I don’t know if you remember it, but I do, and she certainly does. You called their mom, my sister, your ex-wife, and you told her that you wanted to take Brooklynn out for a special daddy-daughter date on your weekend to have her. As an eight-year-old girl who desperately sought her daddy’s affection, Brooklynn couldn’t wait. She picked out her favorite dress, her momma did her hair, she wore her best shoes, and she showed up at the meeting place to go out with you. She practically skipped to your car, and once you pulled out of the parking lot you let her know that She was not actually going out with you on a special date.
You see, you were convinced that Brooklynn was a liar. You were convinced that she lied about your new wife, about said wife’s forms of punishment, about the bruises. So you decided that Brooklynn needed to learn a lesson. She needed to learn what it felt like to be lied to. So she got to spend the whole weekend locked in her room unless she was doing chores. You made my niece a Cinderella, and all she wanted was a little bit of the love that you made so conditional.
Do you remember that? The day that she decided you were no longer her Daddy. The day she began referring to you by your first name?
I think about you a lot on father’s day. I try so hard to understand you, your motives, but I just can’t. Maybe I’m biased. Maybe I’m just lucky because I’ve grown up with a good good daddy who would never dream of leaving me, who would fight for me until the end. Maybe there are more people like you than I can even imagine, but what is this day to you? What is it to them? What is a day that celebrates fathers to a man who was once a father, but whom, by choice, is no longer one?
I’m going to tell you a little bit about those little girls, the ones you left, the ones who have grown so much and dealt with too much in the past three years since you left them.
Brooklynn is the strongest kid I know. Too strong. She has a sense of sass, which I’m afraid she’s picked up from her aunt. One day she’ll learn to control it better and use it in the right situations, I’m sure of it. She’s an awesome little soccer player. She’s aggressive, she’s hardworking, and she just made a club team. She has good grades, and a great head on her shoulder! She’s brilliant and observant. She always has been, I don’t know if you remember. She seeks love a little too much from men. That scares us. It’s one of the many things we’ve had to work hard to help her through. We all wonder where that came from… We all wonder why she so often thinks she’s not enough for men, that she needs to be more…
But like I said she’s incredible. And I fully believe that one day she’ll find her self worth. She’ll find out just how awesome she is.
Just this past week I came home to visit, and I took her to a trampoline park. She was jumping, and climbing, and having the time of her life. It does my heart so well to finally get to see her being a kid. After all she has been through, all the adult matters she’s been forced to take on, it has become a mission in my life to find refuge for her to feel safe enough to be a kid, even if it’s only for a few hours. And boy, is she great at it when she get’s the chance. She’s such a joy to watch when someone lets her know that it’s okay for her to be 11-years-old.
Sydney is spunky. She marches to a different drummer than anyone I have ever met. She too has had trauma we never imagined impacted her so deeply. She was so young when you left, when you gave up on her. We were all so worried about Brooklynn, but in time we realized so much more damage was done to the child who couldn’t quite express herself yet. She’s said some horrid things that have broken everyone’s heart. She’s has been to psychiatrists and counselors for years now because we were all so worried about what she’d do to herself. We were all so worried when she said she wasn’t enough, when this sweet-hearted six-year-old wanted to end her own life because she just didn’t feel like she would ever measure up. We were all so worried that we wouldn’t be able to undo your damage.
But she’s strong too. She’s incredible. She went from almost failing the first grade, to finishing second grade with a year-long honor-roll. She’s stopped caring what people think about her. She wears and says what she wants, and it’s beautiful, and authentic, and everything you tried to prevent her to be.
Unlike Brooklynn, she misses you. She asks about you, and all she wanted for her birthday was a phone call, a phone call. But she’s growing, and learning, and discerning, and she’s a feeler, and she’s bound to do great things one day. She has musical ability, and athletic strength, and a wonderful compassion for life, and a personality. Gosh, she has the personality to take the world by storm, and I am so so proud that I get to stand in her corner every day for the rest of my life. I choose to be there because your daughter, your daughters, are incredible little girls, and they’re becoming incredible young ladies.
But now the point, every open letter has to have a point. The point is, when their father left, they were not fatherless. They have a good good heavenly father that they talk to, and pray to, and learn more about all the time. They have a good good stepfather who has taken them on, flaws and all, and devoted himself to love them, to protect them, to prove to them that they truly are treasures. They have a grandfather who adores them, and shows them affection and worth through quality time, compliments, and ice cream.
And the difference between these men and you is their love is unconditional, and the girls are finally learning that they are worthy, and beautiful, and gifts from God even when they mess up, even when their grades are less than desired, even when they are not the perfect daughters.
But most of all, I am writing this to let you know that they forgive you. I have learned so much through these little girls and their ability to forgive you after all of the hurt, and trauma, and nightmares.
I pray that one day you might learn from them as well.