How do you help a fatherless child?

Discussion in 'The Watercooler' started by lovemysons, Nov 5, 2008.

  1. lovemysons

    lovemysons Well-Known Member

    I'm asking this because I was one and because I suspect that my lil grandson Joey may grow up without much of a relationship with his young difficult child.

    What do you say? At what age? What do you do that makes you an emotionally "safe" person to trust with a child's innermost pains?

    If need be, I hope I can be "this person" for my grandson. I hope I will say the right thing at the right time.

    I'm thinking I will print this thread out once all have offered up suggestions.
    Thank you in advance!
  2. totoro

    totoro Mom? What's a GFG?

    you are already one step ahead of most, trying and planning on making things better.
    My Dad was in prison a lot of my baby years and then he was gone. Up until I was 13, then it was lots of drugs, so he was still gone.

    Looking back, My Mom's Mom. Grandma Nancy was so much a special person in my life. She made me feel safe. Sadly she died the same year as my Mom. From a brain tumor when I was 9.
    I still have such good memories of her though.

    If I had had a Grandma or person who was there. I think I would want them maybe to have a book of photos. Good ones, from when my Dad was a baby through my childhood on up. Even if I was not in them.
    Maybe a journal of what you saw and see about his Dad and the good things over the years. You can give it to him one day.
    I would have loved something like that for either my Mom or Dad.

    Just know that it is OK to not have a Father. It really is. My Dad did worse damage when he was around. It was better for him to be gone.
    Same with my Mom over time, she was emotionally vacant. She needed help also.
    I hope he sees that being with out his child would be such a loss. But you can make it all right.
    Just being there is so much.
    My family was honest with me about my Dad. I knew he was a heroin addict.
    They thought it would be better for all of us to not be caught up in his lifestyle.
    None of the answers were right, for a child. How could they be?
    The rest of the family will give this kid plenty of love and teach him he does not need to be angry, just because his Dad has some issues that keep him from being the Father that he needs to and wants to be.
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2008
  3. trinityroyal

    trinityroyal Well-Known Member

    Tammy, I agree with Toto
    You're doing all the right things...maintaining a good relationship with baby Joey and his mother, making them welcome and keeping the lines of communication open.

    My father is a sociopath. My mother has schizophrenia. My Grannie was my best friend, my mom and my saviour. She moved in with my parents when I was born, to make sure that I had a chance at a happy life. Sadly, she died when I was 12, but she set me on the right road and I am thankful every day for her.

    Tammy, being a loving grandma is all baby Joey needs from you. Don't try to replace or compensate for his father. Let him love his grammie, love him back and be there for him, just as you're already doing.

  4. Shari

    Shari IsItFridayYet?

    You know, when it became clear that both my difficult child's would grow up basically without their father, I spent a lot of time thinking about this.
    I looked at kids who grew up without dad's immediately present - what did they have that made it work? What did their families do that made it work? My ex-mother in law had the insight to ask me to include not just dad's lost in divorce, but dad's that were away for work, away in the military, even some who's dads had passed away.
    The biggest thing I saw that was different between those families and the ones where dad was just "gone" was that "dad" didn't equal "negative"; "dad" wasn't taboo in that family, he was talked about by everyone even tho he was not present, and it was his good qualities that were discussed.
    So when DEX packed his bags and walked away, I tried to approach it more like I would have if he'd passed away. We didn't take down family photos with him in them, I would bring up (and still do) and occassional positive thing I've heard about him thru the grapevine, just as I might a friend or co-worker, and I try to keep what interactions the boys do have with him (which are very minimal) in as positive a light from my perspective as possible.
    difficult child 2 is too little to ask much, but when difficult child 1 got older and asked, or talks about his dad now, I try to stick to telling him dad's sick, but he loves you the only way he knows how; he's doing the best he can; your job is to grow up and do the best you can, too, and hopefully, your best is better.
  5. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    I think the others have made some good points. Mostly just be THERE for your grandchild.

    I have a cousin who's mom died when she was a teen, but even before that her mom had lost her mind (cancerous tumors in her brain on top of a horrendously abusive and twisted childhood). I remember her mom before she got so sick, and have written a few cards to my cousin with those memories. Cousin doesn't reply, but I sent them through her dad, and know that they have meant a lot to her. She is a thankless person, my cousin, but is relieved to know her mom wasn't the awful train-wreck of a human she remembers. Because my cousin has few memories of her mom that AREN'T abusive. And that is sad.

