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Tough Question

Old 01-16-2012, 09:57 AM
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Tough Question

I have been away from my XAH for over a year now. He was living with another woman and her kids, long story in between, now he is basically homeless. He is being sentenced on February 7th for jail time stemming from a DUI and numerous bail jumps relating to a no contact order with this other woman. He will be going to jail for 6 months.

I am struggling whether or not to tell our 8 year old where her dad is going to be for those 6 months. My mind tells me that yes, she needs to know. My heart tells me no, as she us uber sensitive and I think it would break her heart. Please keep in mind, in NO WAY am I trying to protect HIM if I don't tell her......it would be about protecting her. She is such a sweet girl, and remarkably well adjusted, smart, etc. But extremely sensitive.

Any input?
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Old 01-16-2012, 10:11 AM
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How much contact do they have now? Is this 6mos going to be a big change for her or just the status quo?
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Old 01-16-2012, 10:16 AM
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This IS a tough question. As a mother myself I feel for you deeply. I also grew up with an addict for a father. There was a period of time, pretty sure this happened when I was in 4th or 5th grade, when my dad had a horrible relapse. Apparently he left for 8 months! I have always known there was a short time that my dad was gone because he had been using. It was only a couple months ago that my mom and I were talking about it all that I found out he was really gone for 8 months! I don't know why I cannot remember him being gone for so long. I do vaguely remember asking my mom a few times where he was. I do not remember her exact answer but she did not provide me the details I do know that. I want to say she just said that he had to be away for a while.

Has your daughter asked you already where her father is? I can by no means tell you what you should do. But, if my son or daughter hadn't asked yet then I probably wouldn't go out of my way to up and tell them. But if they did ask I am not sure as to how much detail I would provide but you have to say something. One thing I think is important is not to bash her father to her. If you decide to get into the details of why he is gone, then leave it as just that. He made a mistake just like any human in this world and he is now going to serve the consequences. Do not make it about him being a bad person, irresponsible, or that he just doesn't love his family enough. All of the hurt and anger you may feel toward him is valid, but an 8 year old is only impressionable.

I am so sorry what you are going through. I hope I was at least able to help you find some sort of direction. There probably is not a right or wrong thing to do here in this situation. But you do have a choice about HOW you go about it.

God Bless! Remember, one day at a time!happyface
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Old 01-16-2012, 10:32 AM
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Thank you for responding so quickly.

They currently see their dad a couple of times per month. He lives about an hour away by car, so they see him when I am able to take them there. I don't leave them alone with him, he has no home,no car, etc. I never bash him to our daughters. They love him and hold him in pretty high regard. However, he has hit what I believe most would think is rock bottom, yet he continues to drink and blame his problems on everyone else. Part of the no contact with the other woman stemmed from him leaving bruises on her 3 year old son, which he blamed on the 3 year old. I just don't have the time or patience for him anymore, and like I said, will only take them to see him when I can drive them and stay with them. It usually involves going out to lunch or something, then driving home. We usually pick him up at a neutral location, like a library or starbucks or something. They don't know that he is homeless.
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Old 01-16-2012, 10:50 AM
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Oh my. I'm leaning towards giving her some information. There relationship is so precarious because he is dangerous and out of control. I think small amounts of information starting now will better prepare her for the reality of her relationship with him in the long run. She isn't going to go spend the weekend with him. As she grows her expectations of a father will change (and at this point he isn't going to meet them) and giving her some information now will hopefully help her understand that this is about him, not her.

My experience is that my kids thought their dad hung the moon and he vanished into alcohol and then vanished for real and they were not prepared for that. Not that a child ever can be but it all happened quite fast for them and that was hard as they see/saw it as a problem with me and then themselves -- not with him. I am trying very hard to make sure they know this is not about them.
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Old 01-16-2012, 10:51 AM
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jillg..in hindsight, do you think you would have wanted to know about your father? where he was? As an ACOA I definitely value what you have to say about it....you were close to the same age that my oldest is now.

My 2nd is 3-she doesn't ask about dad, so I am not as concerned about telling her or not.
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Old 01-16-2012, 10:53 AM
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As she grows her expectations of a father will change (and at this point he isn't going to meet them) and giving her some information now will hopefully help her understand that this is about him, not her.

wow, that got me. I hadn't quite thought about it that way.

This just plain sucks. These girls did nothing to deserve this!
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Old 01-16-2012, 11:10 AM
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Just want to throw in my 2 cents from a different perspective.

I volunteered with an elementary school in the worst part of St. Louis for 3 years, I worked with a group of kids from kindergarten through 3rd grade. Almost all of them had parents who were alcohol or drug addicted, gang affiliated, and frequently in jail.

They saw jail as just another thing in their lives, it was like dad was at work, only it was dad is in jail.

I share this with you because I wanted you to know they have the capacity to process this information and deal with it in a ratiional manner.

My vote would be don't hold back, if you hold back and someone else drops this bomb on her she could have serious trust issues with you, which would be the worst thing in the world for her right now.

Also as the child of a serious alcoholic I wish someone had explained to me what was going on all the time, I blamed myself for my parents fights because they always yelled at or beat the crap out of me, my mom and dad had no prolem telling me what a stupid piece of sh*t I was.

I wish my dad would have said, you mom has a problem with alcohol, she gets mean, it's not your fault she is that way, she does it to everyone.

I am now 49 and still dealing with the pain that they poured down on me, you want to protect your kids, that is wonderful and instinctual, but your kids are smart, they will know something is going on, they will ask questions, please don't shade the truth, or evade their questions, be forthright with them, you will never regret it.

