I have so many different stories I want/need to share with The Band, it is hard for me to sit down and write just one. I think I have one that needs to come out now before I explode, though.
In another life, I was married to my high school sweetheart. I was an Army wife and a stay-at-home mom, and I think I was pretty damn good at it. I thought things were perfect. Sure, things could have been better, but the grass is always greener, right?
My husband left for Iraq before our 3 kids were even in school. He was gone for 2 years. A lifetime happened in those years he was away. We grew as a family. He came home expecting us to be the same, and we weren’t. He came home from Iraq and was expected to be a family man, father, husband again after being a bachelor of sorts while he was gone. Things happened; we divorced. It is still hard for me to accept. He was my world! I’m moving and trying to get past it, though.
I do pretty well until he calls and says things like “I love you,” “I miss you,” “I want us again.” I try really, really hard not to, but sometimes I fold. I do love him, miss him. This last time though, I told him NO. Not until you are no longer with your girlfriend. Not until we go to counseling as a family, a couple, and you alone. I also told him that I want more than just to be with him: I want my kids to have their DAD. They deserve that. I told him taking them for a couple hours every couple months and canceling on them 9 times out of 10 is not all right. I am NOT covering for him anymore. He agreed. Promised to take the kids 3 times now.
And guess what? He has canceled every. single. time. I have been wiping tears and hugging hurt little people for 2 weeks now. He doesn’t get it. He always says “sorry, something came up.” I tell him “take them with you,” and his response is “I can’t afford it.” WHAT! I am raising our children with NO help from you! Nothing. Okay, I just started getting child support again, but I am not talking about the money; I mean emotionally, physically. They just want to be with you. They don’t care if you sit on the couch or in the car. They would LOVE to just be near you. Believe me.
I am so tired of covering for him. I can’t handle the questions: “Am I not good enough for Daddy?” “Why am I not special enough?” “Do I have to change so he will love me?”
How do I answer those? I don’t think my hugs and answers are enough anymore. I think my kids, my little hearts, are starting to think I am just blowing smoke.
Help me, The Band. How do I fix their hurt?
Having been in this situation before, my only advice is to stop covering for him. Kids know a crap story when they hear it. My therapist told me to say things like,”I am so sorry this hurts your feelings, but it’s something you will have to talk to your daddy about.” Or, when they ask “why doesn’t daddy want to spend time with me?” The answer is. “ I don’t know, honey.” It still sucks-but then your kids don’t internalize it so much or worse, blame you.
And you can’t make him be present for your kids; you just can’t. But you CAN learn to detach and not carry his burdens, too. You are not his parent and you aren’t responsible for his choices.
But: it’s still crappy. And I am so sorry that you have to deal with all of it. I send thoughts of strength and peace to you.
I’m sorry that this is the father he chooses to be. I agree with Kori—you need to stop covering for him. Your kids will be so much better off knowing they can trust what you say. You’ll be careful and kind, but it’s not your job to smooth over his crap for him.
How lucky your kids are that they have a mama who wants the best for them.
You can’t control anyone else’s feelings, reactions, behaviors, and shortcomings (but life would be grand if you could).
Level with the kiddos and don’t ever lie about it. I would probably keep the news that “daddy’s coming” to myself until I knew for sure that he was arriving.
If he tries to schedule with the kids, make sure that they tell him that you are the ones who make plans, not them. That way there’s no buildup or anything else to make your sweet babies cry.