Warning: It's long (even though I shortened it), gets personal, isn't always pretty, and may be offensive or a little grown up to some folks. Continue at your own risk.
I grew up without a father, for the most part.
Dad wasn't dead, or in a coma, or in hiding - I was one of the growing statistics, a child with divorced parents.
I distinctly remember realizing that the word "Dad" had a different meaning for other kids, kids with "intact" families, than it did for me. For me, it meant the occasional stranger who would show up for a few hours, maybe a few days, and hang out doing...not much. It was the word on the rare gift tag or birthday card.
Mum never bad-mouthed Dad, although she had a right to...he wasn't a bad man, but he didn't make a lot of effort toward his two kids, either. He still doesn't make contact very often...we usually talk when I call him, maybe see each other every few years. I love him dearly and wish our lives were more intertwined, but I accept that he is who he is and that's not going to change now.
I heard my Mum call Papa "Dad" and knew he was her father...but never wondered who my own father was, or why I didn't seem to have a "Dad" in my life. I think my grandfather sort of filled that roll, or at least was the predominant male roll model in my life when I was little...and Papa was awesome and I adored him, so that was OK. But he wasn't my father.
Last night, I attended the State mandated Seminar for Divorcing Parents.
I came away with a few thoughts.
One was "Whew...some of these poor folks are a train wreck."
Another was "We already do these positive things, and while we've engaged in a little of the negative behavior, we recognized what we were doing and stopped pretty dang quick."
Also "Hey, I have an idea for a children's book!"
And finally (although there were more, this is the last one I'll bore you with) "Oh...crap...that hurt...a lot."
What hurt? So glad you asked.
It was a simple enough question, asked by one of the seminar leaders.
It began when she asked for a show of hands of people who lost a parent during or after divorce. Me and another man raised our hands, but the other man wanted clarification - did she mean had a parent died? No...she meant a parent who just...went away.
Then she asked "When one parent withdraws from the relationship and disappears, what's the message they send to the child?"
I was the only person in the room who answered. "You have no value to me."
I have no idea where that came from.
Yes I do.
It came from the well of memory, from all those years as a child with only her Mum and a Dad who couldn't, for whatever reason, seem to call, write, or show her she had meaning to him.
The seminar leader was pleased - it was the answer she was looking for. Me? I was glad I was sitting in the back so I could pause for a few minutes and think about that.
All these years later, it still hurts.
And it's something that echoes in who I am today.
At my heart, in the Center, down deep where the Shades rustle restlessly to remind me they are there, they are waiting for their chance to rise if only I will give them the tiniest of openings...at my heart, then, I still believe I have no value.
I have no meaning,
I am worthless.
My father didn't even want me...how can I expect anyone else would?
The seminar leader was explaining that these feelings tend to come to a head when the child reaches their twenties, no matter when the divorce took place in their youth.
I can see that.
I have never believed any man would want me...and I've had plenty of rejection to enforce that idea.
In my middle twenties, I met the first man who ever asked me out, ever wanted to date. I married him in my late twenties. I thought I loved him. I thought he loved me. I thought no one else was ever going to want me, that this was my only chance at happiness. I thought I could fake it until I felt it.
I was wrong about one or two of those things.
I am divorcing him in my late thirties, having realized that he may have loved me, and maybe he was the only one who would ever want me, but these are not the foundation for a marriage. I am full of anger from years of swallowing all the things that were "wrong" in this relationship, because I didn't want my son to be without a Daddy, didn't want him to suffer a change in the life he knows, just because I'm deeply unhappy. My happiness doesn't matter. What right do I have?? And yet...this is not what I want my son to see as a model for love, marriage, or life in general.
The seminar leader pointed out that people who "lost" a parent in divorce were more likely to fight like Hell to keep their own child's non-custodial parent in the picture.
It doesn't matter, now, that we had no business getting married - if we did nothing else in this marriage, we made our son, and he's amazing and worth every moment of...whatever.
I will make certain that the Evil Genius never has that particular Shade lingering in his emotional closet, waiting to haunt him - he will always know his Daddy loves him, wants him, and values him.
Quote of the day...er...week...umm...hey, look, a quote!!
"...besides love, independence of thought is the greatest gift an adult can give a child." - Bryce Courtenay, The Power of One
For old quotes, look here.
For old quotes, look here.