After my husband passed away, our older child gave me some time to deal with all the things that have to be dealt with. Several months later, she began confiding in me. She was glad he was gone. Even though her father tried to tell her that he’d been wrong about many things, the damage had been done.
My heart broke again.
She was old enough for us to have candid and honest conversations about the things he’d said to her. His relentless, horrible tirades under the guise of “worrying about her ability to be a productive adult later” demoralized her. Nothing she did was good enough. It was a common theme in my own experiences with him.
If she got a 92 on an assignment, he berated her for not getting a higher grade. He had private conversations with her to tell her how she should behave and the way women should behave. These conversations were awkward, bigoted, misogynistic, and shaming. When she asked to get counseling for social anxiety, he told her to get over herself.
His treatment of her created the opposite of what he demanded. His goal to create the “productive adult” now requires therapy sessions every week.
Our other child told me it was good that he was gone, because there wasn’t constant yelling in the house anymore. With several years between our children, the younger one had little direct interaction with him. He spent most of her childhood traveling for work or working from home on conference calls. Most of her memories of him are his yelling about one thing or another.
I’m sad for my children that they didn’t have a good relationship with their father. I know he loved them, even if he had a twisted way of showing it.
If the family life wasn’t harmonious, the important thing is to find ways to help kids move forward with their lives and even find forgiveness. My next post will list a few things that can help children do these things.