I didn’t know it was abuse

I didn’t know it was abuse.

I thought when he left bruises on their bottoms it was just an accident. I’m sure he didn’t mean to hurt them.

Owies and bruises and bumps because they hurt themselves in his care didn’t mean that he wasn’t watching them. Kids are clumsy and hard to keep an eye on.

Favoring one child over the other. We all do that a little, don’t we?

Screaming at them to leave him alone. He’d just had a hard day.

Making them clean up HIS messes. He just wants them to learn the importance of chores.

There were two incidents that opened my eyes and were something I couldn’t make excuses for.

The day my 6-year-old son broke a bowl, doing’s his father’s chore of putting dishes away, I realized that things weren’t quite right. The terror on his face broke my heart.

“Please don’t tell dad I broke this,” he begged in a panic, “He’ll KILL me!” It was a bizarre overreaction to the event. I assured him I wouldn’t, but he just kept crying. No kid should ever be that afraid of their parent…over an accident even.

My 9-year-old son lied about cleaning his room. His father charged at him screaming, “Who the fuck do you think you are to lie to ME?!” My son backed up. “COME HERE!” he demanded. My son took a step forward, his head was down. His father hit him in the head. “I WILL NOT BE LIED TO!” I jumped up and ran to my son.  His father hit him again before I could get between them.

It took two attempts and 3 years before I was finally able to leave for good.

My kids may or may not remember these things. If they do, I’m sure they don’t think their dad is abusive. I’m sure they’ll rationalize his behavior, like I did for so long. I’m sure they have the idea that if he’s not beating the shit out of them, then it’s not abuse.  It’ll be years before they figure it out, if they ever do.

Shortly after the divorce, I held onto the idea that maybe he’d manage to be a father to the boys. I was wrong. He’d made promises to them about calling every day. Promises about coming to visit. Dreams of becoming a rich and successful lawyer. He told them he’d buy them laptops and gaming systems and he’d have a house in Hawaii. They believed him. They were excited at the prospect of finally having a dad who cared about them. A dad who wanted to do things with and for them.

The phone calls were sporadic. Eventually more often than not the phone calls between the boys and their dad ended with them crying or punching walls. He’d tell them they weren’t ‘entertaining enough’ on the phone. He was calling so they could talk to him. He also expected them to be available when he called. He wouldn’t call back. He wouldn’t wait. He rarely returned the kid’s phone calls. He wouldn’t take into account dinner time, bed time or the time difference between Maine and South Dakota. He was doing them a favor by calling. When they failed to realize this, he’d scream at them that he was NEVER calling them again! If they wanted to talk, they can call HIM! Less than half of his visits back to Maine involved him seeing the boys. He ‘didn’t have time’, or would say ‘I don’t feel like fighting with your mother about it.’

Their dad has recently moved closer by. Less than a mile from my house, actually. My younger son doesn’t like how he feels when he is with dad, so he rarely sees him. My older son is like I was for so long. He thinks he can control his dad and his outbursts. All he wants is a father who gives a shit. He’s stubborn. He’s not ready to give up. He spends more time at his dad’s now than he does with me.

The boys know their dad needs to be coddled. They know he needs to be the center of attention. They know he demands their loyalty and their respect. They know not to expect that, or anything else from him in return. They know that when they are with him that I am the enemy. They are not allowed to talk about their lives with me. They also know the consequences if they do not fall in line. They’ve learned to walk on eggshells around him. They don’t realize it yet, but it’s all abuse.

The guilt I have for bringing them into this mess is almost unbearable. I’m not allowed to say their father is a crazy, abusive, manipulative bully. All I can do is support them in whatever relationship they choose to have with him. I hope they figure it out. I hope that eventually they see him for what he is. I hope they realize that HE is the problem, not them. If not, I just hope that they don’t continue this cycle of abuse in their own relationships.

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38 comments

  1. Please do not have guilt. IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT!!!! You are doing the right thing by being supportive. I cry for your and your family-and I understand because I was there-thank goodness my kids were too young to remember but we were there! Im not sure what is available in your area, but you should see if there are local DV programs for kids-the one by me uses Art to deal with the abuse…..Keep Strong Beautiful Woman. You are amazing and my heart and my prayers are with you. We are an unfortunate sisterhood. We gotta stick together!!!

