The Estranged Dad
By Bernadette A. Moyer
Dads hurt too! Barely a day goes by when I don’t hear from an estranged mother who is grieving over an adult child that decided to dismiss mom and dad from their life. Rarely but very rarely do I hear from the dad’s. But when I do the pain shared is no different than what the women have shared. Men seem to keep it in, are more cut and dry about it and seldom do they show their grief outwardly.
When I asked my own husband “what single thing in your life has hurt you the most?’” I was surprised by his response.
This is a man who grew up in “The Projects” and who became a widower at age 32 just after his wife delivered twins pre-maturely. He had a younger brother that he loved commit suicide; he is a man that held his mother’s hand as she died and has a father suffering from severe dementia. (Since this article was written his father has died)
His response; “our girls” and “It didn’t have to be this way.” He was talking about their estrangement. They chose to turn away from their family under the guise of “abuse.” Both times it was over a teen boyfriend that they were determined to have and neither one ended up with.
My husband was a huge support to my daughter. One year he wrote the entire check for her Catholic prep school tuition. During high school he drove her to school every day before going to work. He was invested in her success even though she was not his biological daughter. He attended every single father-daughter dinner throughout high school and he wasn’t just happy to do it but he was proud.
His twin daughter is his namesake that he took up for the entire time she lived at home. Always doing battle with anyone that came to tell him that she was failing, he didn’t want to hear it or believe it. Whether it was a teacher or an employer he only wanted to hear the best about his daughter.
Many times it would be her own twin brother reporting to dad about her latest scheme and how awful she made him feel. He dismissed his only son to support his daughter. To him, she walked on water. Until … right up until he could no longer look the other way. Until she would not only estrange but declare that she was “abandoned.” After all she needed to have a story to support her decisions to disrespect the house rules. And at the age of 18 she certainly had every right to live her life, her way. But we all know that when we live with our parents and in our parent’s house, it is by our parents rules.
Fathers take it differently from what mothers do and looking back I would be willing to bet that my husband stayed strong so that I could be the one that fell apart.
My son describes his twin and her departure as a “low blow” and a “sucker punch” to their father. I believe she acted in haste as many teens do and at the time truly did not comprehend the magnitude of the decisions that she was making. Friends will come and friends will go, but family is forever, or it is supposed to be. He was also the one that didn’t want us to go after. He stated, “She will just do it again” and “I know her better than anyone” and “we are better off without her.”
This is not what any parent wants to hear. We raised our twins to have their own interests and seldom did their interests intersect. He was an Eagle Scout involved in the theater and drama; she played the flute, went to band camps and played soccer. Although we always hoped they would be close and we tried to instill in them the importance of looking out for one another. We thought it was a blessing that they had each other. Little did we know that our desire to keep them together and close was often at our son’s expense and well-being.
My husband isn’t the kind of guy that has regrets. He lives and he learns and he has accepted that the daughter he loved and adored didn’t or doesn’t hold him in the same esteem. His immediate response when she left wasn’t one of hurt or of anger, his response was “I am so disappointed.”
We find it amusing that you can raise kids in the same home, at the same time with the same parents and schools and everything and how one child can be so appreciative and happy and constantly reflects on all the good things he had in his childhood. He states; “I had a great childhood” and another child who was probably given even more states that they weren’t happy and estrange.
From all the parents I have talked with over the 16 years since estrangement entered my life I hear many common threads. Parents that feel betrayed by their children. And their kids lied to them and lied about them. Kids that grow up and decide to estrange from their parents while making the choice to play the victim rather than to succeed in life.
The parents in my support group are the ones that are just like my husband. They are really great dads who gave it their all and never dreamt that all the efforts he put forth would be minimalized and unappreciated. My husband is a strong man, a Christian that prays every single day for the daughter that he thought he raised.
We have great memories of all our kids and all the years that we were raising them. We are so happy that we survived those years with our marriage intact and even stronger. It easily could have gone another way.
Like all the moms and dads who have done the work and raised their children; we want for our children what we have always wanted for them. We want them to be happy, to have peace and good health and a good long life filled with as much love as possible.
Thinking of every dad out there on this Father’s Day and every single day …
Bernadette on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/bernadetteamoyer
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