While growing up, I thought I was different. A silent phrase on my shirt that told others a story that I didn’t want told; I was abandoned.
I still remember being at camp for the first time with my best friends. We were probably 11-years-old and we spilled our darkest secrets to each other. I can’t tell you how much we cried. I still remember the tears streaming down my face, us embracing each other, and walking back to join our other campmates. Everything seemed okay for a few moments because we had each other.
You see, when I was nine-years-old, my biological dad never came back.
I will save you the messy details of why, but it was confusing and it hurt so much. As a little girl turning into a teenager, it made me feel unlovable sometimes. As a teenage girl wanting to love a boy, it made me very careful as who I would let in. I thought I was so different from all my school classmates. As I became older, I realized what I went through was so common.
I realized I wasn’t alone.
Over a decade later, I decided to become a social worker so I could help kids and their families. During my career, I have worked in big cities like Seattle and smaller cities like Chattanooga. I cannot tell you how many children grow up without one or both parents and how many issues spiral from it. All children want and deserve to be loved. I can’t count how many boys told me their #1 goal was to be a good father and how many girls were throwing themselves at boys to fill that void.
If you know a child without a parent, chances are they may not be 100% okay. It’s important to check in with them and spend one-on-one quality time with them. Find out what your child’s love language is and love on them. Seek out a mentor for your child. Sometimes it can be easier for a child to talk to someone else about their feelings like a mentor or counselor. Whether you’re a grandparent, stepparent, community leader, or friend, step up and be active in their life. A child can never have too much love and your loving actions are what is needed most.
You may think your child is okay — that he’s moved on — but he will always be reminded when he looks in the mirror, when asked things like paternal medical history, or when someone shares a story about their dad. The absent parent will leave a hole and that hole will not heal. It will either grow or become smaller, but it will always be there aching. It’s important for your child to learn coping skills on how to deal with grief and feelings of rejection. Check out this link or talk to your school’s counselor for more information.
I was lucky. While I had a person step out of my life, I had many wonderful people who stepped up and into my life. I had supportive and loving friends. When I was a preteen, I became a Christian and discovered God’s love for me. When I was sixteen, my stepdad adopted me and I proudly call him my dad. All along, I had loving grandparents who cared for me unconditionally and a mom who never stopped loving me or cheering me on; she taught me bravery and showed me the meaning of resilience.
Without all their love, I would not be the woman I am today. I hope more kids become lucky.