478. The Absent Parent

There are many parents today who don’t live with their children. Of course, children do grow up and move away; eventually, the average parent has to adjust to life without her/his children, and vice versa. Children stop being children. But this article isn’t about the empty nest syndrome or the trials and tribulations of growing up. It’s about what goes on when the nest is still full, but one of the parents doesn’t live there any more.
That situation usually causes lots of sadness. Children are used to having two parents. And even though children have a tendency to get embarrassed or otherwise annoyed when their parents show affection for each other – even though young children sometimes interfere with the hugging process by squeezing in between the hugging parties – the love two parents feel for each other provides security. And when that love is gone, or at least isn’t so present any more, it’s sad.
The day I lost custody of my children was the worst day of my life. Divorce was sad, too, but it felt more like something I could get through. But I moved into a little two-bedroom apartment – the best one I could find in the emotional state I was in. It was not a great place to live in, and it was even a worse place to visit. When my daughters came to stay with me on weekends, we tried to think of places we could go, lest we have to spend time in that apartment.
I wasn’t the father they’d known. Living alone for the first time since college, I was trying to figure out who I was going to be. Marriage and parenthood had defined me all of my adult life; I was a husband and father. But now, I was some strange guy who lived in another town, away from the life my children were used to. Away from my children’s friends. Away from their turf. I don’t think that was how my children saw me, but it’s how I saw myself. I was lost. I’d grown
up in a family, spent the first twelve years of my adult life in a family, and now I was supposed to figure out how to be a good absent father. From my point of view, I was terrible at it.
I’m still an absent father, but now my daughters are more absent than I am. I think they forgive me, or don’t even blame me, for the way I handled their adolescent years, living the life of a confused, lost single guy when they needed a father. They say we all have 20/20 hindsight – that we all know exactly what we would have done in the past if we’d only known then what we know now. And I’ve gotten all kinds of good ideas about how to be better at things I used to have trouble with. But as far as
being an absent parent – trying to squeeze the parenting I once did every day into a weekend in a strange new place – I don’t know how possible it is. And if you’re trying to do it, I wish you success.

Comments are closed.