I’m not a particularly uptight person when it comes to my children’s toys. Well, that’s sorta true. Ok, so that’s not even remotely true…
I think it’s just because I’m always trying to round them out and make sure that they have exposure to a bit of everything. I don’t have a lot of money, so I think through what I buy. I price shop, I read reviews. I CARE if this item that’s going to be taking up space in the one room they’re sharing will be well-used, well-loved, help them to pretend or help them to learn, or just help them to be silly (which is, of course, just as important). I have bins neatly arranged by category under each of their beds. Trucks and trains. Dress up play. Puzzles and blocks. Art and playdough.
Isn’t getting used? Doesn’t add value? Have two of it? It gets donated to the school or to the church.
But…their bookshelf is filled to overflowing. We’ve even resorted to stacking them as best we can nearby. I can’t seem to part with books. I think that’s because we read together every day, and it is during these times that I see the most light bulbs go on for them. I field the best questions, I get the most cooperation…and it doesn’t hurt that this all comes with some seriously awesome family snuggle time.
Baby Girl just turned three. Honey sent a box, and I knew what was in it before I even looked inside. I can’t quite understand how it is that a man who is now roughly $12,000 behind in support can find the money to go to the Disney store and drop $50 yet again on even more of what I now refer to as ‘pink nonsense’.
All Honey ever sends his daughter is pink nonsense. He doesn’t know or care that she really likes art and drawing. There are never telescopes or books about the Moon or softballs or science kits. Instead there are Barbie microphones and Minnie the Mouse purses, and fluffy pink teddy bears with rainbow tutus and tiaras. I’m fine with those things if there’s a balance with the other things, and if she doesn’t already HAVE those things. I suppose it wouldn’t bother me so much if he would just ask. But he wouldn’t stoop down to speak with the help, and that’s all I am to him now. Come to think of it, that may be all I ever was.
He lives 2000+ miles away. He has absolutely no idea what his daughter possesses, what she needs, or even what she wants. He has no idea what she’s interested in, what I’ve already gotten her, or what some other member of the family has already gotten her. It’s the same thing with my son. The man left his family as if it was disposable, so blindly sending a bunch of crap we don’t need and don’t have room for should be absolutely no surprise to me.
And yet it is. Every. Damn. Time.
In our rental house, we have a backyard. It is mostly dirt with small areas of grass that I have made as much out of it as I possibly can in this hot part of the world. I put up a huge shade structure last summer, and a seating area with an umbrella. I put big tubs filled with our outdoor toys out there. I carpet taped together six outdoor grass carpets to go under the structure. We spent the entire summer playing there. The sandbox, the little kiddie pool, the bubbles, the sprinkler toys…it’s all the stuff I loved as a kid, and I get so much joy out of watching my kids grow up with them, too.
It’s so hot here in the summer that there’s no way we could spend any time out there without the shade structure. In a windstorm last week, it blew over and bent the metal legs in half. It’s toast. In that same storm, my brand new umbrella got tossed around, turned inside out, and cracked in three places. It is also toast.
I don’t have the money to replace these things. I invested our dollars into them very carefully, and thought we would get many years of use out of them. If honey were to actually ask what his daughter would like or need (you know, aside from that pesky $12,000 in support he owes), I would have told him anything and everything that can be played with outside…and some way to put it all under shade.
Or a new pair of sandals.
Or a book that helps kids cope with divorce.
Or a book about how girls can grow up to be judges or doctors or chefs or the President of the United States if they work hard enough.
But he didn’t ask, and he doesn’t care about her need for encouragement, nurturing, or parenting. He is oblivious to the harm he’s done in taking a daddy out of a little girl’s life for no good reason. The damage this will do to her heart and mind stretch into the future as far as my eye can see. Not only does he not know this, he DOESN’T KNOW IT ON PURPOSE.
She wakes up wanting to go play bubbles. He doesn’t know this, either.
She goes in her room and starts singing to herself when she thinks I can’t see her. He will never feel his heart swell with love and pride while secretly watching her from the hallway.
Little Man hums the Star Wars music in his sleep sometimes. He’ll never get to hear that on the baby monitor and laugh.
