Madonna and (Fatherless) Child


By Eliza David

I get my height from my father. My teenage dreams of being famous, my participation in drama club throughout my high school and college years, my ears – all things I’ve been told I’ve gotten from the male contributor of me.

I hope that’s where the list ends. 

My parents met in Chicago in the mid-seventies. She was a Catholic schoolgirl from the South Side.  He, an aspiring boxer from the West Side. They fell in love, as teenagers do, and I came along a few years later. I saw my father periodically after he and my mother broke up when I was a toddler. Every once in a while, he would show up to take me to movies or to Lake Michigan for a picnic. He’d buy me the occasional gift estranged parents give their kids out of guilt, obligation, or a sordid mix of both.

The most memorable of these tokens was Madonna’s Bedtime Stories for my birthday. After taking me out for pizza, he dropped me back off at my house. I sat in the passenger seat as he passed the CD to me, which was inside a yellow Coconuts baggie. “I had no idea you liked this type of music,” he’d said with a hint of pure shock. After giving him a meaningless peck on the cheek and bolting out of his car, I went in the house and eagerly dug through the bag. I found a sealed greeting card included with the compact disc. Upon first glance, my brow crinkled: he had misspelled my name on the envelope.

Not only did my own father not know that I was a years-long Madonna fan, but he didn’t know how to spell my first fucking name. My sixteen-year-old brain couldn’t figure out which was worse.

Once I’d turned eighteen and was off to college, it was as if he had disappeared from my life.  He’d fulfilled his child support obligation, after all. I can only guess that he hid out where other part-time (quarter-time?) bio-dads hide when they are afraid to invest more money in the education of their adult child. Soon after, my post-collegiate life had become fuller with making friends, meeting my future husband, and starting my career. The busier I got, the more I got used to not having my father in my life. As I got older, I began to feel weird about rarely thinking of him: Is that normal? Am I in denial? Shouldn’t I be having a breakdown of some kind? 

In some ways, I think I grew numb to it after the Madonna CD debacle. I couldn’t even classify him as a memory because I didn’t have much to remember about him. I’d known more about the fathers of my high school boyfriends than I had him. I didn’t know anything about my father and, what’s more, it didn’t bother me.

Then, I had children.

Building a stereotypical nuclear family when you were raised without a father is akin to trying to learn two languages simultaneously. When our first child was born, I was becoming a mother and learning how to allow my husband the space to parent. I grew up watching my mother raise my younger brother and I by herself, so becoming a parenting partner with my husband required me to rewire myself.  I learned to let him be a father and it has benefited our family tenfold. My greatest joys include watching my husband play tea party with our preschool daughter or helping our fourth grader build videos for his YouTube channel. I didn’t have that connection and I’m realizing what I missed out on.  I also recognize that it was no fault of my own and that freed me.

My father phoned to reconnect with me a year ago. We talked for an hour but I found the conversation pedantic, listless. I felt as if he were a stranger who was attempting to insert himself into my life – and that’s exactly who he was. He still calls occasionally, leaving me voicemail messages that I rarely listen to. He’s never met my children and he’s only met my husband (whom I’ve known for almost half of my life) once. I wish I could find something inside of me that wants to bond with him. I feel odd that I don’t. Things may change, I cannot speak to the future.

Today, I take pride in the family I’ve built with a man who has shown me what fatherhood looks like in its purest form. My children will never know what it’s like to get a greeting card from him with their names misspelled. And he’ll never be shocked to know our children’s longtime likes and dislikes in pop culture. I never have to question whether my husband will be around for their future birthdays, graduations, and weddings. It’s a refreshing thing to see, this unconditional love from man to child. A twinge of regret washes over me from time to time from not having it in my life, but I had so much more than my father could or would supply. His absence in my past led to this chaotic, yet amazing, life I lead now. How can I be upset or angry about that gift?  God bless Madonna.

Eliza is part of the Contributing Writer Network at Thirty On Tap. The views and opinions expressed in Contributing Writer articles reflect those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the site.

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{featured image via unsplash}

10 thoughts on “Madonna and (Fatherless) Child

    • Eliza David says:

      For me, it was a lot of trying to take control the way my mother had to out of necessity. I’ve learned that my husband has a patience in him I don’t possess & it’s been helpful in raising our kids. I had to learn to let him have the space to use that trait instead of me trying to jump in every time. That’s just one instance that has made me a better mother and a happier woman.

      Liked by 3 people

  1. aliasjtene says:

    I love how transparent you are in everything you share with me. I know I’m not the onliest one reading, but it feels like we’re just 2 good girlfriends havin a great conversation. I’ve never had this talk with any of my friends or family, to learn about how they felt not having their father in their lives. This blog made me feel a little closer to you, and made me instantly want to hug MrDavid 😉 ) In the beginning, I thought “Oh my goodness, she’s about read the hell out of her Dad in this open forum. Don’t do it girl! Don’t do it!”. Now that I’ve read it in its entirety, I realize that this isn’t about your Dad at all (well, maybe a little lol). I learned more about your growth as a woman and a mother, and about the awesome MrDavid, than anything else. I think this is a great letter to him for Fathers Day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Eliza David says:

      Thank you, Sister!! This was the bravest peice of writing I’ve ever done but it’s been brewing in me since I became a parent – and ten years is too long to keep this bottled up. I’m happy it resonated with you because I think that you are THE busiest mama I know (LOL!). I’ve learned that in my 37 short years on Earth, I cannot afford to live them being angry at someone who doesn’t even know me, you know? It’s just a waste of time. Viola Davis has this lovely quote from an Oprah interview where she says, “I don’t have any time to stay up all night worrying about what someone who doesn’t love me has to say about me.” I try to live that every day.


  2. mochasunshine27 says:

    Once we become parents the things that we missed or lack from an absent parent when we were younger comes at you full force. Over time you may change how you feel about your father or maybe not. I understand the child support part all to well. Great personal post that you shared with us. It’s not easy sharing something personal with the whole world but it’s many more who can relate to this blog or experiencing the same feelings as you have. Bravo My sister!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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