First, let me make a distinction between people who were not in their child’s life because of circumstances. Adoption, for instance, too often involves a young, unsupported woman (or a woman who perceives she is unsupported) who relinquishes a child because she feels her back is to the wall.
The parental abandonment I’m talking about is a parent who invested in their child’s life but decided staying was too hard. So they checked out completely. Disappeared with no warning or explanation.
When I started this blog I never planned to say much about my personal life. This parental abandonment experience angers me enough I feel I have to say something. Last August the father of my 14-year-old son decided to stop seeing him, to stop visitation. He had been seeing him every second weekend, holidays and summer vacations for over 13 years. They fought because my son does not get on well with my ex’s wife or her children and his father feels he is disrespectful to his wife. His father demanded an apology. But our son’s attempts to reach his dad* (clarification. He may not have apologized but he did phone his dad a number of times to talk things out and his calls were not returned. I do not know what he has told his dad) have gone unanswered. This week will mark five months since his dad walked out of his life.
On the surface it looked like my son was taking things well. Stellar marks in school, supportive friends, a teacher backing him up. But we didn’t think his father would keep up the silent treatment for months.
The holidays were brutal. It wasn’t just the absence of my son’s father but his side of the family also reduced their contact or completely avoided our son. The customary Christmas card never arrived. No phone calls or well wishing. No Facebook messages. No e-mails. I phoned the paternal grandparents and they got together with my son and gave him Christmas gifts. But it looks like the onus is on me to maintain their contact with their grandchild.
These are people who profess to care about family and community. But while they have spoken to my son’s father, they appear to be standing beside their son as he abandons his only child, their first grandson. I don’t get it.
What my son needs is people rallying around him, reminding him that this situation is not his fault. He is a kind, intelligent, sensitive soul. He doesn’t deserve to feel he is not worth knowing, not worth working things out with, not worth loving. I don’t understand why his father is doing this. I can’t wrap my mind around how he would not be conscious of the damage he is inflicting. I want to scream at him, shake him. We don’t seem to be able to carry on a conversation. I know from painful experience there is no point in talking things out with my son’s father.
You can’t be an ambivalent parent. When you’re a parent you are either 100 per cent in or you are out. It takes courage to work things out with a teenager. It takes courage to be there through good times and bad. I know a dad who travels to another city every second weekend (hours away) to see his children. That dad is my hero. I have a dark place in my heart for people who consciously abandon their children. I don’t know how they sleep at night.
I am grateful to my family and friends for being there and for listening.
My son has support from a school guidance counsellor. I went to the local CLSC seeking counselling for me and advice on possible options. I met with a social intake worker and my request is in the system. But two weeks later I am still waiting.
Today my son did something out of character and wrong, something I would never expect him to do. I think the stress is getting to him.
I will rally the troops and get my son the help he needs. That’s all I can do.