    Remember the good times, show your grandson you love him and are there for him, and show him those photo albums you have!
  6. flutterbee

    flutterbee Guest

    My father did more damage being around.

    My daughter's father has made no attempt to contact her since she was 3. When she asks, I tell her that he loves her, but that he just doesn't know how to show it.

    I do bring up positives about him. I'll tell her things she does that are like him - how she flicks her toes, which she's done in infancy, is something her father always did. I tell her she gets her interest in cooking from him. Highlight the positives - however few there may be - to give her a sense of connection.

    It was harder when she was younger and wasn't able to understand why he didn't want to see her. It's still hard for her, but not as much. I've always repeated the same thing - that he loves her in his way, but that he just never learned how to show it. I don't speak ill of him in her presence.

    Having a strong family bond can make a lot of difference. My family is pretty dysfunctional and we don't communicate other than with my mom and my paternal grandmother - and on rare occasions, my father. I do believe that made it harder because she didn't have a strong male figure to compensate. My step-father had the opportunity to fill in that gap, but unfortunately he wasn't that interested in Wynter.
  7. Fran

    Fran Former desparate mom

    For my .02, if you think about what parents give their little children that is irreplaceable it is security, protection and a sense that someone bigger than them is there to protect them from the monsters in the world.

    I think the thing that makes a difference in a child's life when a parent is gone or dysfunctional is an adult who steps in to give them stability, sanity and protects them from the things that go bump in the night.

    Give this little guy a place to go,through out his life, that he will know there is sanity, stability and a connection. You can't step in and replace his parent completely. The best you can do is make the hurt or pain or fear a little less sharp and know that he has somewhere that will be his safe place and a person who is his safe person.
  8. mom_to_3

    mom_to_3 Active Member

    Tammy you're a good soul and I know you'll "just know" what to say and do to help your little grandson. Just keep him close to your heart and love him.
  9. Stella Johnson

    Stella Johnson Active Member

    It is a really tough situation for your poor grandson to have to be in. Poor little guy.

    I don't know that you really have to explain anything to him. He will grow up with his father coming in and out as he pleases most likely.

    For the time being until he starts school he will probably be ok with that because it will be all he has ever known. I'm glad to hear his mom is so good with him. At least he has one strong parent.

    It never really occurred to my difficult child that our single parent household was anything other than normal because that's the way it has been for as long as she could remember.

    When she started school she started noticing that the other kids had dads who were around all the time. Then she started asking questions. By 2nd grade she had made up this wonderful father in her mind. She would even tell her little friends how great he was and all the things he did with her.

    Having her grandparents (ex's parents) there for her all the time really helped. Her grandpa is more of a father figure than anyone else ever has been in her life. I think that has really filled the void.

    In the last few years ex now sees her on his supervised visits but he usually only ends up coming once every month or two instead of every other week like he is supposed to. She doesn't even get upset when he doesn't show because she knows she can't count on him.

    I have never bad mouthed him to her. I let her make her own conclusions. If he had come back and decided to be a decent father then great but he didn't. If she asks if he's coming over or if he's really going to buy her something he promised I just say "I don't know honey that's up to him". Then I'm not making him sound bad and I'm also not setting her up to be dissappointed either.

    As long as you play a strong role in his life while he is growing up I think you and husband will also help fill the void he might have had with not having your difficult child in his life. WIth the life your difficult child is living now it is probably best that he isn't in his life much at all. You don't want your grandson growing up around a drunken, jobless, jerk either.

    So, my answer is just be there for him. :D

  10. KTMom91

    KTMom91 Well-Known Member

    Something that helped Miss KT was being able to have a great relationship with her granddad (Useless Boy's father). She truly believed the sun rose and set on Granddad, he was the strongest, most wonderful man in the world, and his death almost four years ago was harder for her than her father being absent. That's really when she started trying so hard to reconnect with her father.

    I would be sure that there were positive male role models around, so Joey can see how men are supposed to behave. Your hubby can be great for him, maybe his mom's dad, if possible, and once he starts school, men teachers, coaches, pastors at church...all those people can build on that positive base you're beginning to build.
  11. Jena

    Jena New Member

    Good morning,

    I'm sorry i'm late to this. Yet everyone sharing their own experience has hopefully given you more insight into the situation.

    I also grew up without a dad, for the most part. The years he spent in my life he was very abusive and such as other's stated did more harm than good.