    1. The younger boy has been to a few different counselors. Everytime his dad would stir shit up, he’d acting out, anger issues, etc. Counseling has really helped him with all this. The older boy has been to counseling once and declared that it was “Stupid.”
      Thank you for reading and commenting. I appreciate your support 🙂

      1. anytime we are all here to support each other!

  2. It is not your fault. it is his, and the less he is in there lives the better

    1. I definitely see that evidenced in my kids behaviors. The less he is in their lives, the happier and more ok they are.

  3. Reblogged this on Looking Forward and commented:
    I did a guest blog over at Deliberate Donkey today. You all should go over there and check it out. Check out all of the other writing the Melanie does too. She’s a super talented lady…for sure!

    1. Thank you! I’m so grateful to you for sharing your story. I love how this place is becoming a collection of voices. The more there are, the louder we will be.

  4. complicatedwaltz · · Reply

    As a child who grew up with a father like this (until he moved 2,000 miles away to “start a new life” when I was 10), I can identify with all of this. The awful, random phone calls that would be an interrogation about why I don’t call more, arguments about money, and stroking his ego.
    Please talk to your kids. It is abuse and they don’t deserve it. All of this was allowed to go on, and to me, I grew up feeling like my needs are unimportant. I still have a hard time articulating my needs. Validate that dad’s behavior is not okay. Ask them what they want.

    1. When I try to talk to my oldest boy about any of this (he is 16) he shrugs or just walks away. It makes him uncomfortable. He doesn’t want to feel disloyal to his dad, or he’s afraid I’ll tell dad what he says, I’m not sure. Either way, I do my best to not seem like I’m doing what dad does, which is pushing for information, making him feel badly for having opinions or wants or needs. I listen, I validate, I show him how a parent who loves her child acts. Its all very different then what he experiences with his dad.

  5. I grew up with a father like this. The abuse is not your fault! It’s so good that you see and and got out, my mother still lives in it close to 45 years now. I don’t know how old you’re children are but I don’t think there’s harm in talking to them about what abuse is and open the door to allow them to talk. Just a thought. Sending support to you xo

    1. My boys are 16 and 13…not a real good age for chattiness, lol. I try to only validate their anger or frustration when dad makes things harder for them then it needs to be – and I try to be the parent they can always count on. Besides that, I’m not sure how to bring up a conversation about what abuse is, especially in their case. Its so hard to see – plus their dad tells them “your mom lies about me, she tries to make me seem bad” so whatever I say that could be perceived as “bad” about dad, they’re already programmed to assume its a lie.

      1. What about taking them to a therapist? These boys really need protection. Believe me coming from a father like this myself, I was very messed up and am still in many ways PTSD and all that goes with it being one of the things. They need help. Maybe you together with a therapist could approach the subject. Just a thought. Sending support to you.

        1. My younger son is seeing a psychologist currently. It seems to be a good fit so far. Hopefully he’ll find it helpful. Its a good idea to mention this to him as well and see what he thinks. The older son is supposed to be seeing someone, but his father wont agree to a therapist, so we’re at standstill.

          1. Good to hear one is in anyway. I’m sorry his father is so rough on you all. It’s such a difficult situation. 😦

  6. *hugs* I just finished a post that reminded me of your closing paragraphs except instead of guilt I commented on anger at bringing a child into a similar situation.
    Do. not. blame. yourself.
    Easier said than done and as time goes by (and you remain connected to communities like this one, filled with people who understand), you will be able to get there.
    Talk to your kids as suggested, but more importantly be sure to LISTEN to them. And validate them.

    1. Thanks for the hug, and thank you for you comment. All I can do with the boys is listen. Its not my place to say much other than say I’m sorry their feelings are hurt, or that they’re frustrated, then we brainstorm about how to fix whatever issue there is. Usually dad has made some bizarre rule that the kids don’t understand, and don’t dare to ask for clarification.
      This community has saved my sanity. It truly has. No one in my real life here has any idea what this is like. They can’t imagine how selfish and insidious and evil the kid’s father is. They have no idea how to be supportive.

