Sorry to all the followers I’ve accumulated on this site. I’ve not written here for quite a while. A lot has changed since my last update in 2016. I’m re-married now, have the good fortune of having 3 step-daughters — all in their 20s and three grandchildren – 11, 9 and 4. What a joy that has been over the last few years, getting to know them and being a part of their life. I’m a Papa to three incredible kids.
Don’t get me wrong. All of that comes with its problems as well. Life is not unicorns and rainbows and bunnies.
I think that’s why I’m writing again. I’m thinking that a lot of us struggling through the problems inherent in Parental Alienation are thinking that if we could just get this one single problem fixed, our lives would be incredible again.
Maybe it’s because I’m getting old — I’ll be 50 this fall. But I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that all of our lives will always have some hope and some joy and some despair and frustration. I know we have this image of Bill Gates and rock stars like Bono and other people that have “made it,” and we think that their lives must be so extraordinary and so much better than ours.
Then we read stories of those caught up in the #MeToo movement and we wonder what happened to people like Matt Lauer, Kevin Spacey, and even Bill Hybels. These people were at the top of their game, but their lives must not have been the perfect world we imagine, otherwise, why would these things occur?
I’m sure the subtext on this is not lost on most of you. No, I haven’t heard from my kids. It’s been almost 5 years since the divorce was final. Almost six since the parental alienation began in a completely open, unapologetic, unrepentant way. I send out cards at birthdays and Christmas. Via amazon, because I don’t know their addresses. The last time I heard from my son was when I crashed his graduation (surprising the heck out of his mom and sister and him). They didn’t give me any heads up where he was graduating, and even switched schools on me mid-year (his mom had him attend 4 different high schools, his sister attended 4 different schools as well — believe me, not my plan — but it was part of her way of ensuring that they are attached to her, and no one else).
The beauty of having three step-daughters (two have lived with us, the other we live about 20 miles away from) is that there is new joy — and frustration and agony — involved with having somewhat of a father/daughter relationship again. There’s similar beauty and agony with the grandkids as well.
I think I’d dreamed that a future like this would be all big hugs, helping the kids grow in wisdom and life. I think I had a romantic, completely unrealistic view of the future.
It’s hard to be a step-dad. It’s hard to be a Papa. Even in the best of circumstances, each of these kids is struggling through their 20s (much like I did). There’s dramas with each of them that encompass all around them. Breakups where no one wants to go on. Money troubles where help is needed urgently. Housing issues (one of the reasons are new house has 3 guest rooms!!!). Anger at Mom, Step-Dad step-dads in to help, then there’s anger at Step-Dad AND Mom. Both of us overstep non-existent boundaries, both of us don’t help like we should in the eyes of the kids. It’s interesting to note that even where there is not parental alienation involved, life with children is hard. As we know all to well, the alternative, Life without children, is also very hard.
I suspect that many of you out there are clinging to the hope that there is a future with new kids or grandkids or your own kids coming back to you. Hope is not wrong. Hope is what keeps us going through the most difficult times. Without hope, we wallow in despair and can’t go on. So, please, Hope and pray for a different future. Hope and pray for reconciliation with your kids. Hope and pray for peace and joy right here, right now.
What I encourage you NOT to do is this: Don’t put your Joy on hold, waiting for the reconciliation. Don’t negate the places in your life where you can find friendship, love and happiness because you’re waiting for a future that won’t meet your expectations.
My new wife and I have talked a bit about what reconciliation may look like with my kids. The last couple of times I saw them, I was completely rebuffed by the changed way they acted in front of me. It was not real. They weren’t themselves. They were completely different in the way they acted, in the way they interacted. I felt like I was viewing a parallel universe. What if we finally do reconcile and this is the version of the kids that comes back? I’m not sure if I would want to even be around them.
Here’s the other side of that: There has been so much anger and pain and animus directed at me from them and their mom over the last five years, I’m not sure how easy it would be to forgive them immediately. The longer they don’t have anything to do with me, the harder that gets as well.
The one key to mastering this life is to learn to have hope amid the struggle –– Learning to rise from the murky depths of life’s issues and make progress in spite of them.
So what I decided to do waaaaay back (in the first several months of the separation and alienation), was to move on with my life, seeking truth and love and hope where I could find it, not demanding that my kids or ex-wife be the deliverers of any of that. The result was that I was able to move on and find hope and truth and love in this new life. I found an incredible, beautiful woman to love and believe in. We have our issues. Just had one today — something about my driving — imagine that, guys. But there’s a long term settledness within us. There’s a peace. There’s an honesty and joy we have with each other that I haven’t had before in my life.
And then, there’s all kinds of problems. Money issues (still dealing with Alimony), family issues, aches and pains of being almost 50, concern for our aging parents, lack of friends in the new area we moved to this Winter, Too many pets that don’t get along, job concerns. It’s funny how we can never get away from problems in our life.
And that’s the whole point of this. Don’t expect you’ll get through all your problems. More will creep in from somewhere. That is life. You’ll never be free from this until you take those steps into the hereafter. The one Key of mastering this life is to learn to have hope amid the struggle — Learning to rise from the murky depths of life’s issues and make progress in spite of them.
Here’s to you in your attempt to do just that.
2 thoughts on “5 year Divorce Anniversary, What’s changed?”
How do I explain how I responded to your post…? I made so much progress with my 19-year-old son, or so I thought. We traveled to Hawaiʻi together (where I now live), we had so many in-depth conversations covering anything and everything he wanted to ask about his childhood, how I had behaved as a father, how he responded to that fathering, but then last month, he gave me a letter which to me was, in brief, a confirmation that he had drunk his motherʻs kool-aid once again, and was regressing to the angry boy he had been just a few years ago. So discouraging.
So yes, we do not hang our joy on the ʻhooksʻ of any of our children. We enjoy relationship along the way but we relinquish the control that was always an illusion anyway. We accept the fact that anyone and everyone is free to have, or to not have relationship with us, for any reason, or for no reason. This is called the vale of tears for good reason, yet we find much cause for joy along the way.
Peter – thanks for your response. This is the concern I have. Even if there is reconciliation. For how long? Once their Mom figures out there has been reconciliation, what is her response? I’ve seen many similar reconciliations the ex-wife had with her father, only for her mom to make so many negative comments and tell her “new information” that makes it impossible for her to continue the relationship with her Dad. There’s a track record here for the ex-wife to revert to when there’s any kind of reconciliation. I’m sorry for your situation, and can see that type of thing coming for me down the road as well. Here’s to joy for you and your family that you have now and hope for the future for you. Thanks again for your note.