The Candace Rogers Series: Family Life After the Big Split Part 1- “Mommy: Where’s Daddy?”
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“Mommy, where’s daddy?”
Okay. I get this question a lot. In the beginning, it was a very difficult question for me to answer. So I might imagine that you too, may have a difficult time answering this question. So in the beginning, my answer to this was not to answer it at all.
Not a good choice.
Be honest with yourself. The only way to answer the question honestly is being able to own that you are not in a good mental place that has allowed you to accept this new transition (just yet). It helps you to be honest with answering this question or any other questions about the breakup or separation honestly. Pretending that you are totally okay, no matter how good you are at faking it, does not magically make you okay. Walking around pretending that you are over it or doing great after awhile will only leave you more broken down the road.
All children are different. If you have young children, it might not affect them, as much, but they have the capacity to still feel the effects of the loss. If you have a child that’s of an age to be able to remember or who has a good grasp of his or her surroundings, it will be a process that is not going to go away overnight. Also, depending on the magnitude of the circumstances surrounding the separation, it could take even longer…perhaps a few weeks…months…to years down the line for your child to find closure.
My oldest son, who is now nine years old, is still having a tough time accepting his “broken family.” For him, our situation is even tougher for him to accept because of how his father went on in his journey. So because of that, it has been three years and counting. Instead of it getting easier for him, in ways it has gotten a little more strenuous.
His frustration began to flow into his overall emotional well-being. This made things a tad harder for me because at the time that I finally began to find closure, my son had begun to express that he was beginning to build a (albeit justified) dislike for his father. When he first expressed this to me, it stopped me in my tracks. This, for me is terrifying. The last thing that I wanted for my child was for him to feel the way that I felt about his father. Because that means he is starting to synthesize what is going on and a desire to understand (some of the ugliness) on a deeper level.
Making matters worse, he is keenly aware of the difference of the new life that his father takes pride in having.
My son sees our family as not as valuable. To be frank, in my son’s words, he felt that his father does not care for him the same way that he cares for his new family.
That was an even bigger blow to hear my child verbally speak those words to me. Imagine hearing your child tell you that. So now, understanding that my son has not only not accepted his father and I separating, he is now developing troubling self-esteem and confidence issues. He’s beginning to question his value based upon how much value he perceives his father has for his new family versus the perceived lack of value his father has for our family.
What’s strange is that my younger children are now showing signs of resentment with some of the things that they are starting to verbalize to me. This is why I mentioned in the beginning of this piece that separation can affect even young children and the effects may still pop up down the line.
So what I knew to do first and foremost was to recreate a more fortified bond with my son. I have a very good understanding of his emotions, having been in his same predicament at his age.[/column]
[column size=one_half position=last ]Because of this, I knew that I couldn’t use the ineffective approach that was used with me. In my case, my mother would shut down when I asked questions and in a lot of instances, she would become frustrated with the mention of certain things.
I learned not to ask her questions.
My maturity took on a lane of its own. This helped me develop a good knack of discernment at a very young age. Although, this is not necessarily a bad thing, for a 12-year-old child (especially a girl), this may not be the level of emotional maturity that you want your child to be forced to reach so early in life. Still remembering the distress that those emotions brought me as if it were yesterday, I knew immediately how to counteract my son’s distress –with more love and communication than I could ever give to anyone.
I knew the only way to help my child with this was to literally become his friend, or at least attempt to become as close to the friend he was longing to have in his father.
As I reflect, the one mistake that I did make was relying on his father to spend the time that I had asked him time in and out to spend with our son. With knowing that my son was asking me repeatedly why he could never spend time alone with his father, I should have taken it upon myself to spend more time with him alone to somewhat counter his negative emotions instead of waiting for his father to take the initiative to step up. Of course, I could never fill the void of being his father, but as his mother, I could at least try to help him forget that he didn’t have the time he was longing to have by doubling down on my time with him. Thankfully I learned that fairly quickly.
I used our learning time as a way to reconnect with him. I don’t know why, but normally in the beginning, those times in which I was helping him with his work always turned into deep conversations that my son seemed to take the opportunity to pour his heart out. So, in those moments, I began to reassure him of how loved he is and how much his father does love him. In the beginning, there was a lot of resistance with him believing me. He would often counter with things like, “Well mommy, why doesn’t he want to do things with me like other dads do with their kids.” Those questions were hard to answer. I would often use the excuse that he has to work all the time in order to provide. I hated having to tell him that because now I am giving him the idea that it is okay when he gets older to neglect the time needed to be spent with his own son one day. But it was the only excuse that I could give, given the fact this he still is a child not needing to burdened with the understanding of much more. Over time he began to analyze even that answer that I gave, and would ask why he couldn’t at least spend time with him on the weekends. So from there, I told him that he should begin to ask his father the very questions that he was asking me. Knowing my son, I knew that he didn’t like trying to speak to his father because his father would never answer his questions, he said. Because of this, I knew that he would never ask him. I had to start answering his questions honestly.
It is tricky, very scary and downright challenging, but I am able to do it by simply answering the questions and if there is a negative that he wants to address or if he flooded with negativity towards his father, I try to counter it with something positive and ask him to find it in himself to FEEL that his father loves him in spite of everything that is going on and that his father loves him just as I do.[/column]
You have to listen to you children more than anything. Try not to guard your child’s heart with “little lies” because it can and will potentially drive your child’s mind mad. And with that, they will begin to create other dark ideas in their head. The reason you don’t want this is because you want them to rationalize those thoughts and process them in a healthy way. Do not bash the absent parent while speaking to your child. Try your best to help them process their emotions. Reassure them with encouragement and redirect any negativity they may feel towards the other parent or their situation as a whole.
There’s so much more to this story that I will share in my series, so stay tuned. Feel free to drop a line or two in the comments below if you have any additional tips or stories that might help other parents out there dealing with this same challenges.