Dear Absent Parent,

I have so much I want to say on behalf of your my daughter, that really, truly, I don't know where to start. She's turning 11 in just a few weeks, and for two years she's been asking if she can change her last name to Roach. No, Roach is not my last name (yet). It's Rachel's, the woman who has helped me raise your biological daughter for the past 7 years. Gracelynn really, really wants to have her last name. Because of the laws in our home state, we knew we had to get permission from you to change her last name, but because you've never been around, we really didn't know how.

dear absent parent

Fast forward to this past week. You and I had been chatting, and had been cordial enough. I promised to move past all the times you've screwed up, and start fresh, trying to help you build a relationship with Gracelynn as long as you put the effort in. I thought since you're 32 now that maybe – just maybe – you'd be ready to be a dad, even from afar. Rachel and I are doing fine without you, and so is Gracelynn, but I believe in second chances and thought you deserved yours.

I was wrong.

Do you have any idea what it sounds like to listen to a 10 year old's heart break? Let me fill you in:

She showed me this video shortly after I told her what you said about her changing her name. She asked to post it, and you know what? I let her. Why? Because maybe someone else will see it, maybe it will show them that they're not the only one dealing with bullshit from an absent parent. Maybe it'll teach an absent parent to straighten their act up. Somehow, it will help someone.

Do you have any idea how much you've missed out on? You didn't just miss her first words, her first steps, her first day of Kindergarten. You didn't just miss her first Father Daughter dance (that Rachel took her to, by the way).

You've missed her personality, her awkward attempt at playing the clarinet; you've missed the way her eyes light up when I get her a new set of mechanical pencils. You've missed how smart she is, how much she loves talking about pandas, and you've missed her weird clothing choices.

You've missed how much of a talented photographer she is. Or, do you miss it? I don't think you do. You haven't made an effort, so I guess “missing” is the wrong word… but you're definitely missing out.

dear absent parent

She literally is one of the most amazing, compassionate, and beautiful human beings inside and out, and you've missed all of it. I gave you a chance to build a relationship with her, and you just built a wall that I don't know if she will ever want to climb over.

I told Grace if she wrote you a letter outlining the reasons why she wanted her name changed, perhaps you'd consider granting permission. You have seen her maybe three times total in her 10 year life since you skipped state when she was 2 weeks old, so what's a last name, right? She wrote you a letter, she even made you a slideshow:

absent parent

absent parent

She's so talented when it comes to creating presentations. I know you wouldn't know that, seeing as you're not around, but it's one of the quirky things about her that I love. She put effort into the slideshow, and her heart was in it. It was heartfelt and she just knew you'd understand and say yes. She's very logical by nature and I don't think she even pictured the possibility of you saying no. I should've prepared her better.

dear absent parent

When you wrote to me and said you loved her, but were going to say NO because it was “not in your best interest” and “would not benefit you” to allow her to change her name, I flashed back to nearly 11 years ago when you were a narcissistic 20 year old that only cared about himself. It was the same thing you would've said back then. You're married, you have another child, and you haven't changed one bit. You can't let Grace have the one thing she asked for? She's literally never asked you for anything else IN HER LIFE. But you can't say “yes” to this one thing, because it's not in YOUR best interest.

dear absent parent

I know you've only been a dad for about 3 years, with your new kid, but did you know… Being a parent isn't about choosing what's in your best interest. It's about learning to live your life for your children. And when they ask for something so simple, so easy to give, something that takes nothing away from you, something that would break their heart if you said no to… I just can't wrap my head around why you'd consider any answer other than “yes”.

I tried to help you build a relationship with her, even though you didn't deserve it. Rachel did, too. We have never said anything bad about you in front of Grace, and never would. We've worked hard raising her together – without an ounce of help from you. But I've realized that I can't build a relationship for you. You have to want to do that, and it's clear by your actions that the only thing you want is what's best for you.

Instead of me telling you how I feel, let me fill you in on some of the things Gracelynn has asked in the 24 hours since you made that decision:

“If he loves me, why doesn't he want me to be happy?”

“This isn't fair. He is not my dad, he's not my father. I want nothing to do with him. This is not fair.”

“He won't let me share a name with my Mom, the Mom that raised me when he disappeared. WHY NOT? It's not fair.”

To be honest, you don't deserve to see the video. You don't deserve this letter. You don't deserve acknowledgement in any way, shape, or form. You don't deserve to be her father. Ever.

I'm thankful Arizona has better laws, and as soon as Rachel and I get married, we will be petitioning the court for a name change. You can bet your narcissistic ass on it.


The Present Parent