Nothing prepares you for meeting your father for the first time when you’re an adult. Because meeting this way is not normal. Your father is supposed to be there at your birth and be somebody you have always known. So what can you expect when your search has finally resulted in receiving your father’s contact information either directly or through another person?
First of all, please realize that you will need patience, understanding, and an open mind that there may be circumstances you know nothing about. You will need to put your own emotions aside and put yourself in his shoes. Because the first thing that usually happens is silence. That’s when your emotions go on a roller coaster ride: from ecstasy over finding him to complete rejection when he doesn’t immediately pick up the phone and declare his undying love for you. And then all of those emotions in-between: impatience, anger, loss, sadness, regret, and fear.
Step One: Be Patient
It took my father 2 months to contact me after my uncle gave him my contact information. I cried and prayed on the couch every day. Then we went away for a 1-week cruise to Alaska and when we returned home, I turned on the computer, checked my email and there it was: his email titled, “Knowledge.”
Why knowledge? Well, to him, contacting me was all about responding to my request for information about him. After mulling it over for 2 months, he was still reluctant to take it further, to talk, to connect, to meet, let me into his heart, all the time wondering what the gain was. After all, he had put me behind him years ago. He had moved on, remarried and had another family. And his other children knew nothing of me.
Step Two: Understanding Your Father’s Reluctance
Want to know the biggest reason that fathers aren’t more open to contacting their adult children first? F-e-a-r. Fathers are afraid that they will be blamed for not being there, they will be accused of abandoning the child and they are afraid of being attacked. Sometimes rightly so. Most often than not, it’s complicated. It’s not clear-cut who’s to blame. In many cases, there’s something that’s being covered up. Quite often the mother blames the father, convincing the child to be on her side. And the child does become angry at the father or certainly convinced their mother was right and their father was wrong.
Fathers also worry about the people in their present life: their wife, their kids, their grandkids, their neighbors, the people at church. What are they all going to think about him having this child who suddenly appears on the scene?
Knowing all of this and accepting your father for who he is, then you’ll be more open to understanding he has his own point of view and reasons for his behavior. And that, under the circumstances, he is doing the best he can.
Step Three: Be Prepared for his Side of the Story
Knowing what I know now, I realized I should have expected that there would be another side to the story. But because I was so sure my mother was right, I went into complete shock and anger and experienced deep feelings of betrayal when I discovered the truth. This alienated me from my family. If I had gone in there expecting that she had told me her side and my father had another side, maybe I would have reacted more calmly and understood better what was going on
But like any new relationship, with love, understanding, and patience, this relationship can grow into something more. It takes time, the right circumstances and the willingness on everyone’s part. It doesn’t always turn into the father/daughter relationship we’ve always hoped for but sometimes it helps to be grateful for what you do get.
Read more in Myths of the Fatherless.