On The Subject of My Mother as My FatherMarianna Tabares

Whenever my friend talks about how her dad is bossy and complains too much, I say, “Must be nice to argue with your dad.”

“Don’t do that!” she yells, because I made her sound like a jerk for complaining about her dad when I haven’t seen mine since I was thirteen.

I don’t miss him, but I do think about him. For at least a tiny portion of my life, I got to be a daddy’s girl. I remember him bouncing me on his knee and singing a song and at the end of that song I’d clap and yell, “Mambo!”

I remember one day my brother hurt my feelings and when my dad found me on the couch crying I said, “He’s ruining my life!” My dad went upstairs to have a few words with him and it was a long time before that little creep bothered me again.

My parents, back when I was just a glimmer in their eyes.

With my parents’ divorce, my mother’s role changed so drastically and at the time, we naturally had no clue that she was going to have to be our mom AND our dad all at once.

She became the sole provider and head of household. She had to discipline and nurture two kids who were entering the next awful stage  that comes after the Terrible Twos: Being lousy teens.

One Father’s Day, I sent my mom a floral arrangement thanking her for taking on the role of both parents. This year, I’m not doing it again. I had to take a long look at my mother and no longer have her play his part. I just want her to be my mom anymore.

I thought a lot about how I never had to deal with some of the stuff my friends had to, such as having to ask TWO parents for permission to go to the movies or the mall. I only ever had to ask my mom and I loved the efficiency of that system. Even now I still think about how she has done her best to provide for my brother in areas of life that remain completely foreign to us as the only two women in the house. Just as I struggle to understand the men around me, I assume my mom still can’t sort out what the heck is running through my brother’s brain.

Sometimes I see how some of my friends have parents who are still very much in love with each other. I very clearly remember an afternoon at a friend’s house and as her mother chopped some vegetables while at the kitchen counter, her dad walked up from behind, wrapped his arms around her and sang, “L.A. Womaaan.”

It’s not a total bummer to be without a dad, but it’s possible that life would have been much easier for us if my mom had someone she could count on. My mom always says that the best part of her being single is that she shares the TV remote with no one. I don’t disagree.

Though my father and I left off on really bad terms, I have learned to appreciate the roles of good fathers by seeing how much they impact the lives of their families. After a friend’s father passed away, his family continued to include his memory into every new event. His picture was carried down the aisle at a wedding and some of them even got a tattoo of a heart to symbolize the many years he struggled with a pacemaker. I felt so lucky to have met him because he was the kind of guy who could make criticizing his own children sound like comedy. They may not have appreciated the jokes, but I sure did, and he made me feel so welcomed in his home. It means the world to me when friends’ parents approve of having me around.

My dad once dedicated a song to me called “Mi Niña” in which the singer describes his daughter as a source of inspiration whose smile instills a sense of hope in his life, and how she will be there when he’s reached old age. It’s too bad, because I don’t even know if I’ll ever see my father again. I know that he is still alive, but he’s in another country now.

And now I’m going to sob for a while because I haven’t heard the song in years and it just always hits me hard. I hope that everyone reading this will have a special weekend, with your fathers and mothers, or any one amazing who has raised you and loved you.

Photos Courtesy of My Mom

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  1. Wow Chamaca lo leo y no lo creo un besote y un abrazo :)

  2. I can completely relate. My father passed away when I was 14 and my mom had to step up and become the “wo-man” of the house. This was really challenging for her because my dad had always really did the mean stuff, like punishments and make us do chores, etc. We’ve definitely had our ups and downs but now that I am older, I look back and realize what a great job she has done. Granted, there are some things that happened that are questionable, but she has tried really hard and I love her so much for that. It was rocky but I feel like the whole situation really made me who I am today.

  3. This was awesome. I too grew up without a father. It was tough growing up because their were conversations that I wished I could have had with or at least a father figure. But to be honest, sometimes I think it was best. My father was not around for a reason. I think if he was, I wouldn’t be who I am now. I look at it as a blessing at times. My is everything to me and there is no way I can repay her. All I can do is make her proud and that is all she needs, well that’s what she told me, lol. Thanks for sharing!

  4. You seriously made me cry, I relate to you completely… my dad also walked out on us and I worry about my mom every day cause I wished she had someone to rely on as a partner, but this just makes us stronger & the way I see it, God is my dad so although not physically, we are taken care of. Lots of love and thanks for sharing Marianna, saludos!

  5. Man, now you guys are making ME teary eyed. :)

  6. My Mother was/ is my father too! My father left her when she was pregnant n i just saw him 2 times in my life ( first time i was 13). I didnt like him n i dont care abt him, found out he’s not a good person (he dosent care abt me either) but i wish i had a father around, a stepfather.

  7. Thanks for this amazing post! My dad died when I was 11 & my mom took on both parent roles. I’m so grateful for the effort she has put in, every single day. Even when she felt awful or was too sore or tired to get up, she did it for me & my brother. My dad was a sweet, smart, kind person who left this earth to early. But, my mom has made our lives as great as possible! And, yes, it was sometimes a blessings to only have to ask one parent. My mama is more than a mother, she is a father, a friend, and a teacher. (She’s still a mama first and foremost though ;) Thanks to your post, I will make sure I remind her of that fact :) Thanks again for this beautiful reminder!

  8. Girl,this was an amazing article,it made me weep a little…I have a dad,I know him and everything and we still keep contact and my mum loves him,but because of his job he’s works in another part of the country so I see him every two weeks or so and only for a couple of days.It’s hard because sometimes would call me and scold me for something I did just from my mother’s tale and it’s kind of annoying.The other thing is I don’t even have my dad’s last name (I still don’t know the reason to this and I may never,no one wants to tell me) so whenever someone asks me my dad’s name,they’re like “but you don’t have his name” it’s kind of like being a bastard,bit of a bummer really.So anyways I hope with this story you feel that although some of us have dads and know him and talk to him,not all dads are so great as your friends,who sounded like an awesome one…Most times my Godfather is the one that has acted ad my dad,and for that I am grateful.
    Much love,
    MJ

  9. My mother was my father too because my dad passed away when i was young. She never remarried because she thought it would be hard on us, the kids (although I do wish she did so she wouldn’t have to go through it all alone) but she’s still my inspiration and the strongest woman I know! Makes me sad to know that I didn’t really get to know my dad as a person… like find out what music he liked and stuff like that… I always try yo think what kind of person I’d be if he was still around… maybe spoilt or bratty or something else… but I couldn’t imagine life any other way now!