There's the father we all want: the one who throws a ball with his kids, takes them for ice cream on Saturday afternoons, is strict when he has to be and a marshmallow when it's called for. Unfortunately, that's not the father we all get.
KIMMY: Starting when I was 12 years old, Dad mocked me with insulting nicknames that always started with the word "big" and meant clumsy, ugly, etc. It was supposed to be funny, and I was supposed to laugh, but it hurt. When I was in eighth grade and a cute boy asked me for a date, I burst into tears and ran away. My self-esteem was so low that I automatically assumed he was setting me up for a practical joke.
Eventually, my grandmother convinced me that if a nice boy asked me for a date, it was a compliment, not an insult. She didn't think I was big or ugly. She thought I looked like her, and she'd been a beauty queen. I gained the confidence to start dating at age 15.
Years later, with the help of a therapist, I went back and asked Dad why he used to call me insulting names. He said, "You could look in the mirror and see you were beautiful. I wanted to keep you from getting a swelled head." How sad!
As for the boy I was so rude to in the eighth grade, he remembered the incident, and we reconciled at one of our reunions. We're now friends, and believe it or not, he's married to a woman who looks a lot like me!
LISA: When I got divorced at 25 after seven years of marriage, my dad told me no one would want to date me because I had three kids; I had too much baggage. If they did date me, it would be because I was young, pretty and in good shape, so I had better be fantastic to any man who might come my way because it would take a big man to want to put up with my kids, let alone any actual relationship issues.
Luckily, I did find a "big man." He's five years younger than I and has been an amazing husband, stepfather, lover and best friend. He's the oldest of five kids, so it was nothing to him to marry a woman with three kids. His mom also had three kids when she married her second husband, who was the only father my husband knew.
He treats my kids like his own, and now my dad tells me how lucky I am. He recently told me that I deserved a good man because I'm a good woman, wife and mother. Wow! At least he finally came around. I've been blissfully married for four years with no blended family issues!
DEENA: When I was 15, my father told me, "You'd better be able to support yourself, because nobody will ever want to support you."
After I married a great guy at 24, my father would look at me and say in a nasty tone of voice, "You know, you were fortunate to get a boy like him."
And people wonder why I have nothing to do with the old SOB.
How did the messages you received from your parents influence you? Send your tale, along with your questions, problems and rants to [email protected] And check out my e-books, "Dear Cheryl: Advice from Tales from the Front" and "I'll Call You. Not."