Trying to get to know my son.

Old 01-16-2010, 01:18 PM
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Trying to get to know my son.

My drug and alcohol use caused me to be seperated from my son from when he was about 3 years old until recently. He is almost 9 now. I had phone contact with him and visited several times a year, from a few days to a week, but that has been about it.

Recently I moved closer to him and have been able to visit more often. It's still only a few days a month, but better than it has been. My ex has been great in not putting me down in front of him, in fact she has probably made me look better in his eyes than I deserve. The problem I find now is that I just don't know him. I'm not around him from day to day. When we talk on the phone it is awkward and forced. I don't really know what to say to him. When they visit (he has a lot of anxiety issues, wonder where those came from, and hasn't felt comfortable staying with me on his own) he is very clingly to his mom. I don't think he really sees me as any kind of "father figure", and I suppose that is because I really am not.

I've only been clean for a relativly short period of time (about 8 months). I'm just really struggling with this right now. He's kinda my only reason to hang on. I know I need to be doing this for myself, and to a point I am, but thinking of him helps me hang on. I've tried to kill myself on more than one occasion and thinking of him and what it would do to him is somtimes all that keeps me hanging on.

I hate being this way. I just got off the phone with him, and it was another uncomfortable, awkward converstation. Somtimes I just feel like giving up. I know that is not the answer, but that is how I'm feeling right now. I guess I'll just keep pluggning away. I feel so alone. It's been over five years since I've had anyone "close to me" in my life and I really miss the feeling of having someone to lean on, and someone to lean on me. Well, that's where I'm at today...not a very happy place.
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Old 01-16-2010, 01:33 PM
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Tyler, I am so, so sorry that you are going through this. I can feel your pain.

I think it will take patience, which is probably what you don't want to hear. My suggestion is to try to find something that you can connect with. Does he have a favorite television show, or does he play baseball, play video games, whatever it is, try to find something in common that you can chat about. And, continue to talk to him and see him as often as possible. Can you email him too? Persistence will pay off, and of course sobriety will pay off.

Tyler, you're being very hard on yourself. You're blessed that your son's mother is a very good mother, and your son will come around and see that you're a good dad.
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Old 01-16-2010, 01:38 PM
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Take him to places you both would enjoy going, do things that you both would enjoy doing... He's 9? That should be easy... Movies, pizza, drive up to the mountains and go sledding or snowtubing, go fishing... something where the pleasure of doing it is the only goal.

What does he need from you? Not the other way around!!! When I compare my needs to those of my children, in terms of our relationship... mine are so much more complicated and I must watch that I don't encumber our interactions with them.... When I follow their lead... it's sublime, when they try to follow mine, well... it's awkward.

I admire your strength and determination in your recovery and in your efforts to re-define your relationships with those you love. You will find your way my friend.

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Old 01-16-2010, 01:38 PM
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I know nothing about kids...I don't think I ever was one
But I know you're a good guy - a damn good guy - and the truth always outs like that.

I'm pretty sure you don't want to hear it either, but patience is probably the key here...I think your son probably needs time, not only to love you, but to know and trust you too.

It'll take what it takes - but it'll be so worth it
Lean on us!

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Old 01-16-2010, 01:46 PM
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You may both feel uncomfortable but that just shows neither of you are indifferent. Remember (if you can) having a crush on someone when you were young and how uncomfortable it was for both -certainly didn't mean you should give up.
Just hang on in there and don't forget just being there is often enough, you don't have to talk all the time.
I would suggest playing a game together is a good idea -you don't have to talk but you're both doing something together (either a sporty game like football or a board game like snakes and ladders!)
Good luck Tyler, and glad to see you posting again!
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Old 01-16-2010, 01:50 PM
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I agree with Anna in that the key is to find out everything you can about him.
His favorite sport.
His favorite TV show.
His friends names.
His favorite foods.
His favorite video games. etc, etc, etc.

