Did anyone catch Jennifer Ball’s moving essay on HuffPo, “This Is What You’ve Missed”? It’s a recitation of the small and significant moments that her ex-husband has missed out on when he abandoned their four children for his mistress. Marrying her, having another child, and then having nothing to do with his original family ever again.
It’s heartbreaking. The missed graduation ceremonies, the teenage hijinks, the inside jokes, the love of the family dog, holidays — and the not-so-fun parts, the teenage drama, the parent-teacher conferences, sicknesses, the unending single parenting chores performed alone.
At the end of the essay she writes:
When you left us, I was so sad. And after I was done being sad I got mad. And when the anger left me, I decided to drink in everything you walked away from. Everything you decided wasn’t worth hanging around for, I embraced it, loved it… I hung around for it.
Thank God she doesn’t see the world through the lens of her cheater. I’m unworthy. My children are unlovable. There must be something terribly flawed about us that he left us and started his sparkly, new family with someone better.
No, she frames it perfectly. Those things you didn’t consider “worth hanging around for, I embraced.”
Not, “I got stuck with,” or “making the best of it without you, wish you were here.” No, Ball sees their WORTH. Cheater? You are the IDIOT. You are the one missing out. I accept you have a new life, but I cannot understand why you cannot integrate your old life — your children — with your new life. (I’m guessing the insecurity of the wifetress has something to do with that.)
Thank God Ball is there every day embracing the life he left behind and not just going through the motions (and who could blame her? One teenager exhausts me, I cannot imagine four). Because what better fortress could she build to defend her children from internalizing their father’s rejection? I am here. I’m glad to be here. I enjoy your company. I want to be here. Even when you’re being a horrible teenager and you reject me and condescend to me — I am here.
I don’t understand men like that “father.” There are so many good men, like the man I married, like men on this blog, who unfairly lost so much time with their children because of divorce. They miss their kids. They step up financially. They parent, making the most of the time they do have. They treasure their children — and divorce is just a fact of life. It’s not an obstacle to their love. Their love is constant. It’s not dependent on their marital status, or if they live across the country, or build a new life. They love their kids.
And then there are the other kinds of men — and women — who abandon. Look, if they could cheat and have such shallow affections for you, why not their own kids? Idiots who can’t cope with the most basic parenting tasks. (You apparently were just born with it.)
My son was supposed to visit his father this summer, and the guy canceled less than 24 hours to say “It’s not a good time.”
Hey, the stars are not in alignment, it’s Not A Good Time.
And guess what? It’s still not a good time, apparently. And over the years when he missed the violin concert, and the stomach flu, and the fractured arm, and the honor roll announcements — those were all Not Good Times as well.
It’s easier without him, really. Except every day I worry that my son internalizes his father’s rejection. I worry that he’ll become a chump. That he’ll set his value low so it’s not too much trouble to love him.
I worry for Ball’s children. Will their father show up at their weddings like nothing happened? Will he need a favor off them in his old age? Will he continue to pretend like they never existed?
Is it enough to be the one sane parent? Yes. We’re the lucky ones. We may not get to share every moment with our children, but we treasure them. We model constancy and stability. Our love is mighty. And what is love stacked against idiocy? Love has to triumph.