My former spouse and I had one child, a very beautiful, smart, witty and caring young lady. We are so blessed to have her. She is currently a freshman in high school.
When I first started speaking to my ex about dissolution, he just felt like it would crush her. His own parent’s divorce took a toll on him, so he felt adamant that she would struggle similarly. I have not found that to be the case. She seems to have blossomed with a sense of freedom and relief.
Unfortunately, she does not look forward to time with her dad. While she loves him, she is in a typical 14 year old mind set and he is still drinking. As a result, he is still self-centered and isolated. In addition, he is holding steady at the maturity level he was when he first started drinking…..and so she often thinks she is more mature than him.
Early after our divorce, he just spent money. Likely, he felt possessions would make him happy. She watched that and just shook her head. Perhaps if he would have bought something for her, he would have simmered her down a little, but he didn’t give much thought to that.
Just three months after our dissolution, he starts dating a lady he met online. After just a few short weeks, he wants to introduce her to our daughter. I talk him out of it, thank goodness. After seeing her pictures on Facebook, I knew my daughter would not be pleased. She and I both are somewhat conservative, and the new girlfriend looked like she had quite a wild side. I remember telling my ex that he should suggest to the new girlfriend that she make her profile private instead of public, and he didn’t see anything wrong with her page.
Fast forward a couple months and the girlfriend gets “crazy,” so they split ways. Ironically, my daughter shared “well she had self divulged that she was crazy, I guess it took him a while to figure it out.” After the fact, the ex admits that he must have been blinded by the need for physical activity. She was an alcoholic too, not surprising. I’m sure they had great fun. Too bad there were nights when he cancelled out on his time with our daughter because of the girlfriend. It’s a shame that my daughter realized it….and then over time became grateful for the cancellations.
After girlfriend #1, it doesn’t take long for girlfriend #2. They had been dating about a month, and our daughter was getting ready for her first Homecoming Dance. The ex asks me if his new girlfriend can be there for pictures. I suggested that he ask our daughter. Our daughter thinks that there is no sensible woman in the world that is gonna meet her for the first time with the ex-wife and ex in-laws present, so she tells her dad “I don’t care.” Even I think there is no way that she would want to be there even if he doesn’t realize its a stupid idea. Guess what? She’s there at pictures. It should have been a great occasion for my daughter. It was her night. It should have been about her…… yet he continues to say that our daughter is his highest priority.
Recently, when he comes to pick her up for one of his days, he tells me that our daughter isn’t real excited to spend the day with him and his girlfriend. I take the opportunity to tell him: “she isn’t real comfortable with us dating yet.” And he says……..wanna guess?……it’s certainly not empathetic…..he says “well I am.”
I recognize that parents should not let their kids make decisions for them. It’s a fine line I walk in sensitive times. Here is what I don’t understand: If his time with our daughter is limited, why can’t he just spend time with her alone? Or if it is just the two of them, why doesn’t he plan an activity instead of napping or watching something on TV that he wants to watch?
And then I answer myself…he’s an alcoholic. I can’t change him. He can’t get out of his own head the “how and where” the next drink will get taken. He remains on a mission for his own happiness and without the ability to put himself in anyone else’s shoes. No lie! One time I asked him what it would feel like to be in her shoes and he honestly couldn’t figure it out or understand what I meant.
So, he knows that single dads should make their kids a high priority. He knows that’s the right thing to say. He probably even wants to do that, but he has no idea what it means or how to think of anyone other than himself first. To those that try to give him honest feedback or suggestions, he finds resentment. It’s very sad. I still pray for his recovery so that she can have a relationship someday with her dad that feels “normal.”