Saturday, September 8, 2012

Tending to Your Side of the Street

* This was written back in May and not published until now.

We have a nightly routine here . . . they say, whoever they is, that routines make life easier . . . WHATEVER!  My husband is very routine oriented and truth be told I hope at some point my children will be also . . . I am a lost cause!

Back to the routine . . . we do baths for the boys, brush teeth, and in bed by 8pm . . .  we TRY to do this by 8 pm.  My husband and I then sit and watch maybe an hour of TV.  We move to the bedroom and maybe catch 14 more minutes before he is done!

My job at that moment is to tickle him to sleep.  I usually give him two minute and he is out . . . a freight train couldn't wake him and I either watch "my" tv or go about doing other things in the house or things I want to do!

Tonight I elected while tickling my 2 minutes to watch Bethanney Ever After . . . and it was during this show I got this pearl of wisdom "Tending to Your Side of the Street.  In this episode Bethanney was talking about her family, or lack there of . . . of the estranged relationship with her father and that her mother is really helpless. 

The therapist had her reflect back on when her biological father was on his death bed . . . that despite their horrible non-existing relationship and that she felt abandoned her whole life by him, she went to him to be there when he was dying, to say what she had to say and to give him the peace of knowing she had cared.

Tending to Your Side of the Street meant for Bethanney that she had done what she needed to do . . . she couldn't count on him to validate her, or fill the void over the years of an absent father.  She did what she needed to do to be able to move on.

It had me reflecting on my own relationship with my father.  We can certainly put the capital "D" in dysfunctional.  I differ from Bethanny but also so much the same . . .

My father . . . while still alive . . . is absent from my life.  He is absent from the lives of my children.  He is the cause of this absence.

We can safely say he has made some bad decisions.  Women, drugs, businesses, money, classic over promises and under delivers.  He has hurt many people and while he apologized for it . . . he repeats it time and time again!  At almost 63 years of age . . . I cannot say he has learned his lesson.

My sister and brother really have nothing to do with him.  He might maintain a written form of communication with my brother but not even a Birthday card for my sister and to be fair . . . she wants it that way.  I feel safe in saying she hasn't spoken 10 words to him in the last two years.

As you can tell . . . dysfunction runs deep!

My situation is different from my siblings . . . only because I have the two boys. 

I had hoped he would be different when we had our first child.  Hoped he could get past himself and just care for our son.  He probably did the best he could. 

My father would show up on Wednesday nights.  I would cook, even though we normally went out for dinner each night.  While I cooked they played . . . it might have been in the pool or the game room or family room, but he spent one on one time with our son.  One day he just stops coming.

He popped back up 4 months later . . . he wanted to act as if he never missed a Wednesday. 

It was there . . . while standing on my front porch . . . guarding the enterance to my house and therefore our son . . . that I told him . . .  "Look, I don't care where you have been or what you have been doing.  I expect when you make him a promise you keep it.  For weeks my son has been wondering where you went, did you not like him, and why didn't you come back.  You have failed him like you failed me so many times.  And as his parents I am here to tell you that is unacceptable. As a parent it is my job to protect him from people like you.  So, unless you can honor the committments you have made to him . . . don't come here."

That was me, tending to my side of the street . . . .me trying to protect the heart of a sweet innocent little boy . . . who didn't choose to get mixed up with this guy, or born into this family, or ask to be let down by his mother's father.

I was foolish to think that having a "talk" might make a difference.

Fast forward 8 years and I have had the "talk" 4 times in total with my father.  It is my husband who softens my heart on this issue . . . 1 - beacuse he is my father (and you only get one)  2 - he is our  boy's grandfather and 3 -  That I should NOT be the one to poison their relatioship with him . . . I should let him do it . . . afterall he is very skilled at it!

Tending to My Side of the Street now looks like . . . nothing. 

My father doesn't visit, he moved away.  He generally goes missing from our lives and therefore my son's lives when he has a lady friend.  He calls me usually to say he is coming to town to bring the boys gifts and then calls again to say he cannot make it.  I never tell them, why get their hopes up. 

When he talks to them he promises to take them to Target, Toys R Us or Walmart and let them buy whatever they want . . . it never happens and so I am left to explain . . . why he didn't show, why he over promised and why he under delivered.

Most recetly he called when Dallas was having tornados all over town, and one touched down near my son's school.  I don't truly think he called because he was concerned . . . I think it was more being able to tell people he had family in harms way.  That crazy poor pitiful me . . . attention.

In my efforts not to speak poorly of my father to my children . . . I just don't speak about him.  He isn't apart of our everyday . . . he won't make 4th grade graduation next Wednesday . . . he doesn't know my son ribboned in his swim meets or really the person our youngest one is.

Like Bethanney . . . my father leads his own live . . . . without a care for my sister, brother and his family or my family.  When the time come . . . I will again Tend to My Side of the Street and go see him.  I won't have to rehash everything . . . it will simply be what a mature responsible careing daughter has to do . . . tending to her street.

