A Bad Dad

In January 2018 Conservative FOX News talk show host Tucker Carlson said during his show and wrote on Twitter, “No matter how successful you are, if your kids hate you, you’ve failed.” I saw him say this and began to cry. It hurt me terribly to hear words that I feared were correct. And, I feared my kids hate me.

I have wanted to write this blog for a long time. I’m not sure my motivation for revealing something so personal and so painful. I guess I hope for some absolution. I guess, in part, I hope to let others in my position know they are not alone. But I do know what prompted me to make this writing today.

The above Tweet by journalist Andy Ngo shows a crowd of college aged kids at the University of California-Berkley who formed a human wall to block people from attending a speech by ultra-Conservative antagonistic writer Ann Coulter. These actions repulse me and worry me about our nations future. It also led me to think that were this event in Seattle my three adult kids might be among this objectionable crowd. And this type of thinking is, I believe, at the heart of why my kids ostracize me.

At the time I heard Carlson’s hurtful words I had just come through a difficult Holiday season in which my kids chose not to spend any time with me. It was also my first holiday season in my new home, which I purchased as a single man recently divorced from their mother. I was, and am, proud of being able to buy my own home as a single individual who also happens to be self-employed. You can ask around. That’s not easy to do. And the fact that my kids didn’t want to help mark this special season left me depressed. Carlson’s words made it worse.

Unfortunately my relationship with my kids has only gotten worse. I haven’t seen my 32 year old daughter in 2 1/2 years, or my soon-to-be 21 year old daughter in 2 years. I’ve seen and talked with my 27 year old son with a little more frequency. But it too has been minimal. It is truly the lone hole in my life that has otherwise been pretty happy, and fairly successful.

When they were growing up I was diligently involved in their upbringing. I attended every single parent-teacher conference any of them ever had. Never missed a recital, or performance by them in a play, or a concert, or a dance performance. Their sporting lives were full year round. And I was there. I coached them in Little League softball, baseball, soccer, football, and basketball. For those who have coached a youth team any time in the past 20-30 years you know as I learned, it’s like having a second job. But I did it because I wanted to be close to my kids and to help and encourage them to grow into healthy and happy adults.

I was proud to call myself a strict parent. But aside from the occasional swat on the butt for the two oldest in their elementary years I never struck them or abused them in any way. My youngest was the least challenging of my kids and never was spanked any time in her life, aside from a notable occasion when she was being a precocious 2 year old. It’s notable since it occurred at a Little League field in which my son was playing. Since her mother and I couldn’t get her to sit still and behave I gave the diaper wearing little girl a bare hand swat on her fanny. A nosy, opinionated woman, a mother of one of the other boys playing that day, took offense to my harmless discipline of my girl, spoke up, and harshly said, “Would you mind abusing your daughter somewhere else!” Naturally, I was shocked and angered by the woman and responded accordingly. I told her to “Mind your own damn business!” As for my daughter, I can’t imagine she has any memory of it at all. She was too young.

Those who know me know that I can be a softy, and emotional. Never a day passed without me telling my kids that I loved them. Never a day passed when I didn’t try to show that love in any way I could. As they grew into their teen years I would nearly always invite them to join their mother and I in whatever we were doing whether it was watching a movie, cooking a special dinner, or in my case going fishing on one of the many local lakes near our home. Seldom was my invite accepted. It never bothered me. Because as I told their mother when she asked why I always did this, I always wanted my kids to know they were wanted and that their inclusion in our lives involved any and everything, even if I knew they would decline these invitations.

I was married to their mother for 28 years; though the last two were a slow march toward our ultimate divorce after having learned of her disgusting infidelity. Regardless of how it ended we had a good marriage and a happy family for most of those 28 years (any claim to the contrary is revisionist history). It ended when I could no longer stay with the immoral woman my wife had become. I’m sure the divorce was hard on my kids, especially the two youngest who were still living with us when the shit hit the fan and their mother’s secret life became revealed. In their eyes, I’m sure it didn’t help that I started seeing a beautiful woman almost immediately after our divorce. They would never understand that despite living under the same roof I’d felt alone for 4-5 years, and that divorcing gave me the freedom to see this woman completely guilt free. I’m so happy and proud that Maria became my wife, just over a year ago, in a wedding that my two daughters chose not to acknowledge, let alone attend. And though I believe my kids resent my wife and me for getting together so soon after my marriage ended, they didn’t seem to hold their mother to the same standard even though she didn’t wait until the marriage ended to have another man in her life. My Ex didn’t want to divorce and tried to convince me to stay together, right up until the night before I moved out. But it was my decision because I simply no longer trusted or respected her. Being my decision alone, my kids blame me.

Being a strict dad is a contributing factor to my kid’s currently being out of my life. It doesn’t help that their mother never, NEVER disciplined them at all. This knowledge was confirmed by them in a frank discussion we had at the time of the divorce. According to them, their mother never even sent them to their room as a form of discipline at any time for anything. Being the one and only adult who held my kids accountable for misbehavior was tough for me. Especially as the troubling teen years for the older two ravaged our household and I became the enemy while their mother not only didn’t discipline them, but I found out years later, got HIGH with my sonFinding out that their mother was getting high with a son who was not only being disciplined by me for marijuana we would find in his room or in his possession, and who also faced school suspensions for it, further lowered my view of my Ex and further helped explain our current difficulties. Dad is bad. Mom is cool.

For those who don’t know me another factor that I am confident is a contributing factor in this rift is the fact that my Ex is African-American, and as such, my kids identify as black. Furthermore, in terms of society and politics I am Conservative while my Ex is quite liberal. To call my kids liberal would be generous. They are clearly of a socialist mentality. I wish they weren’t. But I am genuinely pleased to have them be politically aware and involved. I have told them so.

To me the real problem is what has happened in society. The narcissistic, judgmental, facist, behavior of today’s millennials, of which my 21, 27, and 32 year old kids qualify, teaches those of similar thinking that they not only have to oppose thinking different from their own but that such people are the enemy and are evil. So, my kids look at me as the privileged white, angry, racist Conservative that all people like me are.

On the night Donald Trump was elected President I jealously watched my girlfriend (now wife) Maria texting back and forth with her adult kids, talking about the returns coming in. Being such a momentous night I wanted to reach out to my kids too. Knowing they would unquestionably be upset by the election results my first text to them was completely benign and non-threatening. My oldest daughter responded with a very angry text and told me I was only gloating and basically to shut-up and go away. Here was just one more occasion that she broke my heart a little bit.

In being reminded of Tucker Carlson’s words I am not absolving myself of all responsibility for what is becoming the tragedy of my life, the ostracizing from my kids. I have regrets. I especially wish I hadn’t shown anger as much as I did. But aside from that I take comfort from those who know me and knew my time with my kids. During those times I was told repeatedly by admiring friends and family that I was a great dad. Not a bad dad. And though I have far more doubts than I used to have, I know I gave my kids everything I could, to see to it that they were raised with a knowledge of God, and a value system that I cherish. I didn’t do everything right. But I love my kids in spite of everything. I miss them terribly. And I look forward to the time when whatever they hold against me will be replaced by a maturity that is currently lacking, and life experiences that will also teach them that their dad wasn’t that bad, and may even have been pretty good. And, Mr. Carlson, because my kids live and are moving ahead in their lives, and I hope are happy, I am not a failure.

I love them all.

 

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