Dear Dad

I remember you telling me once that when the emotions get too high, your body starts shutting down.  Your way of coping is to sleep.  My way is to hit the delete button.  I’ll ponder it for awhile.  Slide my finger over that button a few times, walk away, come back- but eventually after enough reflection I make a decision that’s usually right for me.  I have had a lot of time to reflect.  Reflect on my actions and the reasons behind my decisions.  With my reflection also came so many emotionally charged questions.  Questions I don’t think I’ll get answers to.  Maybe I don’t want answers.  Instead I choose to begin tomorrow with the knowledge that I have today and progress forward in the healthiest way I know how.  And that is to let go…

One of my reflections includes a memory of when I was about eight.  Yearly summer trips to Grandma’s.  We were in the sewing room and you were sitting next to me on the big sofa.  Arm around my shoulder, TV on, you tell me that you miss me.  Oh how I missed you, too.  You were my normalcy. You were my nurturer and in hindsight I really missed a lot of that in the early years after you left.   You had to have known by now the treatment I was getting from my mother and surely you will take me from it.  All I have to do is ask.  And so I did.  You begin to share with me the steps I will have to take to make that happen.  Remember, I’m eight.  You tell me that I will have to stand in a court room with a judge.  I will have to look at my mother.  Tell her to her face that I don’t want to live with her anymore.  The judge will ask me questions that I will have to answer…. In front of my mother.  I was so terrified of my mother and her violent temper.  I would never be strong enough to tell her that.  That in essence was the end of that conversation.  And so I went back.  Back to the very place you knew I didn’t want to go back to.  Back to the dysfunction- but even in my hindsight- I never felt 2nd best with her.  Now of course, I know that child custody steps were not done that way.  Amazing how stories like that stay in your memory banks and how painful they still can be nearly thirty years later.  You can probably imagine my surprise then, when you came and got me from the airport a mere seven years later.  I was under the impression that I was coming to visit YOU.  Instead I was blindsided by the existence of your already made new family.  Complete with a new daughter.  A new daughter that would get to experience your presence.  A daughter that you would nurture.  That same nurture I had been deprived of.  And she didn’t even have to ask.  Jealous?  Yeah I was.  Terribly.  What made her so important?  Or better question- why was I not?  This probably was one reason I acted the way I did and made so many poor choices.  I’ll be honest- I felt a little like the 3rd wheel.

Only now that I’m a mother do I realize how much children need acceptance.  How much they rely on their parents to confirm their importance.  How often they keep mental notes when they’ve felt disregarded.  A tally per say, of self worth. And with every tally, there is an emotional scar.

I’m disappointed that we are where we are.  I take full responsibility for MY part in all of this.  I cannot, however claim the responsibility for paving the entire path of the fall out.  I was afraid by your new girlfriend’s actions that our relationship would suffer if she became a permanent part of your life. Anyone who addresses your daughter as “the girl” or refers to her spending time with you as “eating away at your time” should have brought up concerns.  I actually might have assaulted someone for speaking of my daughter that way.  And yet you sat silent.  Condoning her actions by inviting her in to be a part of your life, and closing the door on me.  This is a familiar road.  One I’ve been down before… and another tally under my belt.  Except this time I get to explain to another eight year old little girl why you don’t come around anymore.  Why she doesn’t get to see you, why you can’t take her on field trips.  And then I get to witness the faces of these boys.  The same boys that were in the car with me the day they saw you leave your step son’s baseball game.  The same boys who haven’t seen you at one of their games in almost two years.  The look on their faces is very much like the look on my face when I was their age.  They’ve all of the sudden become a non interest- at best.  It’s unfortunate how history seems to be repeating itself.   I’m sad.  Sad that you chose to disregard them.

Hindsight can sometimes be eye opening.

My children are so amazing.  They’re strong; academically, athletically, socially, and most important- emotionally. If my children are any indication of what kind of mother I’ve been.  I’m a damn good mom.  My choices are always made after first considering them.  I don’t know if that will ever change.  They are my blood, my family. And I stay determined to make it as “normal” for them as I know how.  I am their biggest fan and they know it.  They truly know it.   I try to fathom your inability to cherish me the way I cherish them but the emotions behind that are deafening.

I wish I could recall the exact day that they all became so unimportant to you.

They. Are. Your. Grandchildren.  I hope one day you can reflect.  And when you do- maybe consider the type of relationship you have created for them to hold onto long after you’re gone.  I hope it’s how you want to be remembered.

I hope someday you’ll understand why I had to hit delete.  I needed to quit chasing some stupid little girl’s dream.

~ by Stepfamily Letter Project on January 17, 2011.

