Friday, March 04, 2011

Daddy dearest

Since my divorce, I've determined that my children will forge their own relationships with their dad.  I will guide and protect them whenever necessary, but my experiences and opinions about the man will not impact their own.  They love him and see him in a different light than I do, and it's as it should be. 

The tough part about all this is that I can't warn them about him without looking bitchy and bitter.  That harms my relationship with them, and we can't have that.  So, I'm there when he lets them down.  It's inevitable.  He's big on promises and small on follow-through. 

For instance, there was the promise to never move away from them, follow shortly by the announcement that he was moving 10 hours away.  Then, there was the time he married a woman they had met once and couldn't stand, without telling them.  He told me a few days after the fact, and I was supposed to break it to the kids.

This is how he shapes his relationships with them.  I don't have to say a word.

Over the last couple of years, Son has been asserting himself with his dad and setting boundaries.  Basically, he's said, if you can't do anything but chew me out when we talk, then we won't talk.  So, for a year and a half, they didn't talk.  Now, if your child wasn't talking to you and told you why, would you consider changing your behavior to make it right?

Not this guy.  He just sent Son blistering emails and voicemails about what a jerk he thought he was being.  This is why Son doesn't listen to voicemail anymore.  He sent them to me, too.  He wanted me to force Son to talk to him.  Yeah, that'll work out nicely for everyone.  He retaliated by not sending Son birthday and Christmas presents.

He finally got it and backed off.  He and Son talk occasionally.  But I still hear about it when Son doesn't return a message.

One of Daughter's most embarrassing moments happened on a visit to her dad.  Riding in the car with her Korean friend, he decided that doing his Chinese accent would be a good idea.  She was mortified.  It's evidential of how he doesn't take Daughter seriously.  She gets weary of conversations with him because everything is a joke to him.  She's stopped talking about friends and interests because he either makes a crack or just says, "Oh."  It's frustrating to not be heard, so she finds little to say.

When he married his third wife, the woman told him that Daughter is a teenager, so she wants to talk about boys.  Neither of them really bothered to figure out the reality of what Daughter wants to talk about.  They just decided.  Keep in mind, this is the man who told me he's not into the same things his daughter is, so that means he doesn't have to try to relate to her about them.  I know - he so doesn't get that it's not about him.  Was I into baseball when Son started Little League?  No, but I learned because it was important to him.  It's about the child, not about you.

For the record, Daughter does not want to talk about boys.  She is comfortable in the fact that dating doesn't start in our house until age 16.  She watches her friends' dating drama and is thankful to not have it.  Her guy friends are her friends.  But she doesn't mention them because her dad is predictable in his reactions.  He'll hassle her about them.

That said, Daughter has developed her own entertainment surrounding her dad.  She'll toy with him.  It's become sport to her to make the man go into orbit.  Anything related to her growing up will set him off.  I've watched her do this.  For instance:

"Dad, I am starting to wear makeup."  She grins, waiting.

"Makeup?  Why would you want to wear makeup?"  His hackles are up.

"I'm old enough now.  And I like how it makes me look."  Grins again.

Now he's indignant.  "You're not old enough.  You can wear makeup when you're 35.  And you look just fine without it." (Not that he'd know....he hasn't seen her since September 2008, but that's another story.)

She laughs.  "I made Dad get all puffed up," she says.

She has a new obsession lately - Korean boy bands.  Remember that Korean friend of hers?  Yeah, she shared some YouTube links and got her hooked.  Daughter talks about them all the time.  I mean, ALL the time.  She even infected Jacob's oldest with this obsession.

But she does not tell her dad.  Why?  She doesn't want to hear the Chinese accent again.

However, last night, he sent her a chat message on Facebook.  After getting a good raking over the coals for not answering her phone (dead battery), she decided it was time to mess with him.

"Hey Dad, I have a new hobby."

"What's that?"

"Korean boy bands." Sends a link.

Pause.  "Are you serious?"

"Yes!  They're so cool!  Check out these videos."  More links.

"Ah so.  Me like-a sushi."  Really?  Attempting an Asian accent online?  Daughter face-palmed.

"No, that's Japanese, Dad."

Pause.  "Ah so. Me like-a chop suey."

"No, that's Chinese."

"It's all the same, anyhow."

"No, it's not."

"Why Korean boy bands?"

She debated about telling him about her Korean friend.  Instead, she got my attention and said, "Watch this."

To him, she said: "Because they are HOT!!"

Pause.  "No. You did not just say that."

And Daughter is in hysterics.  Button pushed.

She's almost 16.  You wanted her to be interested in boys, Dad.  Now, she is.  Deal with it.

I can't believe she's almost 16.  We're beginning to plan her Sweet Sixteen party.  The head of the Art department here is a friend, and she's letting me have the Art gallery for this event.  She's met Daughter and seen her work.  We're going to hang Daughter's artwork from over the years, play music from her iPod playlist, and have it catered with her favorites.  It's all about her.

Will her dad be here?  I don't know, since he still feels he doesn't have to relate.  That still breaks my heart a little, but she and Son have learned to be content in the relationships they've made.


Anonymous said...

You are quite possibly one of the most gracious people I "know" and I truly admire your perspective on not jading your ex-husband in your children's eyes - others would be wise to follow your example. And I just adore your daughter for getting her dad's goat that way - what a smart kiddo!

Anonymous said...

Oh . . . and I want to hear more about moving! (Is it okay to mention that here? I accidently deleted your comment on my blog before I could respond to it.)

Sparx said...

Man, what a great post! I love how switched-on your daughter is... and I love how you've stood back and let your ex dig himself in without you helping; I can only imagine the kids have much stronger optionns on him because they've been able to form them, themselves.

Blogget Jones said...

Thank you! You all are too kind! And I really do admire my daughter. Her head is screwed on so much straighter than mine was at her age....

And I'll talk more about the move :o) It's been good!