And on and on and on, infinity and forever. My heart writes these words with much less pain than before, but I still hear the familiar words echoing through my head unconsciously every time I consider it all:
…everything feels destroyed…everything feels forever destroyed…
The other day, little man was watching a show on the couch next to me while I was working on my laptop. Out of nowhere, he said ‘Did you know that Eli in my class has a daddy?’ Without thinking, I said “Yes baby, everyone has a daddy.” Instantly, I regretted it. I meant biologically of course, but he doesn’t even understand that concept yet. I normally navigate any conversation involving parents or daddies or families very carefully, but this one just caught me off guard before I could choose my words better. He looked right at me and said ‘But we don’t have a daddy. Well…we just have the daddy on Skype.’ And then I saw the familiar flashes on his face which I have come to understand very well by now. He looks to me with what starts out to be a look of hope, as if I will have some words for him that will make it not true. Then his eyes cast downward and I see the resignation wash over his face, mixed with pain.
I say ‘Hey sweet boy, I’m so sorry you feel sad about your daddy. You want to talk about it?’ He shakes his tiny head no. I quietly tell him I love him, and he smiles and says it back. But the smile fades quickly and he goes back to watching Grover with no expression on his sweet little face at all.
The disgust, repulsion, and fury hit my bloodstream as quickly as if I’d been stabbed with an epi pen of adrenaline directly into my heart. The sensation burns like acid. It causes my jaw to clench and my breathing to become erratic.
Inside of my heart and my head, I am screaming at Honey at the top of my lungs. On the outside, I am calm and motionless except for the hand of comfort I’ve put on his small shoulder.
I’ve mastered this skill. Chalk it up to one of those things you wish you never knew how to do. I could teach classes.
“Sucking It Down 101”, now with Valium! Master the art of smiling through agony! Fool your colleagues! Amaze your friends!
If you put this man in front of me in a moment like this, I make no promises about my shoe and his balls not colliding.
You don’t hurt children.
You don’t abandon children.
You don’t remove yourself from their life to seek selfish pleasure.
You don’t make them question whether they even have a daddy or not, because you moved so impossibly far away and you so desperately want to normalize Skype Daddy to them (and everyone else) that they live in an eternal state of confusion.
Skype Daddy doesn’t know any of this, and doesn’t want to.
That’s because Skype Daddy is a selfish pig.
Skype Daddy cares only about himself.
Skype Daddy asks what you’ve been up to, Little Buddy. And when you tell him that you went to a hockey game with your uncle, instead of feeling the crushing weight of your abject failure as a father, you cheerily tell him how fun that sounds and what a special memory that will make.
Skype Daddy is an oblivious animal and an awful human being dressed up in nice human being skin.
Skype Daddy is a person who makes BAD choices and has BAD character. Skype Daddy cannot be relied upon or trusted. Avoid Skype Daddy at all costs. Create personal boundaries to protect yourself against people like Skype Daddy.
What’s that? We have no choice? We have to deal with Skype Daddy for 15 more years?? Excuse me while I find something blunt to impale myself on.
How do you raise your family out of the ashes of destruction when the arsonist saunters up every week on a video chat like he didn’t just burn your friggin’ house down?
What fire? What destruction? The kids aren’t on fire. I can see all their limbs. They are standing upright. They’re even breathing in and out. That must mean they’re fine, Wife…
Oblivious. Clueless. Obtuse and egregious ass-hattery, my good sir.
I had a reader put this exact conundrum into words in a comment recently that I couldn’t have put any better myself.
Spouses who cheat are not good parents. There is hard research that backs up the need for two engaged, committed, and sacrificing parents being role models for relationships based on love, trust, respect, empathy and commitment …none of which are emulated by the cheating/lying spouse.
For the men and women who find that cheating/lying is more important than the commitment they made to their spouse – and by extension, to their children – they are kidding themselves. The technical term would be “denial”. They are in complete denial if they think that it has no effect on their children.
The effects may not be immediate and they may not be visible from the outside, but they are there and they are very real. Yes, children will survive…but survival is a pretty low bar to set when it comes to raising children.
And when the cheating/lying spouse talks about “the best interest of the children” – what a load of CRAP!!!!!!!!
I returned the pink plastic nonsense and got your daughter some rain boots, Honey. Now she can jump in mudpuddles in the yard all day, which I bet you didn’t know is her absolute favorite thing to do on earth.
Skype Daddy, you SUCK.