Is something wrong with my dad, or is it me?
By Cinse Bonino
My name is Jen, and my dad is a dork. At least I hope he's a dork. If he isn't a dork, he doesn't care about me very much. He refuses to give my mom any child support. And he never comes to see me. Not that Mom wants him coming around, but I'd like him to come. I mean, I think I want him to come. I guess what I really want is for HIM to WANT to come. Then I could decide whether or not I wanted to see him.
Other kids with divorced dads get to see them. Mia spends six weeks in Ohio with her dad every summer, and Kelly goes to dinner with her dad every Wednesday night. My dad doesn't even call. No birthday cards. Nothing.
Casey's dad pays child support, but she never sees him. Her mom took him to court and the judge set it up so that the company her dad works for takes the child support right out of his paycheck and sends it to Casey's mom. But he never tries to see her. Casey's mom says that her dad is a no good, horrible person. Casey just figures that he is a dork like my dad.
I didn't think that my dad would stop being my dad. I thought it was Mom that he wanted to leave--not me.
I understand about divorce. I mean, I know that when your mom and dad decide that they can't make it work they split up. And I know that things change. We moved from our house to an apartment. It's an okay place, but it's a lot smaller than where we were before.
Mom works full time now too. I have to do a lot of stuff around the house that I didn't have to do before. So like I said, I know things change, but I didn't think that my dad would stop being my dad. It sure looks like that's what he's doing. I thought it was Mom that he wanted to leave - not me. I guess I was wrong. If he doesn't want to see me and he doesn't care that we need money for stuff then he must not want to be my dad anymore.
It makes me wonder if he ever really liked being my dad. Maybe he was just pretending. Maybe he never loved me at all. But that can't be true. I remember doing stuff together; I remember it feeling like he loved me. How could he just stop? What's wrong with me? What's wrong with him? I miss Dad, but I'm so mad at him I don't know if I'd even want to see him if he showed up. I guess it's just me and Mom now.
He IS acting like a total loser. He won't pay child support, and he doesn't seem to want to see her at all. She sounds really sad, and she sounds angry too.
Sometimes people act angry when they are scared. Do you think that this might be happening to Jen? Maybe she doesn't want to believe that her dad doesn't want to see her. Maybe she is scared that he never loved her. Maybe by choosing to feel angry and to give up on her dad , Jen thinks that she won't have to feel sad if her dad really has given up on her. This might not work. She might end up feeling sad AND angry.
Does Jen really KNOW that her dad doesn't care about her?
No. She doesn't. Sure there's a lot of evidence that looks like her dad doesn't care, but his behavior might mean something else.
Wouldn't he call or come over if he wanted to see her?
Not necessarily. Maybe Jen's dad thinks that Jen is angry at him for leaving. Maybe he doesn't know how to explain why he left, and he is embarrassed. He could even think that Jen's mom is so upset with him that she has convinced Jen to hate her dad. Maybe he is afraid just like Jen. He might be afraid that he'll cry when he sees Jen. He might even be afraid that Jen doesn't love him anymore. Divorce isn't just confusing for kids.
Why won't he pay child support? Doesn't he care?
Good question. Jen's dad should pay child support. Not paying makes him look like a real jerk. He might not be. Jen might not know the whole story. Maybe Jen's mom wants more than her dad can afford, and he won't pay until they agree on how much it should be. Jen's dad might really care about her, but he might just be freaking about money right now.
Paying for two households is tough. Some people freeze up when they are worried that they can't meet their responsibilities. The point here is that Jen's dad might care very much for Jen and still not be willing to send any money.
What if Jen's dad really is a dork?
Jen doesn't have to like all of her dad's choices, but he is still her dad. We can learn a lot from what our parents do that we DON'T like. If you grow up with a dad that isn't a good listener, you might decide that listening to people is pretty important. If Jen wants to have a relationship with her dad, she needs to stop letting her fears decide how she feels about him. Being honest might actually work.
If she doesn't give up on him, she'll have to understand that he's human. He has his good points and he has those things that Jen wishes he would change. But there are things about all of us that other people wish we would change.
If you wind up with a dad, divorced or not, who does a lot of things that make you crazy, try to focus on the stuff you can handle. Most importantly, don't think that your dad is acting that way because of YOU. It's because of HIM. It's just the way that HE is.
Some people, parents included, know how to show their feelings and how to let other people get close to them. Some don't. Some feel too scared to try. If no one tries, no one gets close. Sometimes kids have to make the first move. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't.