Some of you might wonder why I put up with it. Why I stayed for so long. Now, after time to think and to reflect on the past, I wonder that, too. Part of it was that I felt obligated to stay while they worked through their issues. Part of me didn't feel it was right to leave someone who didn't seem to be able take care of themselves. And a big part of me held onto hope that things were going to get better.
They did. And didn't.
After a while, my kids gave up hope of having someone to be their Dad. Sure, this person gave them advice and was a good sounding board when there was trouble, but there was little emotional support. My kids thought that they weren't supposed to cause trouble in the household so they stayed quiet about how they felt. At some of these times I was working full-time and going to school full-time. At other points I was working two jobs and rarely got to see my kids, but I trusted that they were being well taken care of. At other points I was working from 4:30 am to 7-8:00pm. My kids thought that I had enough to deal with and didn't want to bother me.
Why am I bringing this up now? Because of the words that my daughter said to me on a quiet Monday evening. They cut me deeply because I knew that they were true. The joyful laughter that once filled their childhood had faded just as clearly as the colors in winter. The surety that they once had in the world around them turned into cynicism and anger. And I was there and did nothing about it.
Yes, my hours were crazy sometimes, but in reality, I should have noticed a lot sooner. And now I can only apologize for the loss of childhood innocence that they now feel. I could keep going with what I "should have" done, but it will do no good now. Instead, I will keep doing my best to let them know that I didn't mean for that to happen. And to let them know that I love them with all of my heart. And I hope that they will rise above this and be better people than the other adults in their lives.