My presence was her only gift

Kern Carter
4 min readDec 22, 2020
Image by Mary Long

It’s one of the universe’s strange gifts. When we’re going through hard times, it’s difficult to see the day we’ll be able to smile again. But once we get through those moments and take the time to reflect, it’s often done with a smile and nod to acknowledge what we’ve overcome.

I certainly wasn’t smiling many years ago, not during the holidays. Christmas was a time I feared, a day that reminded me of my inadequacy as a provider for my daughter.

Before my daughter ever entered this world, I dreamt of what her life would be. My imagination soared into a home large enough for her to run with her arms open. My dreams revealed images of gifts under a Christmas tree so tall I’d have to tiptoe to touch the star that sat at its peak. Her life would be perfect. Our life would be perfect.

None of this was real. Five years into my daughter’s life, I still couldn’t afford to buy her gifts. I suffered through the embarrassment on her birthday where my mom’s gift doubled as my own. By the time Christmas rolled around, I wanted to close my eyes and disappear into the world that I had dreamt long before it was shattered by my reality.

I questioned my role as a parent. What was my contribution to my daughter’s life? My upbringing told me that I needed to be a provider, specifically a monetary one. If I couldn’t fulfil that responsibility, then I was failing.

“You’re not a real father if you don’t have any money.”

That mindset crippled my self-confidence for years. The myth that my value as a father needed to be counted in dollars and cents was a truth contrived by my environment and reaffirmed by popular culture. It took the wisdom of my daughter to open my eyes to her truth, and in her truth, I found a love that has carried us till this day.

In my daughter’s world, she had everything she wanted. She got to squeeze my cheeks with both of her tiny hands and kiss my nose. She got to climb on my back at bedtime and carried to her room, only to wake up the next morning to jump on my bed till I was awake.

My presence was her gift. The only gift she needed.

She had food to eat, clothes to go to daycare and then kindergarten, and a safe place to call home. Everything outside of that was a…

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Kern Carter

Author, Writer, and Community Builder | I help writers feel like SUPERSTARS | kerncarter.com |