Best of luck to you,

Bill
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Old 01-16-2012, 11:17 AM
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Originally Posted by MyBetterWorld View Post
jillg..in hindsight, do you think you would have wanted to know about your father? where he was? As an ACOA I definitely value what you have to say about it....you were close to the same age that my oldest is now.

My 2nd is 3-she doesn't ask about dad, so I am not as concerned about telling her or not.
My honest to god answer is NO. I am actually glad my mom didn't tell me everything that was going on at that point. I do remember a situation apart from this one when he had been gone a couple of weeks. When I was told what was going on it scared me so much, I was in elementary school at the time. I felt so insecure and unsafe. That is one thing I do remember. Also, of course it was painful because I obviously loved my father. When my dad did get sober my parents involved us in alateen and also some sort of counseling/ meetings with a moderator so to speak. We even went to some AA meetings with my dad, usually when he was taking a chip for his time in sobriety. It helped me to participate in these things because I started to understand the nature of the disease a bit better and I was able to realize I was not the cause of what was going on with him. My dad unfortunately lost his battle with addiction in 2008. It will be 4 years this April that he has been gone. Obviously we cannot hide the fact that our children's parents are addicts and alcoholics. As they age and are better to understand and handle their emotions we can provide a little more information as it is needed or as we as the functioning parent see fit.

My father and I were able to maintain what I like to call a "functioning" relationship until he passed on. I accepted that this was just the burden and or difficulty that he was going to face until the end. When he was doing well that was awesome! We were able to spend more time together and talk often. When he was not doing so well and active in his disease I just understood that that's how it was for the time and that he was powerless over drugs and alcohol. We still had contact during these times but it was much more limited; a few texts or phone calls usually with no physical contact. I really believe if I was given all of the information about my dad too soon in my life I wouldn't have had the relationship I did with him. My sisters knew way too much at such a young age and hated him for it. By the end they were no longer speaking to my dad, and never got a chance to say goodbye so to speak. I cant say for sure if they had only been told a little at a time depending on their age if their relationship or view of him would have been different. But a big part of me things it probably would have, it was for me at least.
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Old 01-16-2012, 11:22 AM
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Originally Posted by MyBetterWorld View Post
As she grows her expectations of a father will change (and at this point he isn't going to meet them) and giving her some information now will hopefully help her understand that this is about him, not her.

wow, that got me. I hadn't quite thought about it that way.

This just plain sucks. These girls did nothing to deserve this!
That is so true, children often do not deserve a lot of the things their parents go through. I also think giving little bits of information over time, similar to what I have said in my other posts is a good way to address the situation. Young kids do not need to know all of the horrible things that go along with addiction or alcohol abuse. However, we can't keep them totally in the dark. We just need to help our children understand that 1) they did not cause this and it is not their fault. 2) their parent does not choose this life because he does not love them, they are just not capable of loving while active in their disease. 3)Like any decision in life there are consequences, both negative and positive. The alcoholic/addict will have to deal with the consequences of their actions
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Old 01-16-2012, 11:40 AM
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They don't know he is homeless.

Where do they think he lives?
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Old 01-16-2012, 11:43 AM
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I agree with JillGorges87. If they ask, tell them but make it age appropriate. Just like when they ask where babies come from, we don't tell them a stork brings them. We tell them in terms they can understand and process, without frightening them.
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Old 01-16-2012, 12:18 PM
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Choublak-for a while he was going motel to motel....they haven't asked where he lives now. When I do take them to see him we pick him up places, starbucks, library, places like that.
Jill & Willy-thank you both. As I read Willy's I thought, yes, that's the way to go. Then as I read Jill's I though, yes, that's the way to go. I really appreciate you both sharing your experiences as children of alcoholic parents.
Like I said, both girls are well adjusted, its been over a year since their dad lived with us. I couldn't continue on that way, I didn't want them to see or experience that disfunction. I know that they already did to an extent, but it had to stop.
I know that they both trust me-I am doing everything I can to keep their lives happy and healthy.
I guess I have a lot to think about. I don't want them to think I am bashing him, I would never do that, but I think this information HAS to come from me. I think it would be best for them to know, but I know it will hurt them and I don't want that either.

Yuck.
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Old 01-16-2012, 01:03 PM
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A cycle of dishonesty with your children about their father has been created and perpetuated. With all due respect I think truth was in order from the very beginning. You never have to cover for the truth, you never have to remember the truth, and young children can handle the truth.

This is your opportunity to come clean and allow your children the dignity of seeing their world as it really is.

Please understand I know where you are coming from. My daughter was three when her mom began drinking uncontrollably. I lied to her a lot and in retrospect it was a big mistake. Please also understand I'm not attacking you or your prior decisions. You did what you thought was right at the time, and with your daughter's best interests at heart.

What I am saying is to apply what you know now, include the truth of today and of the past, and create a culture of truth as the norm for the remainder of your daughter's life. I strongly disagree with lying to children, at any age, about addictions in their parents or most anything else. I think, in the long run, it does more harm than good.

My two cents.

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Old 01-16-2012, 01:22 PM
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Originally Posted by MyBetterWorld View Post
Choublak-for a while he was going motel to motel....they haven't asked where he lives now. When I do take them to see him we pick him up places, starbucks, library, places like that.
Ah, okay. I was one of those children who asked questions about EVERYTHING. Had I been a young child in the situation you describe, I would have asked where he lived. I would have wanted to see his house. Some children are not of that nature. I was annoying! lol
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