I Am My Father’s Daughter
How I transformed my relationship with my father through travel, bonding & healing.
For the past 7 years I was visiting home once a year. We would meet in a cafe in Chisinau, Moldova, and we would awkwardly talk. About nothing. Sometimes we would fight and he would leave. Meeting my father every year was a pain.
Every single time.
And so we started our journey with some bumps here and there but overall it was the best bonding experience I’ve had with my father.
Our parents did the best they could with the resources available to them at that point in time.
Forgive them and they will forgive themselves.
Let it go. Accept it and move on.
Understand that you can’t change the past. You can try to evolve beyond the anger and the guilt, extend your hand and say “Let’s hang out. I want to get to know you better.” And maybe, just maybe, you will not see a father who was always thinking about himself, who was never there for you and who doesn’t know anything about your life, your fears, and tears…
But a father who is just a human trying to make the best he can today with his own baggage, regrets, and wounds.
I’ve spent more time with him during the first three days than in the past 3 years.
“You know, suitcases on wheels are a great invention. Twenty years ago we didn’t have these. I had to carry 20 kg bags with no wheels.” said my father while rolling a tiny blue suitcase at the Kuala Lumpur airport.
These are the kind of things I’ve heard almost every day during our 3-week trip around Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.
Mostly on my own budget.
About the super difficult functionality of iPhones & iPads, about tiny Singapore hotel rooms and modern casual sex relationships, about really big and really cool airplanes and pretty much about everything that was non-existent 20 years ago in my father’s Soviet world.
My father was also keen on telling me stories and lessons learned from his own life.
“You need to ask me questions. You need to ask for my advice. I might not have the most updated information but I have the experience.” he said.
He might be in his 60’s but he is young at heart.
My father and I don’t have a loving father-daughter relationship. In fact, we never did. All I remember were fights and constant disagreements, disapproval, and conflict. We never understood each other. I was never good enough. There was a lot of blame, guilt, and unresolved issues. All, of course, started when my mother passed away when I was 8 years old.
After spending three years in South East Asia I decided to invite him over. Quite a strange decision you might think.
“I would regret not knowing my father better. I would love to have healed my relationship with him. This is the last big step I need to take to complete my personal growth journey at this point. And at least try to resolve my ‘daddy issues’ with men.”
This was my reply to a very serious question of “What would be your biggest regret on your death bed?” while playing a fun game over shisha and hot wine one night with friends.
So there we were two months later: father and daughter in Koh Samui riding motorcycles and scuba diving for the first time in our lives.
“I feel like I’m young again!” he told me while riding the mountains of Koh Samui.
“I never thought my dream of scuba diving would come true so soon.” he said after we emerged out an 8-meter scuba dive somewhere in between Koh Tao and Koh Phangan.
We traveled in buses, planes, and ferries. We spent nights in hotels, hostels, and Airbnb apartments. We played big tennis and did aerial yoga for the first time. Together.
I’ve broken up emotionally a couple of times. I’ve learned how to be patient and explained how to connect an iPad to wifi 20 times per day.
I’m still processing this experience in my mind, heart, and soul. What I know now is that I felt proud and connected. And I got to know my father as a human being with his own world, fears and doubts, regrets and disappointments. #papaceachirova became a hashtag. It might even become a movement. A silly one, probably.
It was an experience of connection, bonding and just pure fun. We laughed and took it easy. We adjusted to each other. He advised me on what backpack to get on Kao San Road in Bangkok and I got him hipster glasses at Chatuchak market. He was fascinated by the whole experience and I felt great being able to make that happen.
If today he was passing away I would proudly say that we did it. We got a chance to look into each other’s eyes and see each other for who we are. This time without blame, guilt or fights. Like a daughter seeing her father and a father seeing his daughter. Or rather, like a friend seeing a friend.
Those of us who have been deprived of loving present parents are being held down by the trap every day. It influences our relationships with other people and with ourselves.
Let go and forgive. Life is beautiful. And so are our parents even with all their human flaws.
What transformative experiences you had with your father? I’m curious to know!
This healing also transformed my relationship with men. After all, Freud had a point. It helped me heal my abandonment and blame issues with men. I stopped attracted emotionally unavailable men and was ready for an equal partner.
My husband String came into my life shortly after.
We ended up inviting my dad to visit us in Brazil for two weeks and this was the time when my dad had assessed String as my future husband and gave us his blessing.
The father-daughter saga continues.
I got married and moved to Australia to give birth to our first child.
We invited dad to visit us in Australia and attend Zoe’s first Birthday!
This time it was a different journey. I don’t even know how to describe it.
We sat down and looked over the black and white photos when I was little. He told me stories about me as a child and my mum.
He got to know little Zoe and came up with different games to entertain her. He gave advice on what food to feed her and how it might be upsetting her little tummy.
We saw kangaroos, smelled eucalyptus trees and went shopping in big shopping malls. We visited Taronga Zoo in Sydney, took photos by the Sydney Opera House and looked down on Sydney from the 309-meter long Sydney Tower Eye. We walked around Darling Harbor.
We ate asparagus, leek and fish & chips — stuff that he has never tried before.
I drove him around in our car and he felt very proud.
We visited the old and new Parliament house, discussed democracy, gay rights and Australia’s history. We went to the National Gallery of Australia and were blown away by Hugh Ramsay’s exhibition as well as some modern art pieces.
We spent time at Manly and Shelly beach and applied tons of sunscreen to protect ourselves from the furious Australian sun.
Most importantly, dad got to know my Australian family and our “habits of the rich,” how he called it. LOL
He helped around the house and babysat Zoe. He gathered plants from outside and brought them home for beauty.
Yet again we were getting to know each other and who we are now: him as a grandfather of my daughter and me, as me as a mother who is his daughter.
Now as he’s getting older I also saw parts of him that are quite rigid and limiting. I observed things that I didn’t like in the way he talks, thinks and behaves. I saw tons of limiting beliefs, old ways of life and thinking. I saw things that I knew would never change and I didn’t even try.
But I’m making peace with all that because I can’t change anything. I have to accept and surrender to what is.
That I am his daughter and he is my father and it is what it is.
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