I have a dirty secret. I don’t think I can be arrested for it, but it shames, saddens, and angers me grievously.
I am estranged from my adult children. I haven’t seen or spoken to my daughters in more than two years. That was Labor Day weekend in 2010, and it was only accidental.
My oldest is 25, and rumor has it that she will be giving birth to my first grandchild this month. My Mom was invited to the baby shower. She stayed with me and went to the shower and told me when the baby was due…otherwise, I’d know nearly nothing.
My youngest is 23. She graduated from college this week. I learned this from my Mom, as well. She has a bachelor’s degree in social work from Kent State University. I thought she graduated last year, but my Mom says it took her five years to finish.
My shame comes from being that guy whose children will have nothing to do with him.
I divorced their mother a dozen years ago when they were 10 and 12 years old. They lived with me through their high school years and some of college. My oldest got her degree while living with me. My youngest lived with me until the beginning of her second year in college.
Soon after the divorce I met my current life partner. Soon after the divorce, my ex-wife met her current life partner. Neither of us went through some wild, dating frenzy. I found a steady relationship and my ex found a steady relationship.
I don’t pretend to understand why things went to Hell when my life partner moved in with me and my daughters, as my ex moved in with her life partner long before my girlfriend’s mother died and she moved in with us.
I’m told by reliable sources that I can never hope to understand the “female” dynamic that was at work when I tried to blend a family, but that felt like a cop out.
There was a whole lot of “You’re not the boss of me” going on around me all the time. I know much of the shame I feel comes from wishing I had handled that stress better. In hindsight, I realize that there really is no right way to fall on a grenade.
It still shames me that the two best things that ever came out of my marriage want nothing to do with me. I am embarrassed by it. I cringe every time someone asks me how my kids are doing because I have to lie or just say, “I don’t know.”
I don’t know how my kids are doing, and they both live within a 40-mile radius of my house.
When I let myself, I can be angry about this turn of events. That anger is way counterproductive to my humanity. I am only human, however; I can be King Lear so fast that it appalls me when I think of my grandchild and her soon-to-be-mother:
“If she must teem,
Create her child of spleen; that it may live,
And be a thwart disnatured torment to her!
Let it stamp wrinkles in her brow of youth;
With cadent tears fret channels in her cheeks;
Turn all her mother’s pains and benefits
To laughter and contempt; that she may feel
How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is
To have a thankless child!”
I don’t really feel like that, but there are days where I can barely rise above this kind of thinking. I hope the best for my children and grandchildren, and it would be beautiful if my daughter could have a healthy baby on Mother’s Day
I get angry at my ex, as well.
I cannot imagine a scenario in which I could tolerate knowing my children would have nothing to do with their mother. The circumstances surrounding how my ex had custody of our children but they ended up living with me is complicated, but I did not criticize my ex-wife to my children.
I can’t help thinking this estrangement somehow pleases my ex…it is some sort of revenge, I think on my bad days. I get angry that my parents know more about my children’s lives than I do.
I get angry because there are days when it feels like my children tried to make me choose between them and the person I love, but they embraced their mother’s relationship with her partner.
The shame and the anger chase each other around in my head most of the time. I know the anger and the shame are a waste of time. No one should think I am some martyr or a saint. I get mad and sad and mad again, and I always feel shame in my gut, but things got the way they are because I had to draw boundaries with my kids for my own well being.
I’d draw those same boundaries again…and most likely sooner, and part of my shame comes from how long it took me to draw those lines. It wasn’t good for any of us.
I have a picture of my girls on my refrigerator. They are probably 6 and 4 years old. They are in night shirts and they have been into the makeup. They have made themselves “beautiful” and they have plastic flowers clenched between their smiling teeth…they aren’t those people any longer inside their heads
…BUT, and all you parents know what I mean when I say, those smiling angels are still inside my head…and they will always be.
I grieve their loss, and I am ashamed and angry all at the same time…It’s my dirty little secret…here’s hoping that a problem shared is a problem halved.