The Here Today, Gone Tomorrow Dad
As a mom, especially an overprotective mom, I have that need to shield my teens from anything and everything that can hurt them. Broken glass, boxes of twinkies, school bullies, drunken drivers, burning buildings, pubescent boys who only have their penis and girls’ boobies on the brain. But how, how do I shield my teenage girls from their father?
How do I shield them from the man that they remember loving them when they were little? I’m not saying he doesn’t love them now. In all fairness, I have to admit, I know somewhere under all that irresponsible, immature, selfish behavior, there’s a loving person. Unfortunately, my ex, never truly learned the responsibility of love.
Yes, love comes with responsibilities. Especially when it comes to loving children.
Loving a child means being unselfish and putting that child’s needs first. It means being there for the triumphs and the boo-boos. It means staying up late and helping with homework, getting up early on Saturday mornings and watching cartoons, running across town last minute to buy a new shirt for assembly and sacrificing things you need for yourself in order to provide them with what they need. None of these things, not even one, even while we were together, did my ex do for our teens. He doesn’t get that they come first. As a matter of fact, since our split, being a father is a past-time for him. Something he only does when he has nothing else to do.
For two years after our split, my girls didn’t see or hear from him. Not because I denied access, but because he was too busy with life. They were five and six years old when the split happened. I had no issues with him spending time with his kids and even though he wouldn’t cough up a dime for support, I still encouraged him and sometimes pleaded with him, to take time to visit his kids, because they needed their dad. His answer, for years, was if I felt they needed their dad so much, why did I throw him out. I don’t know, cause you were an alcoholic cheating bastard who was making me miserable and that was not an enviroment to raise our kids? Dumbass. But, I digress. Dad was gone and the girls tried their best to be brave and not show how hurt they were.
After those first two years and a stern lecture from a family member he started to visit the girls occasionally. My girls were happy and feeling loved. Every few weeks he’d sacrifice his precious time to make it to Brooklyn to visit them. By his admission to me, it was when he was between girl friends or his girlfriend was busy. He’d take our girls to a movie, buy them lunch, buy them toys, give them $20 each and then hit on mommy and mommy would send him on his way. The girls would also get a weekly call, mostly when he was drunk and feeling lonely and that’s how things were. The girls became ok with it and looked forward to his calls and visits. I was all too happy for them and couldn’t imagine him leaving them again. Some visits were better than no visits, right? He repeatedly tried to convince the girls to ask mommy to take him back so he could be with them all the time. This didn’t work. The girls at that age, still remembered how miserable I was with him. They didn’t remember the specifics, but they remembered the unhappy feeling and they compared it to us living without him and found it was better. Two years went by like this, dad was here, not all the time, but enough to make the girls feel loved.
With the girls feeling better, happier, I felt it was ok to move on with my life. I decided it was ok to have a companion. Someone other than the kids. I was 28 for God’s sake, I was a mom yes, but not dead. When my now hubby and I got together, this pissed off my ex extremely and he decided to punish me by punishing the girls and staying away. Not visiting, not taking their calls. He claimed he was hurt. He told the girls who were 8 and 9 at the time that I was breaking his heart and he had to stay away because he couldn’t bare to know I was with “that man” and he’d be back when mommy and her man broke up. Dad was gone again.
One of the reasons I married “that man” is because he is what a father should be. Reliable, responsible, loving and willing to sacrifice for children, even though they weren’t his. He assumed the role of father figure right away and my girls naturally took to it. They learned to love him easily and by their own accord started to call him daddy.
Shortly after being married, we moved to the Bronx. Better school system for the girls, easier access to work for hubby and hubby’s family was very good to the girls and accepted them easily and I wanted them to be in the midst of that. I’m an only child, I’ve never had a big family to offer the girls. For years all they had was me and all I had was them. I felt the need to give them more.
We happened to move 10 minutes away from my ex husband. Its the neighborhood where I found the best school for the girls where I could easily reach a train to work. The first 6 months we were here, my ex avoided them. Then one day he calls the girls. Gets them all excited about a visit. But, he won’t talk to me about it. He wants them to arrange it. The girls plead and beg, but then I make it clear to my 10 and 11 year olds, if dad wants to spend time with them, he has to be responsible and the first step is making arrangements with me. So he calls. Wants to see his girls. I made it clear to him, to intrude on their life now after disappearing on them twice would be selfish. They didn’t need that kind of pain. He begged, saying he was older now and understood that he screwed up and wouldn’t put them through that again. So he started to call again, would pick them up for day trips. Daddy was here again. Later I learned that he had a new girlfriend, one with a kid and his need to show her what a great dad he was would be easily accomplished since he had kids of his own. Then daddy’s girlfriend saw the same defects I did and kicked his ass to the curb. Dad was gone again. It was another year and a half before the girls would hear from him again.
Thankfully the girls were not so hurt this time because they had their new dad to fall back on. Hubby doesn’t mind. he understands their need to be tied to their
real biological father. He’s just glad he’s there for them when they need him.
For the past year, my ex has been emailing them. My ex-SIL, who keeps in contact with the girls via email, gave him the email address after I told her not to. The ex asks, “when can I see you girls” and their answer is always “make plans with mommy”. Of course he would never talk to me. That is a sacrifice too big to make to see his daughters. But he keeps asking the girls to arrange with me for him and trying to seduce our youngest teen with the offer of gifts.
I’m torn about him being “here” again just to be “gone” again. The teens are 13 and almost 15 now. On the one hand, they’re stronger and have a loving dad at home. On the other hand, I have a need to protect my kids. Protect them against hurt, disappointment, a screwed up father whose constant absence can lead to them finding themselves lacking and maybe thinking they’re not worth his love.
We’ve talked about seeing their father and they “get how their biological dad is”, their words, not mine, and they’ve decided to make time for him when they have time, which isn’t soon. But may happen.
At this age, are there some risks that they have to decide if they want to take? Is it my role to just be here, if/when it doesn’t pan out.
Am I making a mistake? Should I just stop this now before he hurts my teens again, possibly damaging their confidence in themselves?
PhotoCredit:Renata Osinska via PhotoXpress