    My easy child does not know her bio dad at all. My ex is only Dad she has ever known. Yet I as the parent told her the truth from the time she was able to talk. I didn't want to sugarcoat as my Mom did to me and give me false hope or misconceptions. I told her straight out I also told her it's ok and we are a family.

    In regards to your situation there is only so much you can do as a grandparent, and there is one thing that will make the world of difference is just being there, supporting, loving, creating a safe environment in which the love is known. Which you are already doing a great job of. it's in my eyes up to the mom to decide how to handle the rest of it. My Mom at one point tried stepping on my toes years ago in regards to easy child and i was very upset. She was not just offering love, support, she was trying to place her thoughts on how the issue should be handled with out having decencey to consult me the parent first. I know you would not do that.

    My grandmother made all the difference for me. She was caring, warm and loving. She passed some 9 years ago now there isn't a week that i do not think of her and miss her terribly. she was always my safe zone, never judged just loved me for who i was.

  12. lovemysons

    lovemysons Well-Known Member

    Thank you ALL so much for your perspective on this subject matter.

    I am so glad that Joey is not able to ask me questions right now...because I am quite frankly, very angry and disappointed in my difficult child. I don't know how in the world, after quiet times along the way when I spoke of the absense of my own dad, the abandonment that I felt, the anger, the worthlessness, I don't know HOW I ended up raising a "manchild" that seems to take so little interest in fatherhood. I just don't get it and it really hurts me...for Joey's sake.
    My daughter in law is a real dear, such a sweety and the delight she gets out of Joey, the joy he brings to her, is apparent everytime I see them together. She has such a strong bond with her child...which is one reason why after she recently expressed to me how sorry she felt for Joey, and by the way, she SAID this in Front Of Him...which really bothered me too, cause even though he is just turning 1 yr old tomorrow, We never really know just How Much these lil babies are trying to understand and soak up from conversations they are exposed to...even though Joey can't talk yet, other than Mama (and M says he also calls one of her friends husband "dada") anyway, even though he can't talk yet, you wonder just how much he is trying to understand whats going on. I think babies are MUCh more capable than we sometimes give them credit for being.

    I know for that school age around 7 to 9 yrs old, I begin to question why I didn't have a the other kids. My mother was not very good at being emotionally supportive to me, at least not until I was around 13 or 14.
    One time...I was having a tantrum and she told me, "You are scarying me, you are acting Just Like YOUR DAD". Well, obviously this was the Absolute wrong input. I began to identify my worst attributes to him. Even today...I have suspected that my Bipolar issues, etc came "from his side".

    I can see by reading what you've shared with me, that it will be Very Important for me to try and remain neutral where young difficult child is concerned and put aside my angry feelings toward him for Joey's sake. It is also very important to me that Joey not see himself as unworthy of being loved well or as lacking something that others have going for them...I don't want him to identify negatively with his bio dad or feel sorry for himself, feeling less than, etc. These were problem areas for me growing up.

    It is true that Joey has Many MANY people on both sides of the family that will love him, spend time with him, and give him a sense of familial belonging. I know though...None of us will be able to "make up" for what his bio dad, difficult child, is not/cannot give him.
    My hope, my that Joey will believe and know that he is fully capable of becoming a great man someday regardless of his bio dad...that he will know that he is NOT lacking, not unworthy, that he is strong and able.

    Thank you too for sharing with me just how very important grandma's were in your own lives. I hope I will be an emotionally safe, stable, consistent person in Joey's life. I hope I will allow him to speak his mind without me trying to steer him, control the conversation, etc. I hope I will be a person that he can say Anything to me and it will be okay. And if Joey ever does need someone to help him make sense out of it all...and if he turns to me, I hope I will give him simple, loving suggestions/answers.

    I find it interesting that some of you say that the bio dad does love but just doesn't know how to show it. I came to the conclusion that my biodad does NOT know how to love nor show it. Mostly because so much of my childhood and young adult years I had spent thinking that I was unloveable. I finally came to the conclusion that he is just not capable of loving well, or loving me well.
    I am alittle conflicted about what "answer" is most honest/truthful.
    Is is that they do love, but don't know how to show it? Or...
    That they Don't know how to love anyone?
    Maybe it is best to say they do love...I don't know.
    For me, love is an action is what you do, how you show your kindness, your care.

    It is also very obvious to me that those of you raising your children without their bio dad's being involved much in their lives...that you LOVE your children very deeply and have also given great consideration to this fragile area of your child's emotions.
    For me, it was my deepest sorrow and conflict growing up...that is why it is so important to me that I do say, behave in the most emotionally supportive way for Joey in this situation.

