The day my 17-year-old son passed his driver’s test (hurrah!), was the same day I learned his father took him off his health insurance back in April and failed to notify us. (I called. The policy was canceled for nonpayment.) In March, he stopped paying child support. Also in March he sold his house for $575,000 and moved out of state. In case you were wondering if he had an economic hardship or something, no, he’s just an asshole.
Presumably he moved in with his long-suffering girlfriend. (Or maybe she’s a wife by now?) We don’t know. My son hasn’t seen the man in over two years. He doesn’t call or write or send gifts at Christmas. He sends the occasional text. I don’t ask.
In March, perhaps feeling generous after his house sale, or flush from his non-payment of support, he purchased a 2015 calendar for my son and a t-shirt with a cartoon taco on it. The care package arrived and sat unopened for days. When I noticed it was gone, I asked my son about it.
“It was a calendar. It’s March, Mom,” said my son with the withering disdain that teenagers excel at.
I told him to thank his dad anyway.
In case you think I, Chump Lady, have this divorce shit all figured out, let me tell you that the sheer horror of breeding with a fucktard still takes my breath away.
I’ve been sued pro se. Endured custody trials when he owed me thousands in back support. The last big one five years ago, he got a lawyer with Tourettes who twitched every time he crossed examined me — who said I’m “peripatetic” and have “minions.” (Can’t. Make. This. Up.) I’ve paid for plane tickets for my son’s court-ordered visits, only to have his father cancel at the last minute. And, of course, I’ve watched my that idiot stand my kid up multiple times since he was 4 years old.
And still every act of abandonment rocks me.
Who does this? I read horror stories on this blog every day. You read them too, and you guys don’t even see my mail. I joke sometimes that I have Chump Lady poisoning. I know disordered people exist and I certainly know what they are capable of. But when it’s MY kid on the receiving end?
It makes me feel murderous. And it still hurts.
So, about that driver’s test. They don’t make it easy in Texas for teenagers to drive (or get on the voting registers). I had to prove my citizenship, my son’s citizenship, have utility records, school records, driver school certificate, 30 hours of driver’s training (in addition to the classroom time), and a parent log (time stamped!) of hours we spent driving with him (in addition to driving school).
And he flunked the test three times.
The first time, he wasn’t ready. Nerves. The second time, he failed to look both ways at a railroad crossing. Fail! The third time, he went through a yellow light. Fail!
We took a long break from driving. He practiced more. Matured. I got over my Department of Public Safety PTSD. (Hyper vigilance is one of the symptoms. Do I have my insurance card?! Birth certificate? Blood type?!)
My husband took him this time. Let him drive down the terrifying corridor of I-35 to New Braunfels. (Figured a change of venue might help.) My son was nervous, but prepared. My husband, the world’s chillest lawyer, was a reassuring presence. “You’ll be fine. You’re a good driver.”
He aced it!
I cried tears of relief and joy. No more schlepping the teenager! A rite of passage! A triumph!
And like a thousand large and small triumphs before it, his father missed out. Not because I’m some bitch who won’t let him see his kid (the sad sausage narrative I’m sure he tells), but because he simply does not give a shit. Not enough anyway. He cares about as much as a 3-month out of date, discount calendar.
My son deserves better, of course. He’s a great kid. See that sweet blonde child in that picture? Fuckwit missed out on THAT. Yep, even when he was young and adorable, and before he was 6’1″ and insufferably snarky, his father was standing him up. Oh, he made the visits some times, but 9 times out of 10 he was dumping my son off at a friend’s house.
The story my husband tells, is when we were dating, he met my ex. The ex had taken my son for a day at the railroad museum. We asked how they liked the train ride. He says, “Oh, we didn’t go. It cost $20.”
Who takes their child to a train museum and DOESN’T RIDE THE TRAIN?
This spring, I took my son to look at colleges in Pennsylvania. We went to the train museum. We bought a ticket for the goddamn train ride. The 100-year-old engine broke down. We sat on that train for an hour, full of screaming Thomas-the-Tank-Engine-obsessed preschoolers and weird old train geeks. He wanted to wait. We rode the goddamn train.
I feel like I’ve spent nearly 18 years trying to make it up to my son. I’m sorry your father sucks. I’m so sorry.
And yet — the paradox that anyone who has bred with a fucktard knows — if I hadn’t made that colossal error in judgement, I wouldn’t have my child. Who I love so much.
Look, don’t feel sorry for my son. He’s incredibly blessed. He has the most wonderful step-dad and he has my family. My family especially has given my son the financial gift of not needing his father for jack. College is covered. My son never has to go hat in hand to that freak for a thing. (In fact, the creep bummed money off my son for years. I knew my son was destined for a future in business when he started charging his father interest. He was 11.)
Still, I worry.
What if being a crappy father is in his DNA or something? What if he abandons his own children? I google articles on child abandonment and found this essay from a single mom, who quotes Dr. Leah Klungess when trying to make sense of why her boyfriend abandoned her while pregnant. Klungness explains:
“Such men are repeating, often not consciously, a pattern of life decisions familiar to them. For the same psychological reasons the likelihood suicide increases when a parent took his/her own life, the likelihood of parental abandonment increases when such abandonment is part of a man’s personal history.”
Oh GREAT. My son’s at risk for being the same kind of asshole his father is? Despite all my parenting to the contrary? This pattern is unconscious? And familiar?
I freak out until I realize that there is no Evil Fairy curse. No one pricks you in your cradle and dooms you to being a disordered jerk. The world abounds with examples of people who’ve risen above the challenge of crappy parents.
President Barack Obama was raised by a single mother. Heck, my mother-in-law, one of the sanest, nicest people you’d ever want to meet was abandoned by her father and spent some time in an orphanage while her mother worked. She had a 50-year career as a registered nurse and raised five incredible, over-achieving children (a rocket scientist, a PhD engineer, a lawyer, a CPA, and an English professor).
It gives me hope.
If you have had the misfortune of breeding with a fucktard, please have hope too. Keep being the sane parent. One day your kid is going to call you from the Department of Public Safety elated and say “Thanks Mom! Thanks for all the time you spent helping me.” And then he’s going to drive home up I-35 and some day out into the world, and be a kick ass adult. Because you raised him right.
And somewhere in a selfish little universe full of two-bit distractions, is the jerk who missed out.
Photo by Yoma Ullman.