In previous posts, I have spoken about what it was like living with divorced parents, and even spoke about how appreciative I am for the dad that didn’t sign up for the gig. I have avoided speaking about my true feelings of my bio-dad, possibly because this is a public platform and possibly because I am trying my hardest to not let it affect me.
But when I take a step back and think about this really hard, the impact of my father – or lack thereof – has been far greater than I’d like to admit. Yes, this is a public platform. But… this is also a parenting site and most sites focus on their experiences as a parent, but what about the footprint that we leave on our children?
I am 21 – yes, I have a son and yes, I try very hard not to make the mistakes that my parents made with me. I want my son to be socially comfortable, street-smart and confident in himself. I want him to see deeper than the skin, to think before he speaks and to enjoy childhood before it passes him by.
It’s been just over a year since I wrote my last letter to my bio-dad and even though I try very hard to act like it doesn’t bother me, it does. My parents called it quits when I was 2 years old and not long after, they had both moved on. I wouldn’t say it was the nicest divorce, nor was it the ugliest. My stepdad stepped it up and made up for no maintenance being paid, telling me I am beautiful in my prom dress and got teary when he walked me down the aisle. Really, he had this attitude that if my dad wants to be part of my life, awesome – if, not… He will work hard so that I won’t miss him.
But I did… or… I do.
I don’t know if it affects me more, these days, because I am a parent or perhaps it’s just a stage. I have had them many times before. The first time I really had a breakdown was when I was about 11. My mom had managed to track my dad down, after not hearing from him since I was 6. A favour from a private detective managed to turn up everything about him, including the earnings of his neighbours. It also revealed that he worked not far from my house and that if he really wanted to, he could come and see me any time. My mom called him up on my 10th birthday and in a matter-of-fact kinda way, asked him whether he’d like to wish me.
I was angry. I am angry. I wrote him a letter outlining the many things he had missed out in the last 10 years, how I didn’t understand how he could go on, get married, have kids and never even think to SMS, call or just pop by. My mom is a decent soul, still to this day, she scolds me if I put my dad down. She reassures me and tells me of the man she married and somewhere, somehow, that man must have been lost. She encourages me to speak to him, to email him and to make the effort. And even today, I know that she is the one who shares pictures of my child with him. So I can’t blame it on being the evil ex-wife, sorta scenario.
I have written many letters, some I regret for being so harsh but I wish he’d known how those words are only reflecting my hurt. I feel abandoned and alone. I can’t fathom how you can have a child and just walk away. I look at my husband who can’t bring himself to getting out of bed, each day, because he wants to stay and play with his son. Every morning, he takes Axl from his sleeping place, next to me, and holds him, cradles him and enjoys him lying on his chest. He sends messages throughout the day checking in on us, asking how the Axe-Man is doing. The other day, he was saying that the hardest day of his life, is when he had to leave Axl and me at the hospital, for the night, after giving birth. When we drove back from the hospital, he said… “Megan, you can’t let me go home alone again, that house is a mere shell without you. You make it home – even the dogs look lost without you.” How can a father turn his back on that? I just can’t make sense of it.
I mean, let me put things in perspective. One day, we got a call from my uncle and he told us that my father was leaving the next day, for the UK with his daughters. Can you imagine meaning so little to your parent, that he doesn’t even tell you that he is leaving the country? How bizarre.
I’ve only ever seen my dad twice. Once, when I was 6. His wife, at the time, was pregnant with my oldest half-sister. I remember we still went to Woolworths to pick out an outfit for the baby. My mom came with, to lunch at Spur and kept giving me that encouraging smile. My dad bought me a dress-up set that included a silver princess dress, white gloves, a tiara and high-heels. I loved it. I remember that night though, the emotions were overwhelming and I cried into my mom’s open arms. I had a picture of Luis on my wall and I felt that I had to choose, that I was disloyal, somehow.
When I was 13, my parents came to an agreement and managed to find the funds to send me overseas to meet my dad. My mom and Lu went the extra mile in trying to make sure that I wouldn’t need anything, that I would be comfortable and enjoy my trip. They bought me an entire new wardrobe, with the most stunning winter clothes. They even purchased me the Bam Margera heartagram skating shoes. They are still the most expensive pair of shoes that I have ever owned. My mom bought me enough skincare, hair products and sanitary towels to last 6 months, for a 4 week trip. I travelled with my grandparents, who handed me over to a stranger at the airport. A man who only had a lunch at Spur under his belt of parenting experiences.
I don’t think that my parents or anyone considered the emotions that I had to go through and face on my own. No one thought just how big this trip was for a 13 year old. Being in a foreign country, living with a man who you don’t know and trying to overcome that you have 2 half-sisters and 1 step-sister, who you were only told about the day before. Sharing a room with these 3 girls, and trying to wrap your head around their family dynamic. Like seriously, WTF!? I wish that I could have enjoyed my trip and I wish that I had made the best of the opportunity, but the emotional turmoil was just too much to try and work through, and I flew back on my own, 2 weeks before my return flight was booked.
So why have all these emotions and memories suddenly dawned on me? I mean, I had this all neatly packed away with stuff that doesn’t need dusting or shaking-out. On Sunday, we were driving along the beach front and I am not too sure what sparked this thought or what made me ask it. But I asked Darren if he thought I would ever see my dad again. He replied with a “no, I don’t think so.”
Wait… What… Let that sink in.
I mean, deep down, I expected that. But hearing it from someone else, it hit me hard. Hard enough to steam up my sunglasses and swallow back years of emotions. Can you imagine not ever seeing your dad again, not for any other reason than he doesn’t want to. He won’t even get to meet the centre of my universe, my son, or the man who has changed my entire life, my husband. He won’t ever know what it is that makes me happy, what my dreams and wishes are for the future – he won’t know anything more than my name and how many birthdays he has missed.
Truth is, it’s not okay. It’s not okay for you to turn your back on your children, and it’s not okay to think that by not having any involvement in their life, you’re doing them some sort of favour. They don’t want you there? You fight harder to be there. You’ve done wrong? Don’t let it define you, work at it, to prove that you are not that person. But don’t… don’t ever give up. Because I can tell you from your child’s perspective, there is nothing worse than feeling like your parent, who is meant to see more in you than you could ever imagine, just gives up on you and forgets you. Children need their parents, all of them! I thank my lucky stars for my step-dad, Luis, and I am exceptionally grateful for my mom. But just because I have amazing parents, doesn’t fill the gap that my father left. I try so hard not to have expectations of people, to avoid being hurt and disappointed. But really, it shouldn’t be an expectation, it should just be done. You should make the effort to be part of your children’s life – no matter how hard they fight back.
It’s not okay. But I will be okay.
So to the parents who are divorced, never put your children in the situation where they feel they have to choose. It is said a thousand times and although you may not do it intentionally, I look back at both the divorces that I have seen my mom through and in both cases, there has been a point where I have felt the need to choose. And don’t ever feel that your role as a parent ends with signing on the dotted line. When you decided to have children, whether in a moment of passion or out of love and dedication to a partner, with the idea of always being each other’s significant other. You owe that responsibility to your children, to be there, to fight for them, to not expect them to put the effort in to be your child, but for you to put in the time, patience and effort into being their parent.
Divorce is one ugly hell-hole, but that doesn’t mean you have to take your children down it too.