    Thank you for the reminder too...that just Being there, letting him know his grandma loves him and cares...that they may be enough.

    I know this is a sensitive subject and can bring deep pain discussing.
    Thank you all again for sharing this part of your lives with me to help me get a healthier, better perspective.

    Your children are blessed to have you as their mommies.
    Hugs and love,
  13. Lothlorien

    Lothlorien Active Member Staff Member

    My dad wasn't around in the beginning. I saw him once a week and then he sat and chatted with the adults, instead of spending time with me. I resented it when I was older (about 5 or 6). I grew up with my Aunt. I think it was worse, for me, not having my mother around. Eventually, I moved in with Dad and he wasn't really there for me, emotionally, then, either. I grew up, got over it and am okay. I have a good relationship with my dad and stepmom, now. Wish it was better, but I can't complain.

    Your grandson still has loving family all around him. That says a lot. You asked what do you do that will make you an emotionally safe person for him....I can't answer that, but not being judgemental is definitely priority when dealing with someone's innermost thoughts and pains.

    My instinct is to tell you not to put the horse before the cart, but you know your son better than anyone. I hope that he can be encouraged to take part in his son's life. I know you've said your faith is a bit shaky right now, but don't be discouraged. Keep praying for your son that he will change his life around and turn the right path.
  14. Lothlorien

    Lothlorien Active Member Staff Member

    you sneaked in on my while I was typing!
  15. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    I understand wanting to "make it all better" but, from experience, I can tell you that I don't believe it is possible to do that. easy child/difficult child has had husband as his daily loving role model. At 2 he even asked husband if he could call him
    Daddy as he "was" his Daddy. (smart difficult child has had a more distant
    role model in husband because GFGmom kept him with her most of the time. He
    loves husband and knows that he is what a Dad is suppose to be.

    BUT......the fact is that neither of them have their own real Dad to love and they both have been hurt by that fact. is a fact.

    in my humble opinion the key to his future is in his Mom's choices. She sounds loving and devoted and dependable. If she is a wonderful Mom for him he will feel safe. With the supplemental love from you and your husband and her parents, he will get along fine. I hope she meets a caring man to share their life so they can "be a family" but if not...I'm sure he will still be fine.

    Just be your sweet self and he will benefit. Hugs. DDD
  16. Stella Johnson

    Stella Johnson Active Member

    In the case of difficult child's bio dad I think he has no clue what love is. He's very wrapped up in himself and always has been.
    He wants to play daddy when it makes him feel good. He shows up and brings a bunch of junk over for difficult child or takes her to buy junk. He never concerns himself with helping to pay for medication, doctor visits, school clothes, supplies.... because then that wouldn't be fun now would it?

    I think difficult child has accepted him for what he is. She knows she can't count on him. When she is hurt, upset, happy, or excited about anything it doesn't even cross her mind to call and talk to him. Last year she ran a race at school and won first prize. She was so excited she wanted to tell everyone. She called her grandparents, my sister, my mom. When I asked if she wanted to call her dad she shrugged her shoulders and said no.

    I think it will be easier on your grandson later in life if your difficult child is around just a little bit so that he can see what his father is. Kids that have no clue where their other parent is seem to get the "hero" fantasies about them. But if they are around they know who they are and what the look like and will usually learn to take them for what they are.

  17. Jena

    Jena New Member


    One more thing I wanted to add is that I introduced my easy child (daughter) to books describing "our' situation very early on. Mommy and Me books, not your typical mom, dad, kid books. That helped open the door to the further conversations.

    I also told her that she had "the good' of him. I did not want to portray him too badly because afterall she is genetically part of him. Yet i did express when the time is right no you do not have a daddy. Harsh harsh words I know yet the next words out of my mouth were but you have me and i'll always be here for you, grandma and pop pop with whom she was very close to both. That helped her incredibly. Plus, you don't know where your daughter in law's life will lead her in time.

