Growing up, I spent a lot of time at other people's houses. My mom, a single working mom was always working and generally didn't have time to watch over me. I had two childhood best friends (both sisters) and I felt like a member of their family. I would sleep over during the week, go over their house after school to do homework and play, and was even invited to their family vacations. On September 11, I was one of the last children in the auditorium waiting to get picked up because my mom wasn't able to leave work. I ended up going over their house and learned of the event later on.
I looked up to my friend's parents and wished my family looked like theirs.
For the majority of my childhood, up until freshman year of high school I spent more time at friend's houses than my own. I would observe the dynamics of a family where the parents were still together, look at family photos posted on Facebook, and imagine how life would be if my parents were still married. I would imagine my friend's father-daughter dance at her wedding, looking very picturesque and then I would think of my biological father; hair disheveled, wearing socks with holes in them because he doesn't like spending money on clothes, and smelling of cigarettes. I grew embarrassed and ashamed at the thought. I remember at one point not even wanting to have my father present at the wedding (P.S I’m not married but marriage is clearly on my mind) and asking my brother to walk me down the aisle.
It took me a long time to accept that my family will never look like or be the Joneses. And I eventually realized perfection within a family does not even exist. Behind those beautiful, perfectly posed photos we see on Facebook during every holiday season, there is something we cannot see. And that imperfection is OK. And normal. And beautiful.
While my father and mother are no longer together and family photos past a certain age are scarce, I’m grateful both of my parents are believers. I'm grateful that my father prays for hours on end for me and my siblings, and that he's always encouraged me to read the bible, attend church, and use my gifts for God's glory. I'm grateful for all the times he called me in college, encouraging me to pray. At the time, I found him extremely annoying and overbearing. Now, I just see a father who deeply loves and cherishes his daughter.
I don't want to imagine how my life would have turned out if my father didn't pray for me, or if he didn't care whether or not I know Jesus. I no longer want him to be a millionaire, surprising me with a car on my 16th birthday, or to be the type of man my husband will immediately understand and want to play golf with. The more I come to know Christ, the more I understand, love, and accept my father for who he is.
God accepts and loves me despite all of my messiness. Therefore, I must extend that love towards others.
Perfection is never the goal of a parent who trusts and loves God. They're willing to throw away the title of “Cool Parent who Gives Space to their Child and Lets them Run Wild” for the sake of their child's soul. The goal is to raise a child who knows what Jesus has done on the cross for them, and how much they're loved by God. Divorce doesn't change their purpose.
While my parent's marriage wasn’t successful, they were successful at raising children who know and love God, which was their goal all along.
Thank you for coming to my defenses when Peter called me out for drooling. For teaching me to wink. For capturing my childhood on VHS. For passing down your gift of music. For teaching me to pray.