When Did You Learn About Your Parents?
Though I see this daughter all of the time, fortunately, the “look” is not something frequently seen. She is normally a very happy young lady, with a smile and a giggle that melts my heart. This particular look has one more level, that of which is referred to as the “stink eye.” For those unprepared, she can make you feel quite uncomfortable. For those who know her well enough like I do, it is all show.
I have been on the receiving end of this look occasionally, I think I can count less than necessary of my ten fingers. But one particular incident took me off guard.
It was a Valentine’s Day and I had just come home from work. I needed to get changed for dinner as we were all going out. My cell phone rang. I was currently in a cycle of receiving phone calls for my first ex-wife (wife in this story is ex-wife #2). They were bill collectors trying to reach her, and by using “guilt by association” data bases (I had not been married to her over a decade by this time), when they cannot get ahold of the person they are trying to reach, they will contact everyone in their data base.
Typically, I ignore these calls. Once you answer them, they will keep calling, even when you explain that you have not seen or talked to them in over ten years. But I was in a good mood. And that meant, I was up for a little fun.
I let the caller go through their talking points, asking for my 1st ex-wife. And then I unloaded on them.
“How many times do I have to tell you, I have not seen her, heard from her, in over 10 years! What else do I have to do to get through to you people, I have no way to reach her?
The caller interrupted, “I am sorry for the inconvenience…”
Then I interrupted him. “You’re sorry! It’s freaking Valentine’s Day. I am planning to take my wife (now ex-wife) out to a romantic dinner, and she hears you asking for my ex wife? You have ruined this day for both of us. I hope you are satisfied.” And then I hung up.
As this call was occurring, I was pacing the floor, so that my voice sounded as if I was excited and upset. I saw my ex standing in front of me, and she had an odd look on her face, which did not appear related to the call. After I disconnected the call, I asked her, “what?” She nodded at me to turn around.
At just about waste height, I had not looked lower from eye level, to not realize my older daughter had been standing there.
My daughter had a stern look on her face, like the picture above, pointed a finger at me, and said, “you had another wife?”
Throughout my parenthood, I had always played out scenarios of situations where my daughters might just ask me questions about my youth, to perhaps help gauge a decision about to be made. It did not matter if it was about dating, smoking pot, underage drinking, or whatever else. They were going to get honesty from me, at an age appropriate level.
But there was one part of my life that I had not given any thought to, because it really had no bearing on my daughters. Their mother and I are the only parents that they know. So I did not feel it was imperative at their young age to know that I had been married previously. Sure, it might come up for discussion perhaps in their adulthood. However, I had no ties to my first ex-wife, especially children.
I stuck my own foot in my mouth though. The topic, it was not a secret, was out. I had a short conversation, lasting five minutes or less, my prior marriage, again, keeping it at age appropriate level. And then, my daughter moved on.
My daughters are still teenagers, one of adult age now, and my resolve is still the same, to be open and transparent with my daughters about my past. Right now, my focus is on school, and after graduation, and making sure my daughters have the right ideals and morals, when it comes to dating. Dating is one concern that I do have as a father, because I remember how I was as a teenager. I am fortunate that my daughters had a great role model as their baby sitter, because they remember her. And when I tell them how focused a student she was, that when she was not at school, she concentrated on her work, which included babysitting, and of course her family. Dating and boyfriends came after those.
I do not talk to my daughters about my divorce from their mother, except when something is mis-stated and needs to be corrected. I also do not want them to think I am sour against marriage though I have no interest in that again. As they approach their adulthood, I just feel it is important to be one of the two most important people in their lives to set an example for them, and to support and encourage them.
My health has been challenging since my late effects from my cancer treatments caught up with me. I had no guarantee that I would be here to see this day, yet, here I am. That means I am going to have more conversations with them, including about my past. Hopefully, and there is no rush, this will include parental advice.