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Family

Fit to be Family Tied

Any six-year-old can look up the definition of a father in the dictionary and will learn that a father is, “a man who has begotten a child.”[1]  To a six year old, what does that mean…begotten a child?

I was a six-year-old who did just that. I looked up the definition of a father because I didn’t quite understand what that meant.  You see, I was starting first grade in two days and I was going to have to report on what I did for the summer. I had just returned from a thousand-mile journey where I was on a requisite custodial visit spending the summer with my father. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed visiting my father because he made it a point to give into my every whim and make those five weeks feel like Christmas, Easter and my birthday all rolled into one. For a six-year-old, this is great! I fly to faraway places and see a man for a few weeks that I have only familiarized myself with through pictures on my shelf and faint memories in my head.

To a six-year-old, he was my father because he helped my mom create me. He was a nice person to visit, but something, a true father/daughter relationship, was missing.

He married my mom when she got pregnant because he loved her and loved the idea of having a family. In that decade of free love and behavior with abandon, this was rare indeed. The fact that he stepped up to the plate and married a 17-year-old when he was just a young 22 year old is admirable. The fact that he wanted to provide for his family and make a “go of it” was equally admirable. Unfortunately, uncontrollable circumstances coupled with immaturity resulted in divorce. It also resulted in confusion that continually circulated in the head of an innocent bystander, a little girl, me.

Shortly after my mother and father divorced, my mother remarried. Her new husband became my dad. This was neither by force nor circumstance, but by choice. I decided to call him “dad” because he did not help to create me but he did play an active role in my life. He disciplined me, he took me to school, he taught me how to ride a bike and he helped me with my homework. He did for me, what my father was unable to do. As a little girl, this was not confusing.  As a little girl, I was blessed to have a father and a dad.  However, as a woman, this blessing became extremely confusing.

I realized the impact of my confusion as a 25-year-old woman who was planning her wedding. The dress, the flowers, the cake and the venue were all easy decisions as compared to the decision I had to make about the man who was going to walk me down the aisle. Traditionally, it should be my father. However, I felt a sense of fidelity to my dad. I wanted him to participate in this momentous act as well. I wanted them both to walk me down the aisle.

Easier said than done.

When I presented this idea to my dad, he was amenable to any decision I made. In fact, he was honored that I would want him to walk me down the aisle. However, when I presented my father with the same scenario, he was fit to be tied. How dare I, his only daughter, ask him to share this honor with another man? He couldn’t believe that I was so insensitive to his needs.

Allow me to fast forward 15 years. As I look back on my wedding day, I have a lump in my throat because I was forced to choose between what I wanted and what I had to do.  I wanted both my father and dad to walk me down the aisle from start to finish.  However, I had to settle for them walking me down the aisle individually. My dad walked me down the aisle from the back of the church to the middle, and my father walked me down the aisle from the middle of the church to the alter. A choice I had to make to accommodate two men whom I love very much.

What does this have to do with paternity establishment? I have been blessed to have two men who love me as their daughter. That blessing, however, does not come without challenges. Both men have helped to make me the woman I am today. Both men have had a great impact on my life from near and from afar. The physical distance between my father and I can be challenging, but never impedes the closeness that a father can have with his daughter. My dad saw me every day and impacted my life on a daily basis. Again, physical proximity is usurped by the closeness a dad has with his daughter.

So, for fathers, dads or papas out there who no longer have a relationship with their children’s mother, I encourage you to never allow that to obstruct your relationship with your children. They need that. They need to know that no matter where you are in the world, you are always with them.

As for me, with father challenges or dad obstacles, I live happily fit to be family tied.

By Yesenia Peiker

[1] Merriam-Webster Online

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