***as I do with a post like this, I need to offer this disclaimer for my trolls… nothing in this post represents anything about my particular domestic situation, and any similarity is purely coincidental. Move on.
I see these stories several times a week, “I just can’t take any more,” or “I’m done!”, referencing domestic battles with former spouses and strained relations with children, due to bitter breakups. Actually, bitter is often an understatement. I often find myself able to relate as an adult, but the advice I give, is from a different angle, that, as an adult child of divorce. It is one thing to think about how the actions affect a child now, but what about their future?
The stories are all start the same way. “At what point do you give up?” And to be clear, these situations are not just fathers in this position, but mothers as well. This particular begins with an introduction to how long the situation has been, and how old his child is. Close to a decade, the child is well into the teens now, which can cause problems of its own.
He mentions the time and efforts spent in court, fighting for his rights for custody to see his child, years. There is no mention of any other issue related to the parents (such as support or abuse). There are hints of cooperation, but they are few and far between before they end up back in court.
And then there are the efforts the father goes to, just to see his child. The child was moved hours away by the custodial parent. He makes no complaints about the lengths he goes to, to continue his relationship with his child. But along with the temperament of a moody teenager, in his situation, the mother has had influence over the child as well, in a negative way towards the father.
There are so many parents in this situation. This could easily be their story.
Money. Time. Distance. Sacrifice. The father did it all because the child meant so much to him. The love is unconditional.
But this does take a toll on individuals emotionally and physically. It ends one of four ways. The parent keeps fighting, eventually coming out the other side with an amicable relationship finally worked out. The parent keeps fighting, until the stress is too much for the body to handle, and with the resulting poor health, succumbs. Sometimes, the fight is too much to handle emotionally, and a parent seeks the ultimate end, tragically, no longer able to fight, no longer able to live without the child they loved and raised.
And then there is the fourth option. He writes, “when do you say ‘I love you and am here for you always,’ then walk away, defeated and beaten?
My response to him was two words, “you don’t.”
You don’t ever give up. As I said in my disclaimer, I am careful not to mention my personal situation with my family. I am speaking as an adult child of divorce.
I would eventually take on his issues one by one, giving a reality check from my ACOD point of view.
“Have to travel hours because the mother moved the child.” My father lived ten minutes away from me.
“I am constantly in court, fighting for my visitation rights.” Join the club. You do what you have to do to be able to see your child.
“I just can’t do it anymore.” Wrong. You have to.
My point to him was not one of not understanding his situation, even from an ACOD reflection, he mentioned the distance and what it “cost” him, all of the sacrifices he made. And then I wrote to him, “whether 8 hours or 10 minutes, you don’t give up. No matter the situation you are in, as hard as it is, find someone to lean on, someone who understands or knows what you are going through, but you never give up. My father gave up. He lived only ten minutes away from me. He had fights with my mother, but he gave up. And then I grew older. And that is what I knew. He gave up.”
I know there are two sides to every story. But I lost most of my childhood, and nearly a decade of my adulthood, with feelings against my father, because he “gave up.” Time lost, neither of us could get back. Any words spoken of that time, may provide understanding, but would never replace what was lost.
And yes, I said I don’t refer to my own divorce, but I will say this, it is because of what I went through with my father, that I promised myself and my daughters, I would never let that happen with us. I would never give up.
And that is exactly what I said to this other father, “you don’t” give up. Ever. Your child will never forget if you did.