The Prodigal Daughter
Disclaimer: If you and your dad have a healthy, perfect relationship, great! I envy you. Don't assume you know my whole story if you haven't walked a day in my shoes. Have an opinion? This isn't the place for it. This is for my own resolution and insight for others out there who might be grappling with similar struggles. I'd greatly appreciate it if you respected this space.
We all know the tale -- a father has two sons to which he'll leave his inheritance. The younger son, who can't wait for pops to kick the bucket so he can collect his share, demands the money from dad while he's still alive. Dad, being a nice guy, gives it to him. The younger son travels far, far away and blows all the money on frivolous things like shopping and hookers. Eventually a huge famine strikes the land and the younger brother becomes so poor that he even envies the food pigs eat. The younger son snaps out of it and realizes he massively fucked up and goes crawling back to dad. He even rehearses the speech he's going to say to dad, but when the younger son finally returns home, the dad simply embraces him and then covers him with a fine robe, a ring, and sandals while ordering a calf to be slaughtered for a big celebratory meal.
Meanwhile, the older brother, who's kept his head down, obeyed every command, and was a good son this whole time is not impressed at his younger brother's abrupt return. He (rightfully) gets pissed and tells his dad, "Behold, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed a commandment of yours, but you never gave me a goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this, your son, came, who has devoured your living with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him."
This story really resonates with me because I identify all too well with the older son while feeling like I should be the father, and wishing I was the younger son. Pretty confusing, I know. Let's back up.
My dad isn't the easiest person to get along with. He, like any other person, can't be categorized into a rigid binary of good or bad. He's a dude with good traits and a hell of a lot of faults (and to me, personally, his faults more often outweigh his good traits). He's alienated his children, is emotionally and verbally abusive to his wife and children, and has violent episodes where he throws household objects at me, kicks walls and doors, screams that I'm a bitch and a worthless daughter who should live in a gutter, tries to physically assault members of our family, and pretty much just loses his shit for small infractions.
With all that being said, let's move on. This is why I feel so deeply for all the characters in this parable.
The older son
I feel like the older son. I ache for him because he paid his due diligence without complaint or defiance. Like him, I gave everything I had to aid my parents by putting my own life on hold to stay home and hold down the fort during times of crisis. And to never even hear so much as a thank you because my dad has so much pride that he can't thank an underling is just such a slap in the face. Rather than be thankful he has a loyal daughter who is willing to give up nearly every cent in her pocket for him, he chooses to allow his ego to make everything about him and how he feels all the while telling me, "You're my daughter, I don't have to respect you" and that I'm a piece of shit.
If ever there was a parallel between my life and this story, I am definitely the older son. I feel his pain. I get it, and he's right to be mad because I'd be mad as hell too. The story never really addresses his struggles the same way I'm expected to provide for everyone else without being addressed with the bare minimum of a thank you.
You might think that it's egotistical or selfish to demand a little appreciation, but unless you've provided for someone else at the expense of yourself while being demoralized with verbal attacks and emotional manipulation, then your insight is pretty much invalid to me because I don't expect you to understand what it's like.
The younger son
My dad is pretty much similar to the younger son in the story. Emotionally, my dad left the family years ago. He only ever thinks about himself and prides himself on having the most money and being top dog while reaping the rewards of other people thanklessly. Obsessed with ego and instant gratification, he only returns to the family when he feels he needs something from them. But unlike the younger son, I'm not so sure that my dad will ever realize he fucked up or be able to provide a genuine apology and claim any fault.
As twisted as it sounds, sometimes I WANT to be like that of the younger son. I want to say, "fuck it," and dip out. I want to be selfish and go far, far away and just stop being like the older son who never says a word and works day in and day out to keep everyone else afloat. I daydream about other people I know who have their "selfish twenties" wishing I could trade lives with them. I wish I could be like those other young adults who lead fabulous lives on their own while never worrying about leaving their mother behind with a monster.
And even though I want to be like the younger son and pursue a fun, carefree life, I can't bring myself to do it because I can't be like my fucking dad.
I want so badly to exemplify and embody forgiveness like the father. I want to be able to forgive wholeheartedly after being done wrong, and be a family member who can forgive with no questions asked. It makes me wonder how the father has it in him to forgive his younger son who took half of his money, spent it all on hookers, and then came crawling back with a sorry ass apology. I don't know if I have the capacity to forgive like that.
If my dad ever came to me with a genuine apology and recognition of his shortcomings as a father, I don't know if I would be exactly thrilled or even open to the idea of absolving him of his failings. So much damage has been done throughout the course of 25 years that I'm not sure if I'd even welcome a new start with him especially knowing his track record.
I really do want to be the father, because if I was an unconditionally loving daughter, messy shit like this would work itself out so much smoother, and I'd be able to regain a sense of resolution. My life would have a happy ending just like that of the parable. But life isn't a fucking made up story, and sometimes you just have to learn to roll with it.
I had a strong reaction to this story and honestly hadn't thought about it in years. But it was because I had a strong emotional response that I felt compelled write about this story and its parallels to my current situation and state of mind.
There's a number of reasons why I hate this story:
- The father never set boundaries, thus becoming an enabler to his younger son's shitty behavior
- The older son never said anything bothered him until it was too late
- The younger son is a straight up dumbass
If there's anything this story has taught me, it's what NOT to do.
**This shit's depressing, I know. And it sounds all over the place but this is how it played out, so deal with it.