My ex-husband read the blog I wrote about him being an increasingly absent father to our daughter. He asked that I take it down, so I have - I’m not looking for a war with a man I once thought was our home. He wasn’t always this way.
Some people have questioned why I aired such intimate laundry with the world. I wrote it out of desperation for a little girl who is beginning to show anger at her seemingly uncaring dad. I guess I pulled the fire alarm. I wrote it to give him a chance to rectify the situation before she refuses to visit him, and he loses her completely. I also wrote it out of respect for myself - I have carried all this worry alone too long, like a heavy bag of groceries that was starting to go bad. It hurt my heart, it’s hurting my back.
So I put it down, I wrote it down, I shouted it from the rooftops of blog land. But everything I wrote is something I have said, written, texted him, and I did so in every tone possible: gently, angrily, with hope and with disappointment, to no avail.
The message has not gotten through. He worries my blog hurt his public image even though his name is nowhere to be found. He refutes every thing I say, he argues against everything I know, and he feels pity for himself because he believes it’s impossible for him to be a better dad, despite making more than many of us combined, and living an hour’s flight away. He seems to believe that “feeling bad” about the situation somehow makes him a better parent. Like some seriously talented magician, he has somehow managed to make himself feel like the victim.
So I will ask for help from the men in my life, far away as they are: my brothers, my father, my friends. I will ask them to cheer my daughter on with me at her recitals, and to help me teach my daughter that men do not treat you like a hobby, do not make you feel small, do not make you feel that the only way you can be loved is if you behave like a perfect little doll all the time.
It’s a lot to ask.
(this is my dad, with A. when she was a tiny newborn)
That’s the paradox: the only time most people feel alive is when they’re suffering, when something overwhelms their ordinary, careful armour, and the naked child is flung out onto the world. That’s why the things that are worst to undergo are best to remember. But when that child gets buried away under their adaptive and protective shells—he becomes one of the walking dead, a monster.
So when you realise you’ve gone a few weeks and haven’t felt that awful struggle of your childish self—struggling to lift itself out of its inadequacy and incompetence—you’ll know you’ve gone some weeks without meeting new challenge, and without growing, and that you’ve gone some weeks towards losing touch with yourself.
The only calibration that counts is how much heart people invest, how much they ignore their fears of being hurt or caught out or humiliated. And the only thing people regret is that they didn’t live boldly enough, that they didn’t invest enough heart, didn’t love enough. Nothing else really counts at all.