How can fathers who leave their families heal their children down the road?
When the hustle and bustle from the divorce is over, and the kids have grown up, what remnants of his departure have stayed with them? And can they address it now? This platform is about Divorced MOMS, and I get that.
But, for those of us who had to pick up the pieces after our husbands left us for another woman or for whatever reason… well, as Ricky Ricardo would say, “They got some splaining to do!”
Children need to know they are safe.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, out of 18.4 million children, 1 in 4 live without a biological, step, or adoptive father in the home. I was fortunate enough to have been raised by two parents. So when I was faced with being a single mother, I had no information to draw upon other than the security I felt as a child growing up.
So I was determined to replicate it and give my kids the safest home I could possibly provide. But there was only so much I could do when they were not in my care while they were with their dad on his court-ordered weekends.
My children are now adults, and I see how that experience has shaped them. I see what they took with them into their adult lives. What I see, they don’t. As I look back on those weekends, I get a lump in my throat.
I see how they were pulled around by the court-ordered decisions made on their behalf and by the decisions and actions made by one or more of their parents. I have wondered if their dad could even think back to the day they were born and even attempt to imagine that he would one day put them through that. How unfair that all was to them. It was a part of their lives they had no say in.
In our case, they were dragged to a home of strangers, where two other kids lived with their mom, to a city that was 50 miles away, and to an environment that was unfamiliar. And they were told to blend in.
How confusing it must have been for them. How unsure they must have felt about so much. And how ridiculous it all was too. Their dad never took the time to sit down with them to explain anything. Though I, too, am still waiting on why he abandoned us, I can at least draw from my life’s foundations and strengths to cope and move on.
But they deserved a conversation. They deserved his respect. They still do.
So what can a father do to explain things to his children twenty years later?
They are adults now, and he doesn’t have to sugarcoat anything. He can just talk to them now. He can lift any misconceived burdens that his departure was their fault and which they have unconsciously carried for many years inside themselves. He left us when my daughter was born, and she has always felt that her birth made him want to leave.
He can help to explain and perhaps even allay some fears that are still deep inside of them.
He can debunk their assumptions.
He can listen perhaps for the first time and allow them to give a voice to the child that was not allowed to speak.
He can show them the respect they deserve by the sacrifices they have made so that he could find a new life. A life that did include them, but only on his terms. Or, in my children’s case, it was on his wife’s terms. Terms that they were expected to agree to.
I no longer expect any answers from him as it relates to me. Those answers would be meaningless at this point. I am not the same woman. I have been able to find my peace with his departure. But I know how important a father is. My father was and still is the most important man in my life; even 17 years after his death, his positive impact on my life is still felt.
So take time to speak to your children about why you left.
You have a legacy that will live on in them. How that legacy is reflected will be defined by what you leave them with. Let that be with closure and completion and a final act of love that they can carry on to live their lives with their best and fullest expressions of it. Don’t make them fill in your blanks. It’s time for you to talk.