Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I have daddy issues

My husband just called from home, and said my prediction had come true. My father sent us a card. He must have heard from my grandfather about the pregnancy, and the twins. I wish DH had not told me about it tonight. I actually wish he would have just thrown it away, but I went ahead and had him read it to me over the phone.

My father sent us a check for $200 as a shower gift and wrote the longest note about how happy he was for us and how 'they' (whoever they is) always thought we would have twins in our family. I need to pray about how I handle this. Perhaps I should not have wished so hard for a distraction from the lack of morning sickness!

There is a reason why people tell stories like this is Parts but I'm bored and homesick, so you get it all at once. Please bear with me.

My father and mother divorced when I was two. My mother was away at a convention for her job. She came home and the bed smelled like another woman's perfume. My father said he couldn't make the bed as well as her and she would know he had washed the sheets, so he didn't bother. It was a big fight. He pushed her. When he came home from work the next day, there was a for sale sign in the yard. She never gave him a second chance. She never looked back.

My mother had custody and my father had visitation rights every other weekend. He did not take advantage of those visitation rights regularly until I was an adolescent, when his wife (#3) really pushed him to have a relationship with me and my half brother (from my father's first marriage). Even though he was never around, he always paid his child support, and he always gave me birthday and Christmas gifts.

But there were times that I would go so long without seeing my father or hearing from him that I would convince myself he had died and no one had told me. I figured out much later in life, that he mostly picked me up for visits when he had to go to his mother's house (Christmas & Easter), and he was kind of bringing me along as a show pony.

So, as a teenager, I had this father who really wanted to be there for me financially, and to please his wife. And I guess as I was around more, he started to see things in me he didn't like, so he tried to 'lecture' them out of me. It was torture to be stuck in a car with him for hours. His idea of a family weekend was watching VHS movies rented from the local grocery store all day Saturday, and a car trip to the state line and back on Sunday. My idea of a good time was a Friday night football game, overnighter with friends, shopping, and anything that didn't involve parents. I had been raised an only child. I wanted a loving father. But I didn't really like being told I wasn't good enough, or that my ideas were stupid. There were times I would cry and beg to call my mom and threaten to never go back. He would cry and apologize and beg me to stay. I learned to just keep my mouth shut during the lectures. And over time we worked out a pattern and it worked. I kind of thought that I was lucky because my parents divorced when I was so young that I never had to experience it.

I heard rumors all my life that my father had affairs. Wife #3 would always point out this woman who worked at Wal-Mart who she thought was the one who caused my parents' divorce. I remember she was blond. And cheap. But there were also rumors of weekends away and women on the side. My father always got away with it, or denied it, or hid it well enough.

When I was in college, my father paid 1/3 of my tuition. He also got caught in an affair. He had been married to my step-mother for 18 years by this time. She left him. He moved in with the girlfriend. They got back together at Christmas, but he messed it up again. I felt betrayed, because he lied about the affair and still does to this day. But I forgave him. I even grew to like his new girlfriend, who absolutely adored him. And even though she left her birth control pills out on the counter when I would visit. But she was a lot younger than him. And it didn't last.

His next girlfriend was a psychopath. She made up a bunch of lies. She made a lot of accusations. And so my father wrote me this evil letter. And we fought. A lot. Over the phone. I lived 6 hours away. So, I got a new number and didn't tell my dad. My husband and I had started dating at this time. And when it came time to get married, my husband called my dad at work, had him paged at the factory, and asked him if he could have my hand in marriage. My dad said, I guess that would be all right. But then my husband gave him our phone number. After that, DH got a vivid idea of why my father didn't have our number. There were many teary nights of phone fights over the next 13 months leading up to the wedding. My father's new wife was not invited to our wedding, he threatened not to come, so I walked myself down the aisle, but my father did eventually come to the wedding. And was once again there with financial support. He offered no words of advice, other than I do remember him expressing doubts that we would make it. Lovely.

So, that was 2002. My father has yet another new wife, who I have never met. This makes #5. DH and I will celebrate our 6th wedding anniversary next month. And I have not spoken to my father since the wedding. I sent him a letter and asked him not to call me. I said I was not burning the bridge completely, but protecting myself from the trauma of those lectures and phone calls, so I would prefer that he limit our communication to mail. He promised to send letters, but sent one. Otherwise, we receive Christmas, Birthday and Anniversary cards from him. We otherwise do not hear from him. And I never send him any correspondence. We have a new phone number, but I'm sure he could get it from any number of relatives if he wanted to disregard the whole 'no phone call' boundary that I have established.

I don't miss him. I don't hate him. I accept that this is who he is and forever will be. He's just not kind to me. And so I have other male role models in my life, a fabulous couple of grandfathers, uncles, my older step-brother from my mom's 3rd husband. And this husband, who is so amazing its beyond words.

People (my mother, especially) have a hard time understanding how I could shut my father out of my life. It's like the story of the little boy who came upon a snake in the woods stuck under a rock. The snake begs the boy to let him out. The boy says No, you're a snake, you'll bite me. And the snake promises not to bite him, so the boy lets him out from under the rock and the snake promptly turns around and bites the boy. The boy exclaims Ouch! Why do you do that? You promised you wouldn't. And the snake replies, I'm a snake. It's what I do.

My father is the snake. He can't help it. This is just who he is. He emotionally manipulates people. He uses whatever means necessary. He drags you into non-productive emotionally charged conversations. He hurts people. He cheats on his wives, and thereby his kids, and his family. So, in order to forgive him, I had to cut him off, because this is who he is. He won't change. He won't examine his behavior. And he won't even acknowledge his lies or manipulation. And my theory is that if he can't see what he's doing then how could he ever change? So, I don't trust him to change. I trust him to stay the same. And I keep him on the 'snail mail' plan.

But my grandfather has obviously told him about the twins. And so now I'm struggling with what to do with the card, and the money, and the request inside to let him know when they're born, that he wants to be a part of their life. I don't trust him not to hurt me, why would I ever let him near my kids? But...I always want to take the high road and do the right thing. Which is why I told him he could write me letters. Like I was just protecting myself enough, but still leaving him a way in if he wanted to try.

So, I want to prayerfully consider my response. Just not cashing the check makes my point without being so hurtful as to send it back with a note explaining that my pregnancy does not change the way I feel about him. Nor would it be right to point out that twins DON'T run in our family, we had IVF, we've been trying for 3 years, and if you knew me at all or were a part of my life in one tiny little way, you would know that. Everyone else does.

I do have daddy issues. I'm really lucky I didn't marry the wrong man. Or that I didn't just have a string of meaningless affairs. When I was younger, I truly did seek male attention in all the wrong ways/places. I was a mess. And it is his fault. But I grew up, and I made better choices, and I am so blessed to have this husband despite my daddy issues.

But I also want to make the right choice here. I want to choose my words and actions. I don't want to burn any bridges, but I want to protect myself and my twins. I don't want to hurt my father, but I also don't want to compromise my own mental and emotional health so he can take my kids on the pony show.


Silver said...

Good luck with your issues. I hope that you find something that works for you.

Take care

Faithful Infertile said...

Wow. I am so sorry you've had to deal with all of that. I think you are amazingly strong & intelligent. And give yourself some credit, your DH is very lucky to have you! :)

JamieD said...

That is a complicated relationship, but it sounds like you have come out of it well adjusted. Just the fact that you can recognize and accept him as a bad role model and find other men in you life to look up to says gads about what kind of person you are.

I would also be cautious with a relationship with the twins if it were me. Just because I wouldn't want them to go through what I went through. Just sayin'.

I hope the right answer becomes clear to you.