When you are cooking dinner with your 14 year old daughter and, without prompting, she suddenly spills her thoughts about parenting:
“So after having lived with dad and then coming back to you, I’ve been thinking about the kind of parent I want to be.”
“Yeah. I definitely want to be home with my kids as much as I can and make dinner for them or make sure they have a good dinner if I can’t be home. I don’t ever want them to wonder IF or WHEN I’ll be home and wonder what they’re going to have for dinner.”
“That must have been difficult . . . “
“Uh huh. When we were there it was bad but I didn’t know how bad it was or how mad it was making me until we came down here.”
“You’re still pretty upset about it?” (It’s been two months.)
“Dad would say he loved us, but if it came down to a choice, he chose everything else before us. Not just work, but spending money, buying stuff that we didn’t need.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Case in point: multiple times the kids have asked for their personal items from their dads house — school awards, track medals, toys, sentimental items, clothing (of which, as Savannah points out, I purchased the majority). They’ve asked him to take it to their sister or let her pick it up, or drop it off to a friend of mine so they could get it, and always the answer is “nope.” These are THEIR things, not things that belong to him and not clothes that he can wear. The other night, he texted them a picture of a tent he’s thinking about buying. Really? A tent? He wants the kids to care about a tent he’s considering buying but he doesn’t care about ensuring they have their things.
Life isn’t perfect, not by any means. To see my kids hurting emotionally cuts me to the core because it is something I can’t fix. Last August, I posted here that I was being optimistic about the kids staying with their dad. That optimism was a pipe dream. Not only was it misplaced, but the reality was worse than what I could have imagined. My children weren’t beaten or starved – I know there are much worse things that could have happened to them.
Even now, the mind games are frustrating. Infrequent texts or calls can put the kids into a tailspin. They are so accustomed to agreeing with their dad so as not to make him angry, that they still do so, and then when the conversation ends they are frustrated and angry because they are afraid to speak their mind. In turn that acquiescence feeds his over-inflated sense of infallibility. It’s a vicious cycle – one that we are working on breaking.
All I can do is pray for them, listen to them, encourage them to pursue their interests and dole out hugs and backrubs as well as making sure my actions match my words.