Get your ex to help you with this and make a list and write it down if need be. Learn to play the games he likes and watch the shows he likes so you can talk about that when you call.
It may be still awkward at first but after a while you will be into the same things as he is and you will be conversing with him on a different level.
Be patient and give it time.
I am sure your ex will help. It sounds like she wants you to have a good relationship with your son and for that you are lucky.
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Old 01-16-2010, 01:54 PM
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Tyler, my kids were nine and twelve when I got sober. Even though they were living with me at the time, I realized I didn't know them. I had been so consumed by my addiction, any interaction with them had been superficial at best -- and for a long time.

My daughter turned nine while I was in detox. After 28 days in rehab, I came home to them -- alone. It was very awkward in a lot of respects, frustrating and sometimes infuriating in others. I did my best to engage them, and as Ann said, tried to practice patience. They came around and so did I. It got easier, but not overnight, and not in a month, or in eight months.

I've been sober awhile longer and I'm remarried. Long story, but my daughter's biological father isn't much involved in her life. It's a lot like what you described prior to getting sober, without the visits. She knows he's sick (just as she knows it's his responsibility to do something about it -- not an indictment, just something she has come around to on her own). Over the past six years, she's developed a good relationship with her step-father, and now, in a strange turn of events, she spends more time with him now than with me. He has taken responsibility for her day-to-day care during the week (making and having dinner with her, being involved in her sports) while I go off to school & work. I call every night, and here we are, with her at 16, back to those awkward phone calls. I've determined that it isn't really a reflection of our relationship (which is close and good) but of her dislike for telephones and "spot-check" phone calls. We do much better face to face.

Suggestions: Have patience. Cultivate your listening skills. Realize that these parent-child relationships go through ups and downs under the best of circumstances.

Peace & Love,
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Old 01-16-2010, 02:22 PM
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tyler....ive been there and i know how difficult it is.......for you and your son.
because of my life style i didn't have contact with my daughter...
from the age of 6 till 13.

i remember the awkward calls when we first reconnect...
i remember when i met her for the first time in 7 years.....i expect my little girl and there sitting in the back of a car was someone i didn't know.
13 year old girl that looked like me......but if I'm honest i just didn't feel anything..........over those years that bond was broken.

imagine how she felt..........this strange sick looking that my daddy?

and so the story began of rebuilding a relationship again..........getting to know each other.........and my girl starting to trust that i wasn't gonna disappear again........jeez it breaks my heart just thinking about it. wasn't took time and more time.
patience lots of patience......we both went to counseling together.
my amends to my daughter took years....

today i have a wonderful relationship with a young women.
we talked every day on the phone...she lives in a different town with her boyfriend.
all she says is she is grateful to god for making dad predictable...

keep at it will take time but you can rebuild that relationship.
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Old 01-16-2010, 02:35 PM
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Thanks guys!! I appreciate it. You're the best!!
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Old 01-16-2010, 02:45 PM
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I can relate to this from your sons point of view. I didn't have much contact with my father after my parents were divorced, I was also 9 years old. I've had the awkward phone conversations and the feeling of a huge distance between us.

You just got to keep plugging away mate, keep putting in the time and effort to get to know him. Speak to his mother and get some feed back about him, his likes and dislikes etc, also let him see that you and his mother get on ok. Maybe go around to their place for coffee for a while, let him get used to you being around whilst he still has the comfort of having him mother there too. It's a real bonus that she doesn't put you down to him or you could have been pushing sh*t up hill for a long time to rectify that!

It takes time, and it needs to be that way. You got to build this thing from the ground up, but if you keep at it, you'll start to see the changes in him. Remember he needs to get to know you as well. Be the Dad you want him to have, show him you're a great guy who he can depend on. It'll come together over time, but don't forget to enjoy the journey of learning about each other, that's where the real bond is built.

All the best.
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Old 01-16-2010, 03:03 PM
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Maybe I can offer a kids persepective on this. I didn't "meet" my father until I was 7 years old. It was weird seeing and speaking to him. We didn't know each other at all and had no idea what our relationship was supposed to be like. But I was very happy to have my Dad in mylife. It was always something I was missing. Remember you are the adult and it is your job to try and find things you can do together but beleive me just the fact that you are around now means the world to your little boy. My Dad began sending me cards in the mail for every little holiday and sometimes just "thinking of you" cards in between. That made me feel connected to him just cuz it showed he was thinking of me. If you could do that Im sure your son will appreciate it. Just a card that costs a buck and a stamp to mail it would be good.

