I don’t write often about my experience as a parent. I’m surprised at myself because raising my children is one of the few things I feel I was successful. It didn’t always seem that way, I have an awful lot of regrets about the environment they were raised in with all of the fighting and marital hostility. In fact, there was a time that I truly thought that my kids would have no chance at happiness after seeing some of the debacles that took place in my house. I’m not proud and I don’t think my ex is either. I stayed awake many nights lamenting the things said and heard and beat myself up mercilessly for allowing myself to get into it with her constantly in front of the kids. Yet she continued to bait me, like a fat kid with a cupcake, and I fell into it. The fighting was brutal.
For my part, I was quick to apologize to them and tried to explain to them what was happening but it was difficult to do without making myself look innocent, which I certainly wasn’t, and not making their mother the villain. I vowed that I would never ever play the kids against their mother ever, kids are not a pawn. I wish I could say the same for my ex. When I attempted to pack my shit and leave one day, her first reaction was to say, “If you think you’re going to waltz in here and see the kids whenever you want you’re sadly mistaken.”
Yup, I knew it. She was one of those parents.
Then the kids asked me to stay. My oldest daughter clinched it with one sentence. “Dad, you can’t leave, she’ll be so much worse if you aren’t here.” There you have it. So I stayed. For 10 miserable, hostile and sexless fucking years I stayed because of the kids. Many people advised me that it was a mistake but I know I did the right thing. First of all, my happiness is secondary to theirs and always will be. Second, I know it solidified my relationship with my children. They would be strangers to me today if I had left then.
For those ten years things were a little better in that I didn’t allow myself to get sucked into a lot of the arguments. We became barely friendly roommates and merely tolerated each other. I focused all of my attention on rebuilding and strengthening my relationship with my children. I decided that I had to be the adult and I learned to suppress my passions and anger and focus on them. My wife, for her part made sure that she tortured me about my job, my pay, my health and my apparent indifference to her negative bullshit. I only rarely took the bait. I didn’t know what my future held but I was certain all along that Bankruptcy, a foreclosure and a divorce were definitely part of it. The only question was when.
My wife spent money like a drunk sailor with a fistful of Viagra. And she was totally unaccountable for it. She bought elaborate gifts for her best friend, who she was unhealthily attached to (a symptom of her then undiagnosed Borderline Personality disorder) while requesting of our family that we not exchange gifts because we didn’t have the money, effectively alienating my Holiday loving family. She refused to show me her Credit card statements but continuously scrutinized mine and yelled at me in front of the kids. I bought a lot of alcohol, I will admit it, but anyone who has ever met her would easily understand the need for that. Money, and her attitude about it would be the biggest source of fighting and the kids knew all about it. I think it put them in a bad spot, as if they felt guilty. I never wanted that.
My devotion to the kids and my commitment to their turning out as “normal” as possible continued. As they got older they understood what was going on and, without my asking for it, they felt bad for me. I defended her, with difficulty, because I didn’t want to be that guy. What I didn’t realize is that they knew what she was about and they acted more out of fear than love with her. Consequently, I unwittingly became the favorite parent. It wasn’t all too difficult, when they asked her for help or advice her first reaction was usually based upon how it affecter her, not them. She was quick to assign fault and blame and less interested in soothing the pain and finding solutions. While I, on the other hand, tried to offer an ear and a solution without judgment or blame.
While I plan on discussing this dynamic in greater detail in future blogs, I want to jump ahead and tell you that despite the horrible and regrettable example that we once were, they turned out absolutely wonderful. In particular, all four have healthy relationships. I was fearful that our example might tarnish them but it didn’t. I’m also not afraid to tell you that despite my efforts to the contrary, I think I am the favorite parent.
My marriage was contemptuous at best. The only good takeaway I have is my relationship with my children. It negates the anger and bitterness that I felt for so long. And I am happy to report that I have a decent relationship with the ex because I chose to let go of my anger and bitterness. Emotional baggage makes my neck hurt and I couldn’t carry it around anymore. I did it for me, not for her. I’m proud of the sacrifices I made in the interest of winning back my children. They are and will continue to be my crowning achievement. I have four amazing ,good-hearted citizens who make the world a better place. They make me proud every single day. I need not desire or seek a legacy, they have done it for me.