4 Responses to “Dear Dad”

  1. It’s not a stupid little girls dream. I could write a letter very close to this to my own father. The longer I live the more I see that their are at least 2 sides to every story and some stories you will never hear. Now that my husbands daughter lives with her mom full time he is devistated and feels hopeless. The courts are not generally friendly to the father in a custody battle and it can quickly become all consumming and very expensive. Maybe your dad was a deadbeat, but consider that you may not realize what he was up against if he took on your mother and the courts. His behavior now probably has much more to do with his guilt and the awkwardness of not knowing you well enough to engage you and your children. I don’t want to make excusses for him, I just want to express to you that maybe he loves you deeply and is lost and hurting as well. I can sympathize with both sides. I am sorry you have experienced these trying times in your childhood and now.

  2. Your letter was heartbreaking, tear jerking and my exact story to the letter! I want to wrap an arm around you and give you a hug for we are sisters in this situation. I couldn’t have said it better.

    Stepmom – I disagree with you 100%. No matter HOW difficult it is to deal with an ex, you never abandon your children. And if you can’t be there during their childhood because ex is difficult then you do your best and then pave a new path as soon as they are adults. This isn’t an 18 yr old. This is a woman, 30 yrs later still wanting her daddy. He obviously repeated his same actions with his younger kids. He allowed history to repeat itself. Why is it up to the kids to fix dad or even mom’s broken heart or guilt? If he has guilt, fix it. To stick your tail between your legs and keep running 30 yrs later is cowardly and selfish. Nothing is keeping him from being a father but himself.

  3. To Amommyandexwife, you say, “He obviously repeated his same actions with his younger kids.” But actually, it doesn’t sound like he did. Her letter says of her younger half sister…”A new daughter that would get to experience your presence. A daughter that you would nurture. That same nurture I had been deprived of.” This is what allows me to give him the benefit of the doubt that he wanted to be a father and was a nurturing father when present.
    I can also only assume from what I gather from this letter that when she refers to the delete button she is referring to an email she has received from her father and chosen to delete. (Correct me if I’m wrong) But if this is the case it also leads me to believe that the father HAS or IS reaching out to her as you claim he can do after she turned 18.
    You also say…”Why is it up to the kids to fix dad or even mom’s broken heart or guilt?” It is NOT up to the kids. I am simply letting her know that her dad is probably not living out his life happy and guilt free about the way she was raised.
    Even now, A child who chooses to live with one of their 2 parents full time DOES have to tell the judge that that is their wish (although not in front of the other parent) I don’t know how the system worked 20 years ago.
    I only have my own experiences to base this on but I have seen the pain and struggle my husband has experienced with his daughter and her mother and his daughter doesn’t know the half of the BS he has had to deal with, from the marriage to the divorce to custody and child support and parental alienation, and ultimately his daughter, and her choice to live with her mom. It has devastated him and his daughter doesn’t know the whole story.
    I know that children don’t realize the impact of their words or actions towards their parents when they are children, but it sounds to me like she feels a bit of responsibility and has apologized to her father for her part. She just might have broke his heart too, without realizing how deeply.
    I am not blaming her for his actions all I am asking her to do is consider the other side. It doesn’t diminish the pain she has suffered.

  4. Thank you all for your kind, understanding words. I have definitely acknowledged responsibility. My actions were less than classy in my teenage years. Hindsight (and being a mother) helped me analyze the dysfunction and get to the root of what the problems were. Kids generally don’t just act out to act out. For me it was an underlying issue and the actions were more or less misdirected anger. Not an excuse- but certainly my reality. I was not receptive of his wife nor her daughter- pure jealousy. Not their fault- but my inability to reason with the situation. I clearly remember him calling me to tell me about step-daughter’s band recital or her fabulous grades. All the while I was fighting back tears on the other end of the phone because not once did he come to see me cheer, not once did he ask me what kind of grades I received. He was never receptive of me- so to pay him back I would deny him the acceptance he expected of me. Made perfect sense to a 15 year old girl who felt fatherless. Just to clarify some of the confusion- the “new daughter” was not my half sister. She was his step-daughter. He was a wonderful father to her and continues to be a significant, positive part of her childrens’ lives. My mother was very careful not to speak negatively about him. She would actually encourage me to reach out more. Call him more- I felt somewhat like a stalker. He was more absent than present in my childhood but always made sure his child support obligations were fullfilled. So I don’t know that I would label him a dead beat dad. With that, however I grew up thinking I was only worth as much as the courts said he had to pay. I was 5 when he left. I have spent over 30 years trying to figure out how I could change to conform to his life. So he would be more accepting of me. By hitting delete I metaphorically buried the journey. I had to quit hoping for the impossible. He is my father. I will love him to the very end but after years of being disregarded I think it’s high time I move on.

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