Growing Up Without The Yardstick

april 2006 016.jpg

 In the book, Fatherless America: Confronting Our Most Urgent Social Problem, David Blankenhorn asked the question ‘what is your unique role in the family?’  Blankenhorn posed this question to fathers all over the country.  The number one answer he received was ‘protector.’  That is what I wanted.  I started to think back to my childhood.  There were times, at night, when I was so scared that someone would break in my house and kill me.  This was a completely irrational fear, but I remember being so scared.  I also remember how much I loved to spend the night at my friend’s houses, because I felt safe with their father there.  There was a time when my sister, brother-in-law, and niece moved in with us; I always complained about having them around, but deep down I loved the fact that my brother-in-law was there.  It made me feel safe.  I felt like if he was there he could protect me from all of those irrational fears.

I was lucky.  My sister is twenty-one years older than me, so she was married when I was seven years old.  I immediately took to my new six-foot seven inch tall brother-in-law.  I was sure that he would always protect me.  I honestly think he did.  He would go with me to the father-daughter activities as my substitute dad.  He would sit me down and have those fatherly lectures with me.  He taught me to drive, and if you knew how scared I was to get behind the wheel you would see that as nearly miraculous.  He was the one my boyfriends were afraid of.  They knew that they better not hurt me, because they would face Jeff.  I thank God that my sister was able to not only find a wonderful, strong, kind-hearted, Christian husband, but that I was blessed enough to have him want to do those fatherly things with me.  He could have just brushed me off as Cathy’s annoying little kid sister, but he didn’t.  He let me pester him, talk to him, and he let me be the center of attention from time to time.  He always made sure that I knew I could come to him with anything, that he would be there for me, and that he truly cared.  Sometimes I think that if it hadn’t been for him being around I would have become one of the statistics.

Now, Jeff was great, but he was still my brother-in-law.  I needed my dad.  It was great to see Jeff take on some of those roles, but at times it only made me see what I was missing.  I wondered why my dad couldn’t be the one that was there teaching me to parallel park, telling me that my ex-boyfriend was the one that should be sorry for letting me go.  My dad should have been the one telling me that he was proud of me when I graduated.  He should be the one helping me with homework.  There is this belief that a step-dad, brother, or uncle can take on the role of father and all will be wonderful for the child.  That is not the case.  There is something about a father that is irreplaceable.  A girl looks at her father as a yard stick of what a husband is supposed to be.  There is always talk of how a girl with a father that abuses her mother will most likely end up in an abusive relationship herself, but what if there is no yard stick?

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