I Grew Up Fatherless In The Traditional Sense, But I Still Received Fatherly Love

By E.M. Uzoamaka

PHOTO © rohane/Twenty20

May 10, 2022

In my life, I’ve learned that fulfillment can be found in many ways. 

I can find fulfillment in sending someone a box of homemade cookies, or teaching other moms to prepare simple family meals. Some days I find it in learning a new skill, like knitting, or just spending my downtime watching an old movie.

Even so, when I look back on the life I've lived so far, there are still some things I wish I had. Like a father. But even in his absence, I still had the love of a father — it just came from my uncle. For that I feel grateful.

Craig Stephens didn't have a dad growing up, so when he became a father, he found there were three qualities he wanted to bring to his parenting.

What's in Tradition?

The first time I heard the phrase “daddy issues,” I was sitting in a healing circle with a group of women who had come together to work on the guilt and shame they had been carrying around for years for various reasons.

The phrase struck me because I didn’t grow up with either of my parents. I’ve always wondered who my parents were, with the question “Why?” looming over me. At three weeks old I was baptized and taken to my paternal grandmother’s home to be cared for.

Even though I wasn’t raised in what many see as a traditional family, I grew up with a grandmother and an uncle who gave me the best life they could afford. They taught me core values like respect, honesty and integrity, which have guided me into adulthood.

Appreciating What I Had

When my real dad re-entered my life, I was well past my formative years. It wasn't an ideal situation, but I used the teachings from my upbringing to maintain my self-worth, stay authentic to myself and be honest about how I was feeling.

"I have no regrets or vengefulness about my real father not being around."

Of course after our encounter, I now know the reason why my real dad wasn’t present. And I have also come to appreciate the important role and the powerful presence my Uncle D had on my life even more.

While I’ve had my own traumatic experiences in the time leading up to adulthood, my childhood was filled with love and support. And much of it came from my uncle — someone who didn’t give me life, but who taught me to be content and live to the best of my ability.

Brianna Bell's dad wasn't there for in childhood, so she saw Bob Saget on Full House as a father figure — which is why his death hit her on a personal level.

'The Universe Had A Different Story For Me'

My uncle shaped how I proceed through life, and how I process its twists and turns. I fondly remember the mornings where he would read the Bible to me and my cousins, and encouraged us to stay true to the Creator and to my beliefs.

"I was lucky to have the opportunity to be accepted, sheltered and fathered outside of social norms."

I have no regrets or vengefulness about my real father not being around, because I believe that maybe the universe wanted me to be nurtured by someone else. Perhaps so my world view wouldn’t be skewed by what society tells us a family is supposed to look like.

My fulfillment comes from gracefully extending support to others when it’s needed, and paying it forward in love. It is wrapped up in a hopeful acceptance that my past won’t determine my future. It’s being content and staying optimistic.

Questions like why my dad never lived in the same home with me have long vanished, because I know the universe had a different story for me. I was lucky to have the opportunity to be accepted, sheltered and fathered outside of social norms. For that, I am eternally grateful.

Dedicated to my uncle, David Jonathan Jackson.

E.M. Uzoamaka

E.M. Uzoamaka is a three-time published Barbadian Canadian author, entrepreneur, parenting and lifestyle expert and well-being facilitator. As a vegan enthusiast, she sits on the Queen Victoria Black Student Success Committee as their food and well-being coordinator; she along with the group are the recipients of the Urban Alliance 2021 Racial Justice education award. When she isn’t facilitating, she can be found on Instagram @chic_coffeedence_vegan sharing healthy family-friendly meals and treats.

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