Sunday, June 15, 2008

If you hate your father…

…or if you're just mad at him because he left, consider this:

It is possible, but unlikely your father spawned you with the intent to make your life miserable. Few people are deliberately evil (although there are some). Mostly, people are just trying to do what seems best at the time. Including him. Including you. Unfortunately most people, including him, including you, are basically selfish. Most will cop out, most of the time. Few will put up a fight they know they are going to lose anyway. Few people can take much humiliation. Few will put effort into something for which they receive no reward. Fewer still will do something for which they are punished. Trying and failing to defend your rights in court feels like punishment. Trying and failing to protect your rights in everyday life feels like punishment. For the ignorant, it looks like that too. Mostly people try to avoid punishment.

The modern world has little respect for fatherhood. (By hating your father, you are participating in this.) It is acceptable to ridicule fatherhood and manhood in public. It's almost a sport. It's not even politically correct, it's so ingrained it's almost invisible. That doesn't mean you can't see it. You just don't see it that way. You just don't think it will happen to you. When it does happen, victims' reactions differ. Your father saw it and probably thought it couldn't happen to him. He wanted to be proud of himself, just like you do. Maybe he decided that he didn't care what the world thought and behaved according to stereotype anyway. Maybe he struggled to avoid the stereotypes and had them forced on him, anyway. After all, if enough mud is slung, some will stick. To everyone.

Few will object to the derision of an absent father within the earshot of his children. Many will listen avidly while a mother complains, enjoying the scandal. This is not the same as sympathy for her plight. They’ll egg her on. Many will listen agog while you describe your father's sins, enjoying the soap opera, helping you raise the suds. This is not the same as helping you deal with it. They are enjoying your pain.

The world will not reward your father for trying to stay in your life. (If your mom doesn't want him to try, or if she enjoys tormenting him, most likely the world will try to hurt him.) There is no reward for paying child support, there is only punishment for not paying it. Punishing someone for not doing something that is expensive or difficult will drive them to seek escape from both the punishment and the cost. (Listen, putz, I give you a choice between two things that are bad for you, which one do you want?) For this reason alone divorce law is idiotic. Did your mother thank your father for what he did pay or do? Your mother is unlikely to be objective, even if she's still married to him. Have you ever shown any real gratitude for what good he did do, or do you just complain about the bad you think he did?

If you hate your father, are you sure it's not because it's more fun to be that way? (Is that really such a perverse idea?) Or that it isn't what the people who are still in your life want? How convenient is it to hate him? How inconvenient would be not to? How much have you invested in that hate? How much do you enjoy it? (It can be so much fun picking at a wound.) How embarrassing would it be to stop?

Tormenting an animal will cause it to attack you. Feed a dog and he'll be your pal, stroke a cat and maybe she'll purr. Dogs that bite get kicked out. Cats that scratch don't get fed. People are animals. Including him, including you. You do the math.

(This post was inspired by the answers to the Fark question on Fathers' Day: "What would you say to your father today if you could?". Don't read them unless you want to learn about all the myriad ways that a child can hate his or her father. There seem to be rather fewer ways to love him.)


Anonymous said...

Thanks, man, didn't get a call from my kids today and wasn't at my daughter's graduation on Wednesday but this helped.

Heather said...

Really don't want to hijack your comment section, but your posts always make me think about a lot of stuff in my life. My dad was an abusive drunk who cheated on my mom and worked when he felt like it, and then spent what money he had at the bar. We had a home and food on the table thanks to my MOM. Not all dads deserve love from their children, and it has nothing to do with anything but the way he treated us. However, despite everything he has done, I still have pity and human compassion for the man, and visit him, call him, and give him gifts on holidays. He's the only dad I've got. I try to use what I've learned and apply it to my own child and her relationship with her father. I have to say, any breach in their relationship is soley HIS fault and not mine, and I refuse to take responsibility for how he spends almost no time with her even though she is at his home every single weekend, as well as holidays and vacations, and pays no child support. I encourage her to have compassion and understanding for him, but the older she gets, the more she sees for herself his truly selfish nature. I have hope that because my father was worse than hers, and I don't hate mine, that she won't end up hating hers. But if she does, how can I blame her? He is doing this himself.

Anonymous said...

As a child of a divorce, this post hits home.

What you're saying is *very* true. I grew up listening to my (custodial) mother badmouth my father at any given opportunity to anyone who'd listen - her friends, her family, *his* family, even.

My mother still has things to say about my father, whenever the subject comes up. This is a man who has *never* missed a support payment in fourteen years - even when he was drawing unemployment. And she'll *still* run him down.

I can't hate him, although most children growing up in a home like mine will end up thinking their father is scum and that he's a deadbeat, if they aren't hearing both sides of the story.

Which *really* stings, because I'm just now trying to reach out to my father and I see the kind of man he really is, without my mother's badmouthing.

It's unfortunate that I'm almost nineteen and just coming into this - I missed so much.

Anonymous said...

It is really sad, we have a spendid blendid family of nine children. My step children are 23 and 24 and they truly just hate their father. Their mother has bad mouthed him for years and they believe everything that she says, however they don't seem to remember that he was the one who took them everywhere cause she wouldn't. They were separated for 4years before we got together and he gave them everything. Why is it so, we have tried for seven years to be part of their lives, not missing one birthday,christmas or any significant celebration, if we knew about them. Just recently we have given up, the daughter who is a police officer, told us where to go. I am a child of divorce too, and a horrendous one at that, drunken abusive father etc etc, but as i got older i still wanted to know him despite my mother bad mouthing him. I am so glad that i did find him and sort of got to know him as he has now passed on. I know that some fathers are just sperm donors as such but there is some that love their children desperately that is hurts. If anyone has any advise i would really appreciate it. They have brothers and sisters here that are so welcoming and full of love that it is such ashame they don't want to be part of it. It would be a magical day for their father if they were back in his life, he has already missed out on so much...hopefully one day, i just hope it is not too late...