I wrote a story called ‘The Reluctant Santa’ which I was going to share with you, but thought it was probably a bit corny. It was about a man who worked in a department store and had to take his turn of playing Santa in the Grotto. As he had left his wife and not seen his children for over a year, he was reluctant to be Santa. To cut a long story short, he saw the light and realised he should not neglect his children and tried to make amends.
The outcome of the story was wishful thinking on my part as I know the pain of being neglected by a father. This pain I also see in my own children as their father, who lives but a stone’s throw away, has had nothing to do with them for years.
After our divorce, he didn’t see them for over a year and it was that first Christmas when my 7 year old asked me why daddy didn’t love them. It broke my heart and I started to beg him to have contact with them. Of course this played right into his hands, as it meant he could still control me and he took full advantage of that. However, I felt that whatever had gone wrong between us, I still wanted our children to have a relationship with their father. So when he said he would pick them up and never came, while they stood at the window waiting and crying, I covered for him and made excuses, for their sake, but this was the beginning of another few years of living under his command. I would beg, he would see them.
When he did turn up, he usually sat them in front of the telly, and he would never tell me when he was bringing them home, to ensure I couldn’t go out for the day and have some time to myself. I always included him in sports days, nativity plays and offered to go on a different day than him if that helped, but he wasn’t interested and never attended anything. He told people that I had taken the kids off him and wouldn’t let him see them and so I lost all my friends and felt alone, even though logic told me they weren’t very good friends in the first place.
When my daughter was about 12 or 13, she overheard me begging him to see them one Christmas. He had moved 5 minutes down the road and had a new family and wasn’t going to see them. She told me to stop doing it and it was a relief to do so, but I felt so guilty for them. It was just after this, and after his girlfriend had complained about them, that he stopped all contact, with no explanation, not even a phone call or text and that was nearly ten years ago.
I have watched my son suppress his anger and my daughter try to ruin her life due to her lack of self worth and it hurt. Although we have come through the other side now, I still live in hope that one day he will do the right thing and acknowledge his children, but all that hope was lost when one of my children had cancer and he made no contact even then. As a parent I cannot understand how any person can disconnect from their own flesh and blood like that and I never will.
Fathers (and some mothers) need to realise the damage they do by neglecting their children. They are not better off without them, even if they have flaws – children are very forgiving and just want to love and be loved by the people who created them.
While my Santa story had a happy ending, I have made peace that in real life, our story will not and I’m grateful and praise all step-fathers who take on other men’s children and love them as their own. They are they bigger man.
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