My story ended with father actually committing suicide about 3 years after we met. He had problems and addictions as well. I can say that was the most hurtful thing ever cuz I felt I was cheated out of a relationship with him, as awkward as things may have been when he was alive. Please get that thought out of your head bacause it is a very selfish thing to do and absolutly would have a negative impact on him.
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Old 01-16-2010, 03:27 PM
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Hi Tyler

My son is 7, so a couple of years younger but I care for him all the time on my own. He occassionally stays with his Dad. Now I like to speak to him on the phone each day when he is there but those phone calls are awkward and uncomfortable. Sometimes that is just how kids are. Particuarly boys.

Perhaps you are being a bit hard on yourself here and reading too much into this.

My advice would be don't force him into having conversations when he is not interested and certainly don't force the conversation if you are seeking his approval/acceptance (be honest with yourself here)

Concentrate on being a constant in his life. Phone him every day at an agreed time and just say Hi. Thinking of you. Phone you tomorrow. Love you. Have the conversation he wants/needs rather than the one you want/need.

If you keep doing this you he will become to rely on you and know he can trust on you. You can build on this in small steps when you get to see him. Don't overwhelm him. Just prove to him by your actions that you are there for him, always, nothing more. You don't have to be superdad taking him everywhere.

When I ask my son about his day after school he tells me to be quiet or that he doesn't want to talk. That's all it is - he just doesn't want to talk. It's got nothing to do with me. I just leave him and then he comes to me when he is ready. By bedtime, I can't shut him up

Anxieties are tough to deal with, my boy has had a lot. Try not to read too much into them - in that it is all your fault for screwing up your life etc etc. Just take small steps to reassure him.

Overall I think the more you can just be constant in his life the closer he will get to you. Just do make sure that you don't let him down and make promises you can't keep, as that will undermine the trust and reliability you are trying to build.

It sounds like he has a great Mum there too. You're lucky as it doesn't always work out like this when the relationship breaks up/partner lets partner down.

Kids are very resiliant and as they grow they do forget. In a few years time his overriding memories of you will be the sober/clean Dad you are now and the past will be forgotten.

Take care.
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Old 01-16-2010, 05:49 PM
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Originally Posted by DecBaby View Post
My story ended with father actually committing suicide about 3 years after we met. He had problems and addictions as well. I can say that was the most hurtful thing ever cuz I felt I was cheated out of a relationship with him, as awkward as things may have been when he was alive. Please get that thought out of your head bacause it is a very selfish thing to do and absolutly would have a negative impact on him.
I'm sorry that happened to you. I never want to put my son through that. He was only 2 when it happened. I wasn't at the house, but his mother called 911 and he heard the conversation. She didn't want him to hear it, but it happened. He was a bit confused, but he told his mommy that he knew what was going on. She was a bit concerned. He said, "Daddy fell into a hole." She said, "yes, that's what happened, but he'll be OK."

I don't know if he remembers this or not, knowing him, he probably does. We've never talked about it. I don't ever want to put him in that position again. Thanks again for all your support.
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Old 01-17-2010, 02:29 AM
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Hi there Tyler
I have 2 perspectives on this
In my professional role I deal with issues like this. The advice given is you have to work at rebuilding relationship
The bond(read up on attachment theory) has been severed at a crucial stage in your sons development. He will have developed a coping mechanism to cope with this and avoid further hurt or rejection. This means kids will often reject or appear distant with the "absent" parent. He will underneath be scared. Try to take it slowly and gently. The doing activities together is good .....but do not try too hard as a 9 yr old will see through this, also they can associate time with you as "getting treats".... which apart from anything else will undermine things at home with mum.
Its complex, but the basics .... keep the communiciation , as the adult you do all the running, the contact MUST be consistent as if you let him down, cancel visit, or do not call then he will view it as a rejection.

Many 9 yr olds are rubbish on the phone and do not respond to questions like "what did you do at school" with anything other than "not much" so the akward communiction is partly just normal kids stuff
But do not underestimate your role in this childs life. ALL research shows that kids from broken homes do better in life, if they have maintained a relationship with the non custodial parent. You can make a difference.

