One of the things that came up when we told our counselor about the whole incident with my mom was that I’ve never had a father — at least not one that was active in my life. Neither, as it turns out, has my wife.

My biological dad was an alcoholic when I was a child, and my mom was used to coming home to find that I hadn’t had my diaper changed the entire time she was at work. They divorced before I had any memory. My dad his since gone to AA and completely changed his life. He’s now so laid-back that it’s hard to deal with sometimes, but he’s very wise and I love to chat with him. I used to visit him once or twice a year when I was a kid, but now I see him every few years at best.

Meanwhile, my mom moved in with a dude who I’ll refer to as my stepdad even though they didn’t get married until after my wife and I did back in 2001. I think they got married on 01/01/01 because binary. Yeah, they’re both nerds. Regardless, this man that lived with us for my entire life basically hated children. He had had a couple of his own, and didn’t particularly want any part of dealing with me; so much so that I don’t really understand why he ever took on with my mother in the first place knowing that she had a kid.

He was the consummate emotional abuser. He never laid a hand on anyone, but he also almost never said a nice word, and his normal method of communication was glares and shouts. I vowed that I wasn’t going to grow up to be anything like him, and I worry every time I recognize any of his behavior in me. I asked my mom, at one point, why she was still with him, because I didn’t see any benefit for her in the relationship, and her response was “He doesn’t beat me.”

So, in effect, I grew up without any good example of what a father is.

My wife, meanwhile, had a father who didn’t want her around, either. He used to shut her in closets, hit her, and so on — so much so that her mother divorced him and remarried when she was six. Her stepfather was a great man, but he died of lung cancer when she was eleven. So she had a few years of exemplary fatherhood in her life, but it wasn’t a lot, and her mother’s third husband was even worse than the first — so neither one of us really has a solid idea of what fatherhood is supposed to look like.

That’s why I called this blog “redefining fatherhood” — because we really are, day by day, struggling to figure out what being a dad is all about. We both have all of these horrible examples that we know we don’t want to see in our lives, but we don’t have any GOOD examples to strive toward.

I’m making it my mission, though, to figure it out — and my wife is right here with me, helping me make sense of it all one day at a time.