    I came to remarry, divorced lol, yet I did remarry and to this day it's the only dad easy child has ever known or wants.

    your such a good person. as others said just keep being you.
  18. donna723

    donna723 Well-Known Member

    I've been thinking and thinking of how I was going to answer this. Our situation was a little different in that my kids' father was actually (physically, anyway) there until our son was 15 and our daughter was 20 - then he left us. He was there all those years and could have had a wonderful relationship with his son but chose not to. For his own reasons he always treated him differently - lavishing attention on our daughter but really using her and manipulating her, while treating our son terribly and trying to make him into the little servant boy! He's done some horrible hurtful things to him that he never would have done to our daughter. He even told me once that he always considered our daughter to be "his' child and our son to be "mine"! After the divorce, he made a show of visiting for a few months, then it got less and less, and finally he barely saw him at all. Christmas would come and his new stepkids got tons of gifts, his own son got nothing but promises. When he moved out of state his 'relationship' with his son became two phone calls a year - on his birthday and Christmas. Now there's not even that.

    Their father made things very difficult for me with our daughter when she was younger but I always had a special close bond with my son and I still do. I always felt like a single parent with him and he always knew that I was his only real parent, the one he could rely on, and it's still that way. I tried so hard to be everything he needed in a parent and I think I did pretty well. He grew up to be a wonderful young man that anyone would be proud to have as a son, a kind, loving, decent man who is nothing like his father. But I can't even imagine how much it must have hurt him to have a father around but to know that he didn't really want to have a relationship with him! It really tore at his self-esteem. Intellectually, he knew that he was a good, worthwhile person and that his father was a total loser. But he had to have wondered all those years how his own father could choose not to care about him, if there was some fault in him that made him unworthy or not good enough. And I didn't really know how to help him with that, how to make it up to him, or if I even could.

    It really wasn't until he was in his early twenties and age and maturity caught up with him, and he was finally able to see the situation from the viewpoint of an adult. It took all that time but now he finally sees his father for what he is and he now knows that it was no fault of his own. He's OK - his father is an :censored2:! His father is just incapable of really caring about anyone but himself and the lack of a relationship is his fathers loss, not his. He sees it now, but as a kid, it really, really hurt! Our daughter sees it clearly now too and she no longer has a relationship with him either. I don't know if he is even aware that there's a grandchild on the way - she hasn't told him.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that while you don't want to 'bad mouth' his father, you don't want to lie about it to the child either! Knowing that you have a father around and that he chooses not to be a part of your life HURTS a lot! You want to make sure that the child knows for sure that it's not his fault, that there's not something wrong with him that keeps his father at arms-length. You can't ever really make up for that hurt or make it go away entirely, but you can let them know how much you love them and do your best to reassure them that they're not at fault. Does any of that make sense? I hope so!
  19. lovemysons

    lovemysons Well-Known Member

    Hi donna, YES your post made very good sense. I am so sorry to hear of so much pain that your son's biodad caused him and at the same happy to hear that he has finally able to see things clearly and understand that he was not to blame. Hugs for you...and like so many mom's here that have replied...alot of soul searching and clearly a painful situation to go through with your child.

    Jennifer, I love the "mommy and me" book idea. I may have to look for something like that for M and Joey as time goes on. And you're right, who knows, M may one day marry that "family man" she so desperately craves and wishes were young difficult child.

    Steph, So sorry to hear of Sabrina's disapointments but it sounds like you have done a good job helping her accept what is and not to expect things from him that he can's/won't deliver. I think you're right that it helps to see and know alittle along the way so that they don't imagine some type of hero ideal...I know meeting my bio dad at 17 was VERY disappointing. I definitely wanted him to be more than he was.

    DDD, Just BE might sweet self huh, smile. You are a dear person. I hope you always know that. I just KNOW that you have been the "sunshine" in your grandson/son's life. I hope you always know what a blessing you are.

    Thank you lothlorien...Right now I can't seem to find the right words to encourage young difficult child. Right now, I feel more compelled to try and "guilt him" into behaving/doing the right things. I am just so angry and disappointed in him. But you are right, and in time maybe I will be able to appropriately encourage him.

    Today is Joey's is also M's birthday. He is his mom's lil gift, smile. I just sung them happy birthday over the phone. They are going to a book store to get some kids books then going to the park together and reading/playing.
    Tomorrow night will be "the party". I expect everyone to be there: Me, husband, Oldest difficult child, easy child, all of M's family...but young difficult child will likely be getting drunk somewhere, missing out.
    My hope is that through the years if young difficult child is absent that Joey may glance over and notice that his father is not looking, not there...but that he will go right back to living and playing and remembering that he is loved by many and his all of his needs met. I hope it will not be as "big of a deal" as it was for me and others growing up.

    Thank you again for sharing your story's with me and some of what you did that helped...thanks to you, I have more now that I can share with M too that may help her emotionally guide Joey in the right direction.

    Yall are the bestest!
    hugs and love,