44

My ex husband, who was near 30 when we had our first child, and 33 when we had our second, hasn't seen his children since 2008.. We broke up when the youngest was 6 months but as his girlfriend was quite a bit younger, he never had time to see them.. Since we broke up he stood the kids up 56 times in the first year (I kept records) and then only saw them once a year for the next two years. Since my oldest was 5 we haven't heard from him (he is now 12).

I have done all I can to protect them. I don't talk nasty about him as they are half him, but all I can say is their father is selfish...

My oldest called his dad, and quite rightly, was upset and angry but the father hung up on him and then proceeded to send his son a text saying never attempt to contact me again.. So my son attempted to meet his side of the family by calling his grandparents who proceeded to blame me for it all.. When my son said don't try to pull my mother into this, his grandfather got angry so my son hung up. Now says, I know what they are like and I am never contacting them again.

Have I done the right thing by letting my son contact them?? Or am I not protecting them enough??

  • 2
    Not exactly related, but perhaps interesting in this context: parenting.stackexchange.com/questions/18874/… - My answer there explains why I hesitate to define your son's father as a "father"... – Stephie May 11 '15 at 12:03
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    It's not your job to protect them from everything that might ever make them feel bad. it sounds like you did things right. – Murphy May 11 '15 at 13:19
  • The only thing I would change is the title, just a tiny bit. Other than that, you made a perfecly fine question. And yes, once again, you did the right thing. You should be proud of yourself. You did a nice job! – Ismael Miguel May 11 '15 at 15:16
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    Is it possible that the grandparents have been misled by your ex and really do believe it is your fault? – Random832 May 12 '15 at 20:54
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    "Son, I'm sorry: your father is a jerk, and his parents too." Do you need anything more than that? – o0'. May 13 '15 at 8:40
45

I think you did right.

Yes, this is a tough experience to be rejected like this when you are twelve, but if you really never bad-mouthed their father and still have the records of his (non-)visits, you did everything you could.

If you kept him from contacting his paternal family, I firmly believe that this would have lead to some "mystified" image of how this "missing" part of the family would have been "oh so wonderful" if only you hadn't been in the way. I think your son had every right to contact his father. I also think with puberty right around the corner, better now than later, as harsh as it sounds.

The ball is clearly in the father's court now (and has been for years). If he refuses contact, so be it. Neither can you change the behaviour of the grandparents, some people will always support their immediate family, no matter what.

But when you are sorry that your son is missing out on family, remember that the ones missing out in this scenario are the father and the grandparents who don't get to see their grandsons grow up. Their bad luck, IMHO.

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    Sadly, the father's family isn't the only missing out. I grew most of my life without my family and I really do with I had a 'real' family. But, I share the same opinion as you. Her son had the entire right to call his father and see for himself what's on the other side. – Ismael Miguel May 11 '15 at 15:05
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    @IsmaelMiguel Well, you wish you had a "real" family - but not just any "real" family. There's plenty of people who have "real" families that are way worse than not having a "real" family in the first place :) The typical example being parents who are only together "for the sake of the kids", but actually making everyone's life miserable. If it doesn't work and you can't fix it, just get a new car. – Luaan May 12 '15 at 15:40
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    @Luaan I understand that point. I've lived most of my life in a place (I don't know the right name in English) where it was like a foster house. I saw kids there who didn't knew who were their parents. So, having this contact with his father was a good thing. Even though it wasn't what he expected. My experience with my 'family' was totally different than what you described: there was beating, beating, beating, abuse everywhere! My mother ran away from home and (as far as I know) died. My father is after me and only God knows why and what he will do! And I got a new car! I live by myself. – Ismael Miguel May 12 '15 at 16:06
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As the step-dad to a great 17-year old whose father walked away when he was 4, yes you did the right thing. And I'd go one step further and say that you should defend the grandparents who have, for years, only been hearing one side of the story and so probably were being told by the sperm-donor that it was you blocking visitation.

It's a shame that there is another whole family out there that could be giving this kid love and support, but aren't. And if your son ever wants to try again, I say facilitate it again, and be there without judgement of them if it doesn't work out again.

