Note to kids: Bitterness hurts you, not who you are bitter at…

My daughter’s 18th birthday today.  As with most alienated parents, I did not get to see her on her birthday.  I was hoping her present would arrive today.  It did, but Fedex didn’t leave it because they delivered it after I left for my son’s soccer game — 5:15 PM).  So I wasn’t able to bring it by her mom’s house for her yet.  I had already left one gift at the house the week before and was told in no uncertain terms by her mom that I was not welcome on their property.  Her reasoning was she “can’t trust what will happen.”  Interesting choice of words — as if I had ever done anything in the last year or so to make her not be able to trust what I would do.  Maybe she was more concerned about how she would react?

So tonight I elected to call around 9 PM to just leave her a voicemail

Happy Birthday
Happy Birthday (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

wishing her a happy birthday.  My son answered the phone and spent the next 20 minutes or so railing on me for everything from the clothes I wore to his soccer game to the fact that I was on a conference call.  Mind you, I was off to the side, away from everyone else — because it’s 4th quarter at my work and i literally had to leave a conference call to go to the game and needed to be on two others during the game.  No one heard me talking and I was behind and away from the rest of the crowd, but could see the game easily.  I was also chastised for my parents not sending a present to his sister, for him having to be the grown up in the house and for abandoning the family in the divorce and not giving them any money and the fact that I had gone to some concerts this summer and (this was strange to hear) he was upset because he said I didn’t want a relationship with him…

It was very hard to get in a  word edge-wise throughout the conversation.  Most of it was yelling from his side.  However, I worked very hard to interject when he would pause to take a breath.  Stuff like — “Do you even know how much money I gave your mother every month?” and things like  “There’s very few things in the world I want more than a relationship with you and your sister.”  I decided early in the conversation that he could rant and rave all he wanted, but when he told I lie I was going to call him on it.

I also agreed with him when he said that I’d never gone through a divorce as a kid and had no idea what he was dealing with.  “I would love to know what you’re dealing with — in fact, I’d love to help you through it. You’re right I have no idea what you’re dealing with. I can’t imagine how hard it is for you.  But I want to be there with you all the way through it…”

I told my Dad later (who had a similar conversation with my son — he’d called his grandpa just to rant at him — first time he’d ever called him…) that I actually felt at one point that he was re-thinking some things — seeing things in a different view for the first time.  He eventually hung up on me, I’m fairly certain that this was something that he felt he had to do for his mom and sister.  He texted me afterward and said, “I am just so frustrated cuz at 15 it’s hard to raise a household all by myself.”

I actually thought that was pretty interesting.  Why would he feel like he is raising the household?  He’s got an older sister and a mother there.  Granted he may feel like he’s the man of the house, but there must be some pretty difficult stuff happening over there for him to feel like he’s running things.

My reply was pretty quick and clear:  “You don’t have to buddy.  You just have to be a 15 year old.  Let the adults take care of the others stuff.”  No reply after that.

So I got some very angry and bitter texts from my daughter after that.  She threatened to call the police and have me arrested for trespassing if I brought her birthday present over.  Then I was called stupid and a dumb butt.  She’s 18 today.

So I wrote her a note back talking about how much love and kindness there used to be within her.  I told her that I know she thinks I’m to blame for all of her unhappiness right now and that at some point she would realize that her bitterness and hate and anger isn’t affecting me all that much, but it is tearing her apart.  I asked her to read back what she’d written and see if she thinks that is what a strong and intelligent woman writes, or is it more like the thrashing anger of a hurt young girl?  I told her that love is the way to find healing from that hurt, not anger.  And that I loved her.

I don’t write all of this to you so you see how good a dad I am.  This is an anonymous blog, I frankly don’t care if you think I’m a good dad or not.  I write this, because I think those of us in an alienated position need to hear this as well.  It’s very very easy to become very bitter as we go through this experience.  I had a friend ask me this past week if I was bitter.  I honestly thought about it and said, no, I was not.  That may be more of just a personal thing from my personality.  I’ve never been a bitter person — always have been quick to forgive (though there are some marked examples that I’ve recently corrected in my life where I haven’t forgiven so quickly).

But what I wrote to my daughter is so true.  How often have you seen divorcees 30 years later still hate their ex?  Meanwhile the ex has gone on to have a pretty strong life.  Ironically, that is exactly what happened to my ex’s mom and dad.  Her mom still hates her dad almost 40 years later and has let that bitterness eat her up.  He’s dealt with his mistakes and moved on and been married for 30 years or so.  I think that is the road that my ex is now on as well and she’s trying to take along my son and daughter for the ride.

It’s sad.  It’s difficult to watch.  It would be very very easy to get bitter.  But who does that hurt?  I think I would so much rather move on with my life and make it extraordinary then live in that world.

My prayer is that all you reading this would also see that in spite of the bitterness I’m receiving from the kids and the ex, there’s strong hope.

There’s hope in the fact that I didn’t get the least bit emotional about this little interaction tonight.  I did feel a bit alone (though my cat helped that a bit).

There’s hope in the fact that both kids actually heard me speak truth to the lies they have believed for months.

There’s hope in the new life I’m creating.  I have plans for moving, investing in rental property, travelling, acting, working, getting promoted, dating, etc.  I’m not sitting back waiting for my kids to lose their bitterness and come back to daddy.  I’m aggressively going forward in my life.  It’s different, it’s new, it’s lonely at times, it can be hard to understand — but there is hope there.

My prayer is that you will look in every one of these situations for a similar hope.

God Bless you all.

Jim

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