Tuesday, June 26, 2007

How do you measure the good you are doing?

I've been married twice, and given birth to four children, two with each ex-husband. The marriages didn't survive for a number of reasons; from disrespect, poor judgment, continual deceit and drug abuse hidden behind the mask of religion, habitual procrastination, compulsive spending, tax evasion, mental, emotional and physical abuse of the entire family. I am not trying to place blame on my ex-husbands, after all I did choose to marry each of them, obviously poor judgment on my part. Our children are the best part of the unions.

Each marriage lasted over ten years and within each one there were many attempts to seek help to repair the wrongs. However, as with anything else in life it takes two willing partners to make it a successful attempt and a consistent effort to stay on track. Neither of my ex-husbands were willing to go the extra mile to correct their behavior to make our marriage last. So, in each case I chose to end the marriage for the safety of our children and my sanity.

But how do you measure the good you are doing when you attempt to hold the father of these children accountable for their actions? How do you, when they continue to exhibit the same old patterns? How do you protect the children without them developing a bitterness or anger, or an unrealistic image about the greatness of their absent parent? How can you trust your children with the one that disrespected everyone so badly both directly and indirectly, if those behaviors have not changed? How can you protect your children if you are unable to see what goes on, if and when they begin to visit one another again?

Both men we given visitation; one abused that right and the other utilized it after being forced to take the children for weekends. Eventually both men decided that it was easier to step back from their visitation. One gave it up all together, the other moved away. When we move to where we had family, the one returned to our previous home town. He missed four months of child support in what appeared to be a show of anger that we moved. Then after not calling on birthdays, holidays, missing child support payments and threatening to take custody of our children, the one father decided that it was too much trouble to be a co-parent. On the one hand, it seemed like a blessing, but it would prove to be a thorn in my side and emotionally upsetting for my children.

Even though I have encouraged my children to write their dad letters and share their feelings, he would not respond. Finally this summer, during Jenn's visit with her older sister, she got to see her dad after four years. My mom and I had talked about the possibility and then the girls and I talked about it. I even had a chat with the ex before the visit to encourage him to let her talk and to answer her questions with honesty. I am happy that she got to see him, and that she feels better about things.

My son was in VA last summer and even though they rode passed his fathers house, he had no interest in seeing him. He says he as gotten past the anger, that he has let it go and chooses not to have anything to do with his father. I am not sure a forced meeting will change his feelings about his father and he has decided that it is safer for him to experience his life without the instability of his fathers support. He has had many mentors since we moved here and has found their support adequate enough to meet his current needs.

What puzzles me about the visit with Jenn's dad; Lisa's step-dad, is how my eldest responded. Somehow she feels that as parents, we didn't do anything successfully enough, to caused this reunion to happen before now? This is all to familiar to me, after all I spent nearly twenty years combined trying to make things better in each marriage. It didn't work then and trying to have these men work with me on visitation has proven to be equally as frustrating. I hope that one day my children will understand just what I experienced with these men and the lengths I went to, to insure a safe and healthy home life for them. When you have done all you can do to make it work and you do not have a willing partner, it will make everyone miserable. Still, I am left wondering if my efforts to make things better for my children were in vain when I listen to their comments about what should have happened according to them. I do not know how Jenn is feeling about all of this but it is apparent that my eldest has a strong opinion about how it could have been better.

I wish I could help them to understand all I have done to make things happen for them where their fathers are concerned, what I have done to protect them, to make things better for them. It makes is difficult for them to understand when they forget how things were when we were all together. It's hard to get them to understand that it is impossible for someone who is not willing, to change their behavior. So you do what you have to, in order to protect your children. Someone once said that your past is a great predictor of your future. If you are a dead beat dad, a habitually absent absent parent, then chances are you will repeat the behavior again. If your ex-spouse wouldn't change their behavior in the face of professional and compassionate encouragement, then it might take a miracle to cause such change.

I pray that Jenn's heart is protected from further hurt, but only time will tell. My best encouragement for all of my children has been and will continue to be, love their fathers for who they are, forgive them for the stupid things they do and accept that if their behavior never changes, it is part of the fabric of who they are. To remember to let it go, for in doing so, they win and not the bad behavior and hurt caused by their fathers.

As for the absent father, the lawyers have stated that he needs to re-establish a relationship with his children. It would benefit the children if he could learn to put his differences aside and be a co-parent. Co-parenting is what the ex-husband and I both signed on for when we decided to have children. When did that or does that cease to exist? How will I know what good I have done where my children are concerned, when will I know that what I have done has made a positive impact on their lives?

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