instagram persona would grow so rapidly, let alone that I would be recognized in public because of it. If I had seen the future, maybe I would have given my account’s name a little more thought—you know, so people wouldn’t run after me screaming “Daddy Issues!!!” on the street regularly.
When people think of a girl with daddy issues, what seems to come to mind is an attention seeking sugar tits who dresses in clothes three sizes too small, bangs anything that breathes, and can afford a drink or 12. Well, I’m here to smash that nonsensical assumption into tiny little bits and pieces.
I’d like to start by clarifying that there is nothing wrong with the aforementioned type. I’m here to encourage every woman to be exactly who she wants to be. However, the daddy issues portrait I painted above does not reflect me. And yet, I do have daddy issues. So I guess you could say that daddy issues come in all shapes and sizes.
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My daddy issues stem from growing up without a father. My dad traveled for work most of the year, which meant that he was only ever home for about a month before leaving for a three-month stretch. Whenever he came home, he would bring gifts, which I of course loved. But all of those presents also led me to associate love with materialistic things.
It wasn’t until my family won the Green Card lottery and we moved to the U.S that I started sharing a roof with my father full-time—for the first time in 14 years. Around then, I realized that I hadn’t actually formed a real relationship with my father, and that I knew absolutely nothing about the man. All I knew was that he went from being the best, modern day, Russian Santa Claus to giving me nothing but the gift of harsh criticism. I sure did miss our old arrangement.
As if things weren’t bad enough, I couldn’t help comparing my cold father-daughter relationship to my best friend’s relationship with her dad. My best friend was around her father all the time, which completely shocked me and made me envious. Like a scene from one of those cliché Disney Channel shows, my bestie would actually seek advice from her father, who would end all heart-to-hearts with a hug and a painfully sincere “I love you.” More than once, I had to confirm with my bestie that what I had witnessed between them wasn’t some kind of hallucination.
In my household, being open about your feelings was unheard of. I recall thinking how strange it would be to hug my father, wondering how he would even react to such absurd behavior. The only time I’d heard him utter the word “love” was in the context of statements like, “I’d love it if you tried harder,” or “I’d love it if you were more like your sister.”
I’m not trying to paint a totally negative picture of my father because no one is perfect and he is not a bad man. In his defense, he loved me as best as he could. Now that I’m a few years older and wiser, I understand that my father demonstrated his love by sticking around and trying to mold me into a tough, responsible human being. My father grew up in Russia under the Communist regime as the only child of an alcoholic man who was ultimately beaten to death. My father was only 17 when he had to learn how to fend for himself because my grandfather had been murdered. So to my father, earning a living and molding my sister and me into self-sufficient adults was always far more important than providing us with emotional support. He pledged to take care of his family, and he always did—in the way he knew how to.
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My daddy issues aren’t exactly the typical kind, but they definitely exist. And they’ve definitely seeped into my dating life. You see, I used to be drawn to emotionally unavailable men. I also struggled to communicate my feelings and to show any affection whatsoever because I didn’t grow up that way. The Old Violet would definitely choose to give someone a gift over holding their hand or talking about her feelings. My daddy issues are the reason I stayed in a bad relationship—one in which I constantly ached for attention, approval, and love that never came—for way too many years.
At one point, my relationship with my father was such a struggle that I assumed we’d be estranged as soon as I moved out of my parents’ house. Thankfully, the older I got, the more my father and I managed to understand each other. As I developed more of a voice, my father had no choice but to hear me, and I finally got to say everything I’d always wanted to. I realized that while he might not be able to change, it was not too late for me.
Oddly enough, the more I’ve worked on my relationship with my father over the years, the more comfortable and confident I’ve become expressing my feelings. The best part? I’ve totally overhauled my outlook on dating and reshaped my ideas about what makes a guy attractive.
Today, my father and I may not have the most perfect relationship, but we sure do have a great one. Now, I feel completely comfortable calling him for advice, or even just to say, “I love you,” without being terrified of rejection. It might sound silly, but my father and I have come very far. We’re at the point where we can genuinely hug and in his arms, I truly feel that he couldn’t be more proud of everything I’ve accomplished. He also appreciates that I am an individual, and he’s accepted that he has to let me live the way I want to. I know that he regrets not being around much when I was younger and failing to give me the emotional support I craved, but we have been able to make up for it these past few years and I wouldn’t change a thing about our story.
I look up to my father. He is definitely my hero and I love my family more than words can describe. I now understand why he did what he did and I’ve accepted the past in order to move on to a more rewarding future.
For my dad’s latest birthday, I wrote him this poem expressing how I’ve felt over the years:
I’m writing a poem for you dad
Because I want you to hear me out
After everything we’ve been through dad
I can’t imagine a day without
The way we used to be dad
Truly breaks my heart
All that time that we’ve wasted dad
I don’t even know where to start
How do you think it made me feel dad
for all the things you didn’t do
You never kissed or hugged me dad
Or ever said “I love you”
I just wanted you to love me dad
And accept me for my flaws
If only you stopped lecturing me dad
And for once hugged me just because
But times have now changed dad
and there is nothing you won’t do
you treat me like your little princess dad
after everything that we’ve been through
The way you look at me now dad
No one can take that away
There’s so much love in your eyes dad
Which is why I know we’ll be okay
Please listen to my words dad
For they are all that I can say
I’m so proud to call me yours dad
I’ve grown to love you more each day
So that’s that. Daddy issues, the Violet Benson way.
This post originally appeared on DaddyIssuesLA.