My (step)son - and for me the "step" part is meaningless as I love him as much as I do my biological daughter - has tried contacting his father a couple of times with mixed results. And I've facilitated every one, and been there to talk about it with him every time. And I tell him the truth - it's his father missing out more than him, because he is the one choosing not to have his son in his life. I don't get that, but I'm not him. And if he ever does build a good relationship with his father I will be happy for him. For myself, I've already had the best gift. I've had the honour to be his Dad for the past dozen years.

And my son will never, ever come to me and wonder if things might have been different because he thinks I might have put impediments in the way of him having a larger family in his life. He knows through and through that I was always willing to share his life with as wide a circle as possible. And I have never bad-mouthed his father, only expressed regret that his father seemed incapable of taking on the role he had a chance for. Because that is honestly how I feel. Some people just aren't cut out for the job of parent. Sad, but true.

16

It was the right thing to do. Imagine what could've happened if you "protected" you children more. They would only have your word against a father they might have imagined you removed from their lives. Now they know for sure who he is and they got to learn it on their own. You may have some short-termed trouble and feel bad, but in the long run - you did right.

  • I wouldn't bet your own father refusing to talk to you is a short-term problem. (I still agree that the way Carla handled this was good, though.) – sbi May 11 '15 at 16:49
  • I meant the problem with her children being angry. The father is a totally different issue. – Dariusz May 11 '15 at 17:07
  • That explains what you wrote. Still, this just sounds wrong the way it's written. A parent refusing to talk to their child is rather likely to cause problems for the child in the long run. – sbi May 11 '15 at 17:18
  • Still, I think that refusing the child to talk to him would've caused more even more trouble. Anyway, if you want feel free to edit the answer to sound better. I'm not a native speaker and I actually fail to see how I can edit the post. – Dariusz May 12 '15 at 6:14
4

Michael Broughton wrote a phenomenal answer.

I'll echo the general response that you should not be sheltering your children from the unhappy parts of life. Children grow by facing and overcoming challenges, not coddling.

That all said, there is are two key things that I would draw out of these responses:

First, it is of the utmost importance that you are there to act as a safe harbor when these things happen. Allowing your children to face challenges never means that you withdraw all support or guidance, it only means that you allow them to experience life and take the opportunity to tackle it head-on with their own strength. Be there to advise, sympathize, listen to, and otherwise support your sons. But as others have said, do so without judgment; you don't know what has happened in the lives of others to spur this behavior. Be a strong, good, compassionate, and empathetic example so that your sons learn to come through adversity with their heads held high and their hearts right.

Second, be absolutely sure that there isn't anything you've knowingly or unknowingly done to block a potential relationship between your sons and their biological families. Double and triple check your words and actions. For most of us the natural reaction is to throw our hands up out of exhaustion, spite, or another motivation and give up. Family is always worth trying for, and your love for your sons will be clear to them if you never give up trying to help them be a part of all their families.

Finally, if you're doing your best to live up to the ideals (even if you fall short, as many of us do), then you're doing all you can to do the right thing. That's all any of us can do, and that's all anyone can reasonably expect.

If you're there already, good job and keep it up. Parenting isn't always easy, but it is worth every bit of effort you put into it.

2

IMO, if a 12 year old child wants to talk to their father you have no right to prevent this, so if things happened the way you wrote, you did the right thing.

However, I do question why your son would be upset and angry when calling his dad. Of course, from your POV he certainly had every right to be so. But maybe things would have gone different if he had just asked his father to see him once in a while, rather than accuse him for not doing so? Of course, the interaction between a child and a parent is the parent's responsibility. Still, if a father doesn't do the right thing under all circumstances, maybe he would under better ones?

This is the part where I would suggest you question your role in this. I have been divorced (twice, actually) with children and know full well how hard it is to defend the very person who ruined your relationship (because its always the other one, isn't it?) in front of your children in order to not to make them feel bad about one of the two persons they look up to most. But it's still the right thing to do, and if you fail, your children will have to compensate for this.

(Note: I do not say you did, nor, if so, you are a bad person. But if you ask if there is something you could have done better, I would look at this.)

The way this turned out (and no matter whether you could have done better or not), it is now a pretty bad situation for your children: Their father refuses them. In the long run, this has the potential to seriously affect their psychology. If I was you, I would focus on these things to deal with the situation:

  1. Do whatever you can to compensate for that situation. Talk to them about it. Do you live with someone else who can partially replace their father? If not, do you have a (male) friend who would like to spend time with your children, thereby doing some of the work their father ought to be doing? (Do they have a godfather?) If you think it is affecting them, consider a therapist. But make sure they don't feel like you expect them to break down under this. Children are very receptive that way.

