A bit of fatherly advice
As I see the social media posts of friends celebrating their children’s various graduation achievements, I am filled with happiness for them. This year, my daughter will also graduate from high school. But I will not be celebrating it with her because she’s opted to cut me out of in her life. So for me, there will be no Facebook posts, pictures or memories of the event.
I’ve missed out on virtually every one of her high school experiences. I don’t know whether she attended her proms, football games or what activities she participated in during high school. I don’t know if her heart was broken by some guy or whether she found true love among the halls of her soon-to-be alma mater. In a couple of weeks that chapter of her life will close and with it will go all of our opportunities to share it together.
We missed it. All of it.
Three years ago, I made a bad decision and sent a text to my ex-wife about our daughter’s “extra-curricular” activities. The text had content in it that was less-than-complimentary about her behavior. Nevertheless, it was never intended for my daughter’s eyes and. My poor judgment was not within the content of the text – it needed to be said between parents because it required our collaborative attention. My mistake was putting my negative comments about my daughter in writing and giving them to someone who actively wanted to do me harm. I never thought my ex-wife would sink so low as to show it to my daughter. But I overestimated her rationality and underestimated her animosity. And that sealed my fate. You’d think I would have learned from Shakespeare’s Othello – my favorite tragedy.
Once my daughter read the text, she refused to talk to me and despite my requests to help rectify the matter, my ex-wife simply sat back and did nothing. Well, that is, if you consider plunging a knife into my back to be nothing. Well played, Iago.
But truth be told, that moment is not something I beat myself up over. I regret being dumb enough to trust my ex, but it was a valuable, and costly lesson learned. You can be sure I have not made that mistake since.
I have also learned to accept that the bitterness, anger and unwillingness of my daughter to move beyond the contents of a text message, never intended for her eyes, is not my doing. It is her perception of reality. I’ve apologized in writing several times for anything she may have read that hurt her feelings and reached out to let her know my door is always open. I cannot control how she feels or what she thinks. Trying to do so would only prove to be a futile waste of time.
So for what it’s worth, here’s that tidbit of fatherly advice to anyone out there holding on to anger, resentment or some other fear-based feeling that gets in the way of finding greater joy and peace:
Life is shorter than you can imagine. So find joy when you can and drop those things that create tension and conflict, for they just get in your way.
The important thing to remember is that the only person who really hurts you… is you. Your pain, anger, frustration, disappointment, whatever – is colored by your perception. I doubt anyone is holding a gun to your head, forcing you to be pissed off and hold a grudge. If there is such a person, please ignore my words of wisdom, remain in a state of anger and hold that grudge!
I am an expert at making life more complicated than it needs to be, so you can take this advice from an all-pro, hall-of-fame facilitator of his own agony: Let go of your anger.
I could live my life furious at my ex-wife for the current circumstance. Or I could beat myself up endlessly for writing that text. Or I could harbor some resentment at my daughter for not letting me into her life. And I could continue to drive myself mad with rage, like Othello himself. The truth is, for a while, I did all of the above.
In the end, such emotions serve no purpose but to limit my own ability to be happy. I can’t control what my ex or my daughter thinks about me. I know what the truth is. So that just leaves me to control how I feel about the situation and whether or not I want to let it ruin me. Which I don’t.
I now see the existence of my ex and the temporary absence of my daughter in my life as a valuable opportunity for me to grow and evolve how I react to such circumstances. In no uncertain terms, I am grateful to both for helping me work through this issue more positively.
Do I get this right all the time? Are you kidding? I’m constantly judging and rationalizing. I’m a flawed human. But I can tell you that on those instances when I do let go of the negative, I can transcend the anger or sadness I am holding onto and make my world infinitely better.
As for my ex and daughter, I hope someday they both benefit from their side of the experience. It would be sad if they didn’t.