  7. This breaks my heart. It holds memories of my own childhood. You shouldn’t feel bad. You saved them from that horrid man

    1. I tried to save them…I got them away from every day contact and all his anger and hate. While they still endure it during visits, its less frequent, and while he’s trying to be “super dad” (we’re waiting for a trial date for support and visitation) I’m hopeful things aren’t as bad as they used to be. It won’t last though. Knowing that is the worst.

      1. He’s such a great Dad, you need to go to court for support….huh. I praise you for saving those little boys, but you must not feel bad. It sounds like you were also the victim. One day they will be adults and able to view the situation as it is…

  8. any movement on the counseling yet??? this is what will help them – hopefully the therapist will teach them ways to handle this and support them – and more than likely clue them in – which is why he is putting up so many roadblocks don’t give up – they NEED it badly to deal with him

    1. The younger one has started with a psychologist. I am so grateful, its a good match so far. He really likes going. X won’t agree to counseling for the older boy, so I can’t do much about that right now. He thinks he’s got him wrapped around his finger – he doesn’t want to involve anyone that might undo that.

  9. Reblogged this on The left side and commented:
    It’s sad we have a sisterhood, but it’s a sisterhood nonetheless…Thank you for sharing….

  10. I’m sorry your kids’ father is abusive, but it is not your fault. You got yourself and your kids away from him, and you are doing the right thing. If you stopped your kids from seeing him they might resent you, they need to decide for themselves. Maybe as some others have suggested, you could try to talk to your kids about this to help them know that it is not their fault, and the way their father treats people is not right. But I know it must be heartbreaking to see them so scared of their father. You are doing a great job looking after them so please don’t feel guilty xxx

    1. Thank you for your kind words. I’ve done so much reading about what to do with the kids and their relationship with their father. I want to tell them both, “NO! You can’t see him ever again! Trust me, its for the best.” But, they are teenagers. They have to learn this on their own – as terrible as it is for me to have to sit on the sidelines and watch – this is just how it has to be right now. They both know that they have all my love and support and their life and future is my main concern…No matter what they do or say to me. Their dad isn’t this way, but I think they want him to be, so they keep giving him chances.

  11. As others have said, it is not your fault. I know just how hard those words are to believe, I’ve been there myself, but monsters are monsters no matter what we do.

    1. Its true. All I can do it be the constant and stable parent for them. It makes me sad, they really deserve a better father.

      1. They deserve a GOOD father, one who won’t abuse them or their mother. You’ll get there someday. Stay strong.

  12. Definitely hugs I know what it feels like and as others have said it is not your fault it is his. It certainly breaks my heart seeing and reading stories like this. I don’t know why so many men get away with it but they do. Take care and hugs

    1. I’m trying to hold onto the idea that while they get away with it in the short term, eventually it will all catch up to them. While they are old and alone and pathetic, I’ll be happy. My family will be happy.

  13. My heart just broke reading this. I just want to give your sons a hug and tell them they are fabulous as they are. Hug them and love them and then love them and hug them so that they know they are loved……….sigh……..

    1. Hugging a 16 and 13 year old is harder than you’d think! They are fabulous! Smart, witty, handsome, well behaved and such charmers! Sometimes when the older one wants money for something I give it to him if he’ll give me a hug. We’ve hugged a lot this summer! They know I love them – more than anything. I let them be themselves.

  14. My heart breaks for you and your children, I went through similar with my own.

    It is not your fault. It is his for being as he is.

    1. Thank you. I wish there was a way to keep him away from all of us…

  15. I missed this post somehow when you first wrote it. Glad I found it this time around. I’m sorry your boys still have contact with this man. He’s no father to them and probably never will be. I feel particularly for your older boy. I hope his efforts do not end in disappointment.

    1. It would be nice if I could keep them from feeling disappointed in regards to their efforts to have a relationship with their father. However, I can’t. They have to go through it just like I did…I just hope they understand that they are not the reason he treats them like he does…they’ve done nothing wrong.
      Time will tell, I guess.

  16. […] This post originally appeared August 13 […]

  17. You are me, and I am you. Your kids are old enough to teach about narcissism. You do not have to label their father. Education is the only way to keep them safe both emotionally and physically. Hugs to you and your boys. Lorrie, #OMBNJ

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