  2. Try to not to make your son feel upset about his father. I would not suggest that he'd apologize, but maybe if he'd try to talk to him again without anger (much later, of course), the two of them do have a chance to reconcile? That would be very good for your children.

  3. Try to fix it. If your husband doesn't call back and tries to fix the damage he's done, maybe you can talk to him? And if he would not to talk to you, maybe there is some (common) friend he would listen to? Or do you think you could talk to your ex-mother in law? Would an uninvolved professional (external council) be an option? They are his children, after all, and I would wonder if he had no interest at all in their wellbeing – and this is threatened by his refuse to talk to them.

Hopefully, with time, this improves.

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    "I do question why your son would be upset and angry when calling his dad" - I don't: he's twelve and something must have triggered this call... – Stephie May 11 '15 at 18:42
  • @Steve: I have several kids past that age, so I believe I know a bit about it. Kids at that age are still rather dependent on their parents' opinion. Whether something is seen as "normal" or bad enough to upset you is something that parents have a great influence over until kids start to develop their genuine own POVs at the world — which is something that, especially with boys, usually happens later. – sbi May 11 '15 at 22:00
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    I don't question your authority and don't dispute your answer (good to have a practical approach), but I can off the cuff think of multiple reasons why a 12 yo would get angry and decide to call his dad, none necessarily being triggered by mom. A stupid remark from a classmate, for example. Yes, approaching the father in a calm and polite manner might have been wiser, but since when are pre-teens calm and wise? There is no clear evidence on the degree of involvement of the mother at the time of the calls and the quote might be read as criticism of her parenting. Unjustfied, IMHO. – Stephie May 11 '15 at 22:09
  • @Stephie: Should I have given the impression that I thought there was evidence, then I apologize. I never did think so. All I am saying is that, at that age, children's opinions still depends a lot on what their parents say, be that explicit or unknowingly. Children have very fine-tuned antennas for their parents' unspoken opinions. – sbi May 12 '15 at 15:33
  • And one more thing: I was about that age when I got to know my father who I hadn't seen for almost a decade. At that time it never occurred to me that it might be his fault. The reason for that is probably that my mother never scolded him for that. (That's because she cut off the contact, but that's different problem.) – sbi May 12 '15 at 15:34
1

I grew up with a wonderful mother and Stepfather. I was very angry for a long time because I didn't know my father. They tried to protect me from the truth and when I was young I never appreciated that.

As an adult I married (badly the first time) and I wound up having to keep the children clear from their father's life. He wasn't a terrible person, he just had problems that meant that he couldn't be a good father.

Later I married a wonderful man, someone who loved us all and inspired us with his selflessness and generousity. He made up for everything they missed. The children sometimes wonder about their biological father but love has a way of helping to heal that.

Sometimes you don't get it right away. Be the best person you can be and attract people in your life that will make you all a whole family. This doesn't have to be someone you marry, just people who collectively become your family. They don't have to be biological, know what I mean? In general, it usually takes much more than a mother and father to raise a child anyway. It takes a village and a collection of experiences to make us whole people.

And tell your children to ask their friends about their fathers. There are good fathers and bad fathers and just ok fathers. Chances are you alone as a mother are much better than what their friends have anyway. This idea that a family has to be a certain way is not based on anything real. In cultures all over the world the family isn't necessarily raised in a two parent household.

But it is easy when you are young and immature to focus angst that you would naturally feel on something specific as a way of explaining how you feel. If their father was there, the focus might be on something else, right?

So the biggest thing is to give as much love as possible and help them work through their feelings and appreciate everything they do have in their life anyway. This is such a crucial thing that if they learn this they will be incredible individuals with happy lives no matter what their circumstance.

  • 1
    Welcome to the site! I have taken the liberty of adding a few linebreaks to make this post easier to read. Perhaps you could add a sentence or two that directly adresses OPs question "Have I done the right think...? Or am "I not protecting them enough?" lest some think this post doesn't answer the question. I would hate to see this answer removed. – Stephie May 12 '15 at 7:04
  • Holding off on an upvote for some more focus :) I agree with @Stephie though. Good start to a great answer. – Brian Robbins May 12 '15 at 13:40

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