I guess I need to put a disclaimer at the beginning of this post, as to why, if the title is “The Only Mother And Father My Children Will Ever Have,” how come I do not post a picture of my daughters’ mother with this story. Well, the obvious would be that I do not have her permission to do so, nor would I expect it. But I know she and her family read my blog, and well, if she wants a picture on this, all she has to do is ask.
So you can tell from the disclaimer, my children are like many others, growing up with a divorced family. It is not the way any of us intended. After all, my daughters have already been through enough trauma in their young lives, and in the years ahead, possibly dealing with identity issues and their adoptions, on top of the fact, that their parents some time in the future, will no longer be husband and wife.
I will say right from the start, I love my daughters as much if not more as each day goes by from the day that I saw their “referral photo” that announced the pending arrival of my daughters. Both girls know that somewhere across the world, is a mother and a father who biologically were responsible for them being born. In reality though, all that currently matters to them now, is that they have only one mother, and one father. And that is my estranged wife and I. Sure, perhaps some day, there will be someone significant again in our lives that would introduce someone else to share love with my daughters, either with my estranged wife, or myself. But I state with 100% certainty, I will be the only father my daughters ever call “Dad.”
That being said, during the divorce process, and beyond, there are definite adjustments to the roles of mother and father. The obvious, we are no longer living in the same house, nor have been for years now. As an adult child of divorce myself, I know first hand, the importance of keeping in touch with my children every day. And unlike the choice my father made with me and my sibling, I do everything I can to speak to my daughters either through video or telephone at least once a day.
We talk about everything from the day’s activities, school, exchange jokes, assist with homework, even read to each other, as if I were there in person. But the one thing that does not happen, they NEVER hear anything negative about the marriage, the divorce process, or their mother from my lips. Any questions that do happen to come up are answered vaguely.
I will always believe that if a child has both parents when they are brought into this world, they will need both parents forever. And there is no reason whatsoever, that a parent should ever be kept from being in that child’s life. But the fact is, that all too often, one parent, focused only on malicious and vindictive revenge for the other spouse filing for divorce, will often strive to turn the child against the other parent, using either selfish or deceitful methods to gain the advantage, resulting in what has existed in divorce for decades, only recently being recognized, as “parental alienation syndrome.”
Parental Alienation Syndrome is emotional child abuse. To turn a child against either parent, the only parents that child has known, for that parent’s own gain and satisfaction, at the expense of the relationship between the child and the targeted parent, is child abuse.
As I said, I have many conversations with my daughters, and I do all that I can, to remind them of happier times, when they can actually remember their mother and I being happy. I remind them that their mother is there for them to talk to, and help them. My children have happy memories of our family, and I will not take that away from them. I assure them that I will never put them in the middle of any disagreement between their mother and I.
Other children are not so lucky. Blatant brainwashing or programming, often results in the other parent being undermined, pushed out of the child’s life, through no fault of the targeted parent. The offending parent has a desire that does not take the needs of the child to have both parents in his or her life. There is absolutely no reason for this destructive and negative behavior. In no time, children find themselves forced to choose, and of course are guided to the parent alienating the child, the targeted parent completely and involuntarily eliminated from that child’s life.
Though clearly parental alienation has gone on for decades, without a name, only in recent years has it garnished any attention. Of course, without having had a name for it, or diagnosis if you will, the current statistics of 15% of children impacted by parental alienation is probably a very low estimate. But now, with parental alienation being reclassified as child abuse, emotional child abuse at the very least, it is getting a lot more attention. Alienated children face many more issues besides low self-esteem, depression and trust issues with future relationships because later on in life, as the child grows and learns that they were simply a pawn by a parent they loved, for their own gain, turned that child against the other parent.
The time lost by a parent and child alienated from each other can never be gotten back. And the resentment can do permanent and irreversible damage.
Recently, my oldest daughter asked me about the “absent” relationship with my father, in particular, “why did I hate my father? Hate is such a mean word. You should not have hated him.” Talk about the expression “out of the mouths of babes.” She really could not have hit it more on the head.
Comedian Dennis Leary gave out this line, although in fairness it was stated to address racism, but it applies to parental alienation as well… “I have a 2 year old son. You know what he hates? Naps. End of list.” Anything else his son would hate in life, it would be taught to him. And so it goes with parental alienation. It is unnatural for a child to hate a parent. But there I was, being asked a very intuitive question by my oldest daughter, as she was clearly trying to understand either why I reacted the way that I did, or perhaps, feelings she may have been struggling with.
I explained to her, that I grew to hate my father (whom I did make amends with later on in my adult life), because of comments that were made about my father, combined with the fact, that I never really got to see him. Of course that resulted in a follow up question, “why would you believe the awful things said about your dad?” Two great questions now from my daughter, my youngest daughter now listening in on the conversation. Again, I want to stress, I do not discuss the current situation with my daughters. All they know from me, is that I recognize my estranged wife as their mother, and I will not say anything negative about her to or around my children.
My answer seemed elementary. I told them, that as a child, we expect to be able to trust the grown ups around us when they tell us something, which means whatever they tell us, we expect to be true. And in spite of the things being said about my father being mean, the absence of my father from my life, meant that he was not there to defend the lies and the mean comments. And without him there to defend himself, all I ever knew, and thus believed, was what I heard from other adults. And that, is why I told my daughters I was able to “hate” my dad. I was taught to do that. Clearly, my daughters have no concept of what it would be like to be in my position. And it is safe to say, they do not ever want to be in that position. And I know, that as their father, I will never put them in that position, nor will I tolerate anyone in my life, to act that negatively in the same manner.
And that is the one reason I will never disappear from my daughters’ lives. I realize that they may hear negative things from me by certain family members or friends. And that is sad, because the one thing that my daughters know about me, is how much I love them, and there is not one negative thing that anyone could say to them, that would change that. Which ultimately puts that person at risk of actually being hated instead.
It is natural for a child to love their parent. It is not natural for a child to hate their parent. And to expect a child to hate or forget a parent for the selfish act of revenge for divorce, is parental alienation, child abuse.