On the day my proof reader read this I received a call from my father.  He left a message.  He then calls my cell but I was at school volunteering and I would never take his calls there.  Finally he emails and that is the only form of communication I am interested in having with him.

He says in his email he will be in town on Friday.  Wants to see the boys and take them to get a Christmas present.

I didn't respond quick enough and he starts calling my mother and father-in-law to track me down. I respond via email that Friday would be fine and I ask for him timeframe.

When he responds he says he will arrive at 11am.  He arrived at 10:20.  Our oldest son was home, the youngest had spent the night with my mom and they were due here at 11am.

Once the youngest arrives he offers to take the boys to buy a toy and to lunch.  I am reluctantly surprised he is following through - he is 3 for 3.  I allow them to go with him and I stay home packing our son for camp.

They arrive 2 hours later.  He leaves maybe an hour later. But not before returning to who I know him to be.

I am careful not to speak ill of him with the children.  They didn't ask for any of this and more than anything I can say he has shown himself to be who he is.  The oldest one gets it, the youngest one cannot comprehend.

He is crappy to my mother - he is mad his high-school friends - the same people they knew as a young married couple - include her in their lives.  He tells her to get her own friends, those are his.  He asserts the only reasons she is friends with them is to keep tabs on him.

He tells our oldest sonthat it is his fault, my son's fault, that they don't communicate more - that our son has a computer and that he should be emailing his grandfather.  That he has a phone so why hasn't he been calling him and that he needs to tell his parents (us) to get him skype so they can call him.  One problem - we don't allow our children such freedom with the computer or phone.  It is a parenting thing!

He told both of our boys to shut-up.  It seems they were telling him about the military bases they had built out of legos and how they had one at my mom's.  They told him she gets down and plays legos and buys them lego men and so on . . . to which he said "shut-up about her."

As he is leaving I said "thanks for stopping by" as I was saying it I realized it was odd to say.  It isn't like he just lives around the corner, this isn't just a stop by.  I was trying to be polite.  All he had to say was "I bet" in a shitty sarcastic tone.

There was hope early on in this visit he was different . . . I'm not sure why I had hope, after all . . . there is always a let down.


  1. I love your blogs Jennifer! I can totally relate to this story having TWO dysfuctional parents of my own that are also absent in the lives of my sweet children! At least you are very lucky to have your mom & sister(s). But let's face it.. Bad parents grow up to be bad grandparents! I learned my lesson several years ago.. There was a point in time where I had to make some hard decisions- for their best interest! I finally realized that by me allowing these people around [just for the sake of having them around] that I was the one bringing the disappointment into my childrens lives! And for what? Our lives run so much more smoothly & peaceful WITHOUT them in it.... Like the saying goes, "when you know better, you do better". Problem is, I am not confident that they DO know better. Or even want to learn a better way...We are expecting them to do something that they are just not capable of.. We "expect" them to act a certain way [like "we" would] and when they don't, we get mad at them.. That's super frustrating for me and a never ending cycle! So now... If something in our lives causes more heartache than joy, I just don't allow it. Sounds kinda harsh, I know...but so is the alternative. And your boys have so much love around them that they won't feel the void as much as you think they will. They can't mourn something they never had!

    Keep your head up! I know everything happens for a reason... Good luck!

    1. "They can't mourn something they never had!" You are so right.

      It seems my father is repeating what his parents did as grandparents. My mom's parents were always there, they were more than enough. Never missed the others just not being there.

  2. You did a good job with this. You made me rethink things in my life a little bit. I wish I had the wisdom of your husband. My X-husband is much like your father and my son has had the same struggles you have had. I did however finally step in when my son was 11 and put my foot down. My son's father only sent him a birthday card for years with fifty dollars and one year the announcement that he had a sister. It wasn't until my son was fifteen that he returned. My son and his father met for dinner every Thursday until my son's 16th birthday when my son tended to his side of the street and told his father that they didn't have anything in common and that he needed to move on. My son included his father in his graduation cerimony and did invite him to go to dinner with the family prior to going to the clebration. He hasn't persued a relationship because he saw his dad for what he was. Funny thing is he has resentments towards me because I did stand up and telling him how it was going to be because I wasn't going to let him hurt my son. My son said that it is life Mom. People have to make their own judgements on people and if you remove them and don't let them see them for what they are they put them in a flawless bubble. Hurt in life is what shapes and helps us grow as a person and lets us decide what kind of person we want to be. We need to see both sides of life and make choices and if we don't know what people who make negative choices make us feel we may make those poor choices because we don't understand what it does to others.......Jennifer you and my son had to learn some of life's harder lessons but you are a more amazing person(s) for it. Your boys are truly blessed. Keep on tending and thank you for opening my eyes.....

  3. Amy - You had to do something for the benefit of your child. It is easy to look back and think I should have . . . could have . . . would have. At the time it was the right thing to do.

    When acting to protect your child there really are no wrong moves!