This post was inspired by something I saw shared on Facebook.
It was a letter, a young boy had written to his father. A letter of forgiveness.
A friend shared the post, along with the caption:
‘I hope my boys can say this’
The letter gives thanks to all the people who had helped the boy grow up in to adulthood, including his Mother and Grandparents, it speaks of the courage and determination of his Mother and in return the love and respect he has for her, for all the things she has taught him over the years, for all the days she has just listened and guided and for all the memories they shared, since his Father left.
The boy ends by saying he has no hard feelings. That he is only thankful for all that has happened in his life, saying it has helped shape the person he has become as well as showing him the kind of person he wants to be. The letter ends with the boy telling his Father that he forgives him for abandoning him.
The reason the post resonated with me so much, was largely due to a recent conversation that Elsie and I had about her Father.
A few weeks ago Elsie and I were travelling in the car, it was fairly late and we had been to see some old friends of mine, when she suddenly asked if one day she would be able to contact her Dad.
I took a moment before I responded at which point she assumed I was not too happy about the idea. Really, it was just so I could choose my words carefully. I always knew this day would come and even though I have been expecting to have the conversation one day, you are never really fully prepared for it. All the things I thought I would say, were gone. My carefully rehearsed speech now a jumble of emotion.
I can not remember the exact words of our conversation, despite it stopping me from sleeping that night, but I did reassure her that I would never stop her from making contact with her Dad if that was what she wanted. I could not promise that it would work out the way she wanted it to and that I would hate to see her get hurt again but if she wanted to see him I would, of course, help and support her.
The irrational part of me that wants to scream. What! You want to see your Father, the one who fucked off when you were Seven and never looked back? Why? What the hell has he done for you for the last 8 years?
Instead, I tuck the crazy woman back in her box and reassure Elsie that, whatever she decides I will be by her side. Always. Whatever the outcome.
It is not uncommon for relationships to end in separation or divorce now, but despite the decision to go separate ways you remain parents of your children and as such come to an arrangement that is considered to be at the very least, beneficial for those children, even if it takes some time.
It is still, I like to think, rare for any parent to completely abandon their child and while there will always be much debate on the effects this has on children, in particular the effects of an absent father as opposed to an inconsistent one, by that I mean one who is in and out of a child’s life for most of its years, the responsibility that falls on the parent that is left, is something that can never be underestimated.
By responsibility I do not mean the day-to-day pantomime that any parent or parents have to deal with, I mean the responsibility of keeping their Father’s name hallowed, especially when you feel that he is less than deserving of such respect. Children see things through rosy glasses. They are protected from disappointment and hurt by us, their parents, that is our job. Sadly, we are also the people who have the power to hurt them the most.
I have always tried to be honest with both Tom and Elsie about their father.
They know why we separated and how difficult it was for us both at the time. They also know he had his issues with alcohol and the reasons why they do not see him now. I have never told them anything other than facts. They do not know all the gory details and nor should they. If they want to talk about him we do, although this has lessened over the years. I do not bad mouth him, or allow anyone else to, in their presence. I am protective of them on every level where he is concerned, but I am also very aware that one day they will probably both want to see him again.
It seems this day is fast approaching.
The feeling of abandonment is very hard to explain. I myself was abandoned by my biological father. It is something that never entirely leaves you, even as an adult and every now and then the knowledge that somewhere out there, living life, carrying on, possibly being a Dad, is your Father. The one that walked away from you. The Father you know little or nothing about.
I never knew my biological Father and in some ways that makes it easier as there was never a bond to break, but it is different for Tom and Elsie, they knew their Dad. He was in their lives (albeit on and off towards the end) until Tom started school. Elsie has clear memories of her Dad as she was slightly older than Tom and she can recall that it wasn’t always rosy. Tom however, has very pink spectacles when it comes to his Dad, his memories are of trips to the park and going swimming and all the ‘fun things’ they used to do together.
The reality now is that it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what he did all those years ago, it only matters what he does next. What he does when his children give him the opportunity to make amends. A chance to have relationship with them, to make up for lost time, a chance it is debatable he deserves.
I have forgiven him for walking way. I have even forgiven him for being a Father to someone elses children above his own and I have forgiven him for not being there, for me, for them and for all the times he said he would be.
Even after all this time the pain is still there but it is no longer a pain I feel for myself, the heartbreak or the sadness at how things turned out, it is the pain I feel for my children. The pain that gets me every time Tom asks me why his Dad doesn’t want to see him or when Elsie watches her girlfriends being picked up and dropped off by their Dads.
It has been a hard slog on my own, raising these two beautiful children that we brought in to the world and it is not over yet. When I stop to think about it properly, about how little he has done for them, both emotionally and financially it has the tendency to make me a tad cross. It is a fleeting feeling, a feeling that instantly disappears when I look at them both and I realise, I did that and all I did was love them and really that is all it takes.
Elsie is hesitant about seeing her Dad, but it will come. I understand why she wants to see him and I understand why she is hesitant. She is scared. Scared of being rejected again, of him not being what she wants him to be, of not knowing him, just plain scared and I am scared for her.
If I could wish for one thing now, it would be that if and when this does happen, he is everything she wants him to be. He becomes the Dad that she longs for. The alternative is just so awful, I can hardly bear to think about it.
There is no stronger love than that of a Mother and her child, it is protective and unconditional. What will I do if he fails? If he hurts them again?
I will love them a little bit more, if that is possible.