Abigail woke up yesterday morning and one of the first things she said was “I don’t like the letter d. It sounds like d-a-d. My heart dropped when I heard her say that. The look she had on her face spoke more than the words that came out of her mouth.
This conversations happens every once in a awhile and it’s a difficult one. Partially because I have my own opinions of her “father” and it’s hard sometimes to keep my hurt out of the conversation. Because my hurt isn’t her hurt.
She has never really met him. He saw her as a newborn and then again when she was alomst 2. I know she doesn’t remember meeting him, heck half the time she cannot remember his name.
That busts my heart up because I know in her little (almost) eight year old mind and heart that she blames herself and more often than not, me for leaving. She doesn’t know any of the details other than he was making poor choices and chose to leave. I remind her constantly that it isn’t her fault, that he knew that she and I would be better off without him (I don’t tell her that.)
The thing that breaks my heart the most is when she tells me that she lies to her friends about why her dad isn’t here. She goes for either the “my parents are divorced” or recently she told me that she tells her friends he is at work. The shame that she must carry thinking that she had something to do with him not being an active father kills me.
I understand her hurt to a degree. I had a relationship with my father but his abuse cut off any sort of healthy bonding and forming a safe relationship with him. As of this writing I haven’t spoken to my father in five years. I also grew up with a step dad and as much as my mom tried to make it sound like he was a father figure he was just as abusive.
The overwhelming feeling of not having parents is life sucking. Of course a child, or a person at any age is going to blame themselves. It’s human nature to think that if we as people worked hard enough we could make them love us. Especially if they were abusive or absent parents.
I often want to go in the bathroom and sob after these conversations because there really is nothing I can do to change it for her, or for me. I never for one second regret leaving him. His abuse was escalating during the first two months of my pregnany and I had just enough clarity to know that I had to leave or my child would be sucked into our abusive and addicted vortex.
I wanted better for her. Better than I had and better than I knew I could provide for her if I had stayed. Although at the time I had no idea how parenting without a partner would pan out. I just knew I had to go. He wasn’t willing to get clean and sober and had no desire to move out of the crack motel we lived in. I had no intention of bringing a baby into a hostile and drug fueled environment.
He couldn’t see that though. Even though I know deep down that he didn’t want to be a father, he never straight out said it but if I had brought up an abortion he would not have objected.
So I did leave, when I was four months pregnant. From that day until the night I saw him at the hospital we saw each other once. Our phone calls were also few. His anger was so toxic that even though I wanted to try and make it work I knew I couldn’t when he would scream into the phone how much he hated me.
I thought at that point (no I’m not crazy) that it would be easier if he died. Then I wouldn’t have to explain to my girl why her father chose to walk away from her. After she was born and before we left Florida I think we spoke once. After I left and came home to Colorado his presence was sporatic. Weeks and months would go by without contact. He sent money but it was never enough to make ends meet and it was inconsistent.
When I finally decided to file for child support and sole custody (as a safety thing) I thought that at least I would be able to get some sort of support. He however blew everything that child support enforcement was requiring him to do. He never responded to the custody paperwork either.
Evidence started to build within me that he was not going to be someone I could realistically have in her life, regardless of the fact that she is part of him. Weeks and then months and then years would go by without contact. He’d call out of the blue after a year of no contact and expect me to welcome him with open arms and say “it’s okay.”
I could never do that, not to her or me. Honestly it was a struggle for me those first few years. I wanted us to be a family, I prayed and prayed for him constantly. That he would see how much God loves him and that he could choose to walk away from the addiction and be a father. I prayed that he would meet godly men, or find a church……. SOMETHING
Nothing ever changed though and my broken heart from our relationship ending turned into a brokenness over what his actions were doing to her. When she was younger she didn’t say much about it. The hardest part was when we would see dads with their kids and I could sense that she knew something was different about our family.
He stopped calling for a really long time and then the day before her fourth birthday he called out of the blue. With tears and remorse and guilt about how he wasn’t a part of her life. I wanted, at that point so badly to believe his promises. He said he would call 2-3 times a week, start sending money and really be an active part of our lives. He held out hope that we would get back together and be a family.
I so badly wanted to believe that his promises were honest this time, that he wasn’t going to just fade into the background. That night he called Abigail had the sense that it was him on the phone and wanted to talk to him. She did and it hurt. It hurt me because I knew that the minute she spoke to him that her heart was going to fill with the same expectations as mine.
Right away though he flaked. His phone calls were weeks apart, the money he promised to send didn’t always come and usually it was such a measly amount that it didn’t make sense. I wanted so badly to believe that he was different, that he really had seen what his choices were doing to Abigail.
He never did.
I felt like it was time to lie down some boundaries and unfourtunatly ultimatums. Which I do not like. I felt however in this situation it was necessary. So on New Years Day 2011 he called me and I told him that he had a choice to make. He was either all in, which meant moving to Colorado, getting sober and taking care of all of his legal problems so he could start moving forward as well. The other option I gave him was all out. No phone calls, no letters, no money and no contact.
I couldn’t keep allowing him to play with both of our hearts like he was. It was too much for my baby to hold inside her already wounded heart. He of course got angry and told me that she and I should move back to Florida, which let me see that he really wasn’t willing to make any changes to grow up and be a father.
I haven’t heard from him since that conversation. So we are on 3 1/2 years with zero contact from him. His parents started to fade into the background as well even though they had been active parts of her life for the first three years. It felt like a sudden abandonment but as the years have gone by it’s gotten a little easier.
I have my own struggles with him. Processing through the fact that our relationship was in fact abusive and that drugs were the only thing that held our fragile states together in a “relationship”
As Abigail has gotten older though the questions tend to come more frequently and when they do they are usually fraught with tears and sometimes anger at me for leaving. When she said that to me yesterday I realized it was time for a little more detailed conversation. I let her know that it is not her fault that he walked away. I let her know that he is making poor choices and isn’t able to be a father. She said she wants to send him cards and that’s when I decided it was time to gently tell her that I don’t even know where he is.
It was gut wrenching to see her so hurt and to hear her talk about how it hurts her so bad that he isn’t here that she feels like she has to lie. That kind of shame in my eight year old daughter causes a few reactions in me.
Mama bear comes out and is immediately angry that even after eight years he is still breaking our hearts. I have let go of some of my own shame about raising her by myself. I stopped believing the ridiculous statistics about kids raised in a single parent family. A lot of that I believe is because I am finally starting to find my groove as her mother and I know that she is getting those things she needs to build her up.
It’s not always easy and it hurts the most when I see other fathers with their children. However I know that he wouldn’t be that kind of father and that reaffirms in my that walking away was best.
I want more for her, I do. I want her to know the love of an earthy father. One who will choose her, love her and teach her what a healthy relationship with a father looks like.
I do hold out hope that one day I will meet and marry a man that does just that. Being fatherless is a unique pain all on it’s own. I feel slightly thankful that I can tell her I understand becasue I do.
It doesn’t make hearing her ask me these questions about Jeffrey, or to watch her breakdown on the floor sobbing because she misses him, misses someone she doesn’t even know.
I am doing to very best I can to raise her with values and do what I can as her mom to show her she is so loved regardless of her fathers choices. Becasue she deserves to know that it wasn’t her fault. As she gets old I think I will be able to share more freely the rest of the story. I however don’t want to be the mom who bad mouths her ex to their child. My hope is that she will want to learn who he is on her own and when she’s old enough if she wants to find him then ok.
I loved him something fierce for an incredibly long time and held out hope that our family would be reunited. Now I hope for peace for my girl and her being able to absorb the truth.