Whilst E’s withholding money in November (I’ve yet to see what his plans are for December) has caused me personal anguish, the financial stress and worry I’ve felt has been nothing compared to the effect this has had on the children.
I’ve tried to not let them see how distressing I’ve found it personally, but, on a practical level, I have had to say ‘no’ several times, to things that they are used to buying or being able to get when they need (for example, we’ve long had a tradition of ‘Friday Night’ where I get them fizzy drinks, crisps and chocolate. That had to go straight away, as did all the treat items in the weekly shop). I might have been impressed with the fact that I could get all our essentials for around £60, but the kids were less than enthusiastic about the practical, unexciting, contents of the shop.
Whilst Oldest Daughter got a partial apology (I assume for the lack of contact and for the lack of financial help that he’d suggested he could give but had failed to come up with) in the form of a text on her birthday saying: “Hi. Happy birthday. I’m sorry things aren’t great and hope I can resolve them soon xxx” (my sister’s response to seeing a screenshot of this was epic – “I’d have told him to fucking go fuck his fucking resolving up his fucking arse” – this is why she’s the person I turn to for advice, she has a unique way of getting to the heart of the issue), the other three have had no contact with him at all, He’s continued to ignore Youngest Daughter and Youngest Son still hasn’t had a reply to his text saying he didn’t want to see him anymore.
What’s almost worse though is the fact that he hasn’t responded to Oldest Son’s text asking about the money. Oldest Son is the only one of the kids, who has remained steadfastly loyal to his Dad. Whilst the others have been quite open about their dislike for what he’s done (and increasingly for him as a person), Oldest Son has always tried to see things from both sides and not condemn his Dad. He and Youngest Daughter have argued bitterly several times when he’s tried to tell Youngest Daughter to stop ranting about his Dad, and she’s then accused him of taking E’s side against her. I eventually intervened in these fights and they’ve now reached a kind of wary truce where they both understand that they have a very different perspective about their Dad and they upset each other when they express those perspectives. They’ve agreed that they shouldn’t fall out because they feel so differently about their Dad and they’re trying to accept how the other one feels without being angry with them for it (it’s not perfect, there are still minor scuffles, but there haven’t been any major falling outs for months now). In fact, the other three are all now as kind as they can be about their Dad in front of Oldest Son, because they respect the fact that he’s trying to be fair to E and they don’t want to upset him.
Oldest Son has a very clear sense of right and wrong and of fairness. E’s actions have increasingly offended these, and yet he’s always tried to defend him. It’s funny, watching him, I’ve recognised a lot of my own behaviour around E over the years – the constantly trying to put him in a good light with other people, or make excuses for this thoughtlessness or bad manners. Every time something has happened, Oldest Son has thought of a reason why it might not be his dad’s fault – for example this time he’s convinced himself that E hasn’t responded to him (or the others) because he’s changed his phone number. (I haven’t mentioned that he hasn’t – and that he texted Oldest Daughter from the usual number, because I just can’t bring myself to shatter another illusion and hurt my son even more).
In addition to not responding to, or sending, any texts, E seems to have completely dropped off the radar with visiting the boys (or Boy, as Youngest Son is having none of it). I know he’s probably working (the ACCA have a December exam session and E always did work weekend days in November), but he hasn’t contacted them to say this, or to say when he will see them. He hasn’t seen them for the whole of November (which is good really, as Youngest Daughter is getting increasingly feisty and scarily creative in her plans to confront him face-to-face about why he hasn’t paid any money), and we have no idea if he intends on seeing Oldest Son in December.
As E’s silence towards all of us continues, it’s beginning to feel like the last tenuous strands of belief that I had him are falling to pieces in my hands. I’ve spent so much of the last two years assuring the kids that no matter how he feels about me, E loves them. This month has made me realise that I was trying to convince myself as much as I was trying to convince them. As he fades more and more into the background of the children’s lives and as he increasingly avoids his responsibility for his own children, I’m being forced to confront the fact that E probably isn’t even the father that I thought he was. I used to read stories of absent dads with sadness, but never once imagined that E would ever become one. I was always certain that whatever happened with us, that he loved our children as much as I did. It was one of the things that I thought bound us together. Clearly, like everything else I believed about E this was wrong – I’m sure he loves the children in his own way, but he doesn’t love them enough, if he did he wouldn’t be doing this to them.
Anyway, December beckons. I’m still hoping that the scary debt-fest that’s been November was his way of making a point and that things will go back to normal, and that now he’s proved how dependent we are upon him, he’ll do the decent thing. I know his past behaviour doesn’t support this hope and I’m probably stupid to have any faith in him at all, and maybe I’ve watched too many Hallmark movies, but December is a time for Christmas miracles, so you never know.