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Looking beyond “daddy issues”

Most of the time when I bring up a conversation with someone over the topic of “daddy issues,” they seem to follow it with a slight giggle. The words do sound kind of silly when you say them out loud. This “silly” term has the tendency to be a joke about women’s sexuality.

My parents divorced when I was 6 years old. I had to leave my father in Costa Rica, and I moved with my Mamí to Germany where our new life began. Why Germany? Well, she remarried, and when this man offered a new life, we took it. It was bye to my Papí and hi to my new “dad.”

Sharon and her mother holding hands together. (Sharon Valverde Vargas / The Signpost)

According to the U.S Census Bureau, 19.7 million children, more than one in four, live without a father in their home. Research shows that these children can be affected by a 4 times greater risk of poverty and be 7 times more likely to become pregnant as a teen. Other factors that go up are the likelihood to have behavioral problems and to abuse drugs and alcohol. The list goes on.

I didn’t know what I would start to be missing at six years old, but throughout the years, I began to realize I was lacking something important in my daily life: my father. Why didn’t I just begin this father-daughter relationship with my new dad?

Mamí always said, “No matter what, remember: Dad is your stepdad and not Papí. There is a difference.”

Being told as a 6-year-old that I couldn’t act with my stepdad like I did with my Papí was strange, but as the saying goes, “Momma knows best.”

I had to learn as a 6-year-old to keep to distance myself from a male figure that was supposed to protect me and make me feel comfortable. He did do his best.

However, Mamí’s rules meant no sitting on his lap, no jumping in his arms, no smothering him with kisses, no asking him personal questions about my body and no crying in his arms when I felt sad.

You could say it made me strong in some areas and weak in others.

Strong, because I had to be. I knew Mamí only did what was best for me, and I listened.

Weak, because I can’t tell you how many times I needed Papí to hold me, and he was never physically able to be there for me, even to this day.

Yeah, I have daddy issues.

These daddy issues helped me build a strong personality. I am easily open with everyone, including men. I remember seeking this male attention ever since middle school.

Boys made me feel comfortable, and I liked it. I think it was because I didn’t have that male attention every day. So, when I received it from boys and I was attracted to them, nothing else felt better.

I didn’t have a Papí to come home to and tell that I had a crush on a boy. I was never sat down and spoken to softly about how boys should treat me. It’s sad to know that Papí wasn’t there for some of my most important childhood memories.

We girls should have this: memories like my first ballet recital, my first menstrual cycle, my first kiss, my first boyfriend (which he should be mad about), my first school play, my first volleyball game, my high school graduation. Sadly, he was not a part of any of that for me, and yes, it hurt.

But I stayed strong.

I believe your father is like your first boyfriend. He shows you how a man should care for you, how he should treat you and talk to you. I wish I had him with me whenever a boy was mean to me. I wish I could have run into his arms and cried and had him tell me, “It’s ok, hija.”

This example of a father figure is important. Who wouldn’t want that? I understand some fathers aren’t good ones, but wouldn’t you wish they were?

Now that I’m an adult, I have been in a few relationships. I find myself falling for some men that need fixing, and I am easily sucked in. I seek their confirmation that I am a lovable woman.

This doesn’t mean I’m weak, it just means I’m human and learning.

Would I have a better understanding of men if Papí was more present in my whole life? I think so. It wouldn’t be perfect, but I would either go straight to him or make the mistake and then go to him directly after.

I had a relationship with a man that began like most. He was charismatic and good with his words, and I was wooed. It was also my first year living in Utah, and it was nice to feel accepted. When he asked me to lunch, I said yes. I was about to enter a roller coaster.

Bad habits mixed with his unfortunate past brought out a side of him that I wouldn’t want a woman to see and deal with. We women are natural caretakers, but like my mom says, “We are not a psychiatrist to fix everyone.” (Well, unless you are a psychiatrist. Then, have at it!)

I am a naturally happy person, and after a year with this guy, it was a miracle if I didn’t cry each day. It was toxic, and I thought I couldn’t get out. The fights got so ugly that one day his nose was almost touching mine while he was yelling at me. I thought I would never let a man talk to me like that, but I did.

My Papí never found out, even to this day. How could I tell him that? He never asked about my boyfriends, and I never told him. I wish I could have. I wish I felt the freedom to say, “Papí, this boy said this to me, what do I do?”

All of this built who I am, and I feel proud of myself. These daddy issues helped strengthen me because I got myself out of those emotional problems by loving myself. This constant reminder of who I am and what I have to offer strengthens me day by day.

It makes me wonder: if I could do it all over, with my Papí present, would I?

I don’t think I would. Because of these tribulations, I am this woman.

I embrace the good, bad and ugly.

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