So I have read a bit about Gaslighting over the last few weeks. Interesting phenomenon that I still really don’t quite understand. It’s so-named because of a movie back in the 50s where a husband was proving his wife was crazy but gradually lowering the lighting in their house and then acting like she was crazy when she noticed it. I guess it’s this intentional creation of events to make another person feel crazy.
I work hard not to assume the crazy in everything. But as they say, it’s not paranoid if everyone really is out to get you. Like is Katniss paranoid in Hunger Games? Or is she just realistic? When every time you connect well with your kids — which for me is like 3 times in the past 2 years — then they are yelling at you within a week, you start to think someone is changing the story.
Which brings me to Christmas this year. I once again sent my kids Gift cards for Christmas via email. I literally do not have their addresses and worry that if I send something to their mom’s new home with her boyfriend, that they will not receive it, so I send via email. Several friends and family members asked why I would do such a thing. My reply was, I’m their dad, I can’t let Christmas go by without giving them something, however little. The reply was always — “Why give a gift to someone if they don’t acknowledge it, act like they hate you, don’t want anything to do with you and treat you with contempt and disrespect?”
My reply, “It’s what daddy’s do. They love unconditionally.”
I received an email from my 17 year old a couple of days past Christmas.
It has come to my conclusion that you have absolutely nothing to do with me. You beg me to contact u and when I finally say thank you and have a good Christmas u don’t even respond. It just really seems like u put on the biggest act for no apparent reason. Just on how you don’t respond when u want me too. It makes me not want a relationship because you can’t make up your mind. I hope you can get some help for your problems and misleading wants and desires. I hope the best for you. But just don’t want to be around you.
Here’s the problem. I never received a thank you from him or a “have a good Christmas” message from him. Checked through all texts, emails, snail mails and literally zero contact from him. So I naturally respond asking where he sent it or how. No reply.
A bit of background: His mom had mentioned to me in November that he was having his wisdom teeth out on Dec. 31st, but in the midst of cross-atlantic and cross continent travel several times, work, 15 performances of a Christmas show I was in and normal busyness, I forgot to put on my calendar and ended up forgetting. There was one question about it re: insurance and that was the only contact I had about it. It wasn’t scheduled, she was just thinking she was going to try. Never heard anything else about it from him or her.
Then I get an email on New Year’s Day from my son. No word on how he thanked me for his gift, just a note saying “Btw I am doing pretty decent after my wisdom teeth removal yesterday. Thanks for asking about me.” It’s every dad’s nightmare — forgetting something important about the kids. But how do you handle this snarky, rude, disrespectful and one-sided relationship expectation? I tried hitting the apology and asking for help in the future on this. But again no reply.
My reply to my 17 year old:
See this is where I get confused. I go through birthdays, Christmas and Father’s Day and not a word from my kids. No call; no text; no email. Then my son is angry because I forget to ask about his teeth being pulled. He never mentions it to me. His mom does, six weeks earlier once and I’m in trouble because I forgot to remember and check on him. Meanwhile He won’t respond to emails, texts or phone calls. Yet I’m now a bad guy because I didn’t call.
Son. I would love to have a relationship with you where I would not only hear about your medical situations via emails about insurance, but I would have discussed them with you as well. We would have talked about them in our regular discussions and in the times when you come see me and/or I when I go up there to see you.
Just to be clear, I’m very sorry I forgot about this. I wish I would have remembered and put a follow up reminder in my calendar so I wouldn’t have neglected this moment in your life. But like you, I have thousands of things happening in my life in a six week period. One of them was hearing for 2 minutes that my son might have his teeth out on dec 31. No further word or reminder or follow up comment. In fact the only thing from you is your note about not responding to you when you said you thanked me for my Christmas gift — which I emailed back and told you I never received. There was no mention in that about the teeth either.
I try to do all I can to build bridges to reach you. I’m not perfect. I make mistakes. I didn’t remember. I should have. But it was never intentional on my part to forget or ignore it. I love you and would love to be there through all the issues and pulled teeth in your life (just like I was for the first 15 years you were alive).
Can you help with this a little bit next time by letting me know just a small amount of what’s going on in your life?
So this is one of those posts where I don’t have any answers. No recommendations. Just frustration. I haven’t seen him since June, haven’t seen his sister since March of last year. Once again, I keep seeing situations where their entire reality is shifted and everything tilts toward making dad look like an uncaring idiot. There is never any need for either of them to use respect or to try to do anything to improve the relationship, it’s all on me, and whatever I do is perceived as negative. If I communicate, I’m not giving them space, if I give them space, I don’t care. If I send a gift, I’m a jerk for not responding to some phantom communication (still don’t know what the heck he is talking about…), or I am ignored completely (no response at all from my daughter).
And so begins the new year.