My other perspective is personal. I never knew my father. My mother lied about his identity. This worked away on me all my life. In my 30s i traced him. My this point he was an alcoholic vagrant living on the streets. He had other children who he had also "lost" whilst in and out of jail, the guilt had destroyed him. He did apologise to me which meant something.
I had my "ideas" about what my dad would be like. The reality could not have been more different.
Even though it broke my heart I do not regret tryin to get to know him. Once we got him a hostel place he wrote me many letters and filled in a few gaps, unfortuantely he clearly had severe mental health problems and most of the letters were paranoid and incoherent.
If my dad had made any effort to contact me in my childhood or any attempt to form a relationship of any kind, it would have made a difference to me as a person.
One of the routes of my self hate is the rejection by my father and latterly in life my mother, who hates me.
So please, please maintain CONSISTENT contact with your child, it will be tough at time but do not give up on him
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Old 01-17-2010, 04:09 AM
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Hey Tyler,

Listen to what the others are saying... keep calling.. keep trying. I'm not a counselor or mental health professional but I do work with emotionally troubled kids (I teach). One of the big events in the life of many of these kids is when dad or mom comes back. He might seem reluctant or hesitant talking to you right now, but my guess is that inside he's beaming.

Many is the time I've sat with a kid who proudly boasts, "I'm seeing my dad this weekend!" It's a big thing for him - but he can't tell you yet. Keep doing the right thing - you are giving a gift beyond measure - to your son and yourself!

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Old 01-17-2010, 04:43 AM
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It's hard to make conversation with children. I agree that some sort of activity would make it easier. If you went to a movie then had ice cream after you'd be able to talk about the movie while eating your ice cream. If you played miniature golf you could talk about the game you were playing.

Also, if you can get him to open up about anything, really listen and you can later bring up the people and subjects he discussed. You'll build a history with him. In time, he'll get used to you being an important part of his life and things will become a lot easier between the two of you.

IMO, you're doing fine. Despite your uncomfortable feelings, you're putting your son first and showing up for him.
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Old 01-17-2010, 06:52 AM
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Man, Tyler. I so applaud you for wanting to continue to find a relationship with your son. Many people now, just don't...and that's when kids can suffer.

FWIW, it can be hard for kids to talk to any parent/ don't worry about that. I do agree with just doing something fun, but don't expect a darn thing. Nothing, just go.

And then, let HIM lead it. When he's ready, he will. Could take a long time, doesn't matter though, because this really is about your boy and what he needs. If he needs time, give it to him.

As you know...the very most important thing you can do for your boy, is to remain sober. The rest WILL fall into place.
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Old 01-17-2010, 07:55 AM
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Recently one of my Grandsons age 32 said.....
"What happened when I was little? I don't remember"

Me-"You ate ..slept..went to school ...played ...were loved
You went to church .. Scouts... played sports and a clarinet.
What do you mean?"

GS...."Well yeah ...sure.... but I meant something really important"

Relax Tyler.... The best is yet to come.
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Old 01-17-2010, 08:08 AM
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Tyler I just wanted you to know how very, very happy I am for you. I remember when you questioned whether you would ever be allowed to know him at all. You make my heart sing today brother. You have come so far since I got here, and its just getting better.

Be patient, by kind, be loving. It will all work out.
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Old 01-17-2010, 08:24 AM
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Thanks so much for all the wonderful replies, they have really helped.

We live about 100 miles appart, and I work retail (which means weekends), so we don't get as much face to fact time as I would like usually once or at best twice a month. Granted, this is much better than when I lived 1000 miles away and months would go by without seeing him. Once summer comes, and he's out of school, I can go down during the week and that will help.

When we are together, everything is pretty cool. We play Legos (his FAVORITE!!), go to the aquarium, the beach (in the summer), sometimes I'll take him out shopping to buy a toy or something, (He's the most incredible 9 year old with this. You give him a price range, say $10, and he will spend a half hour looking at thing, discarding anything that would be more than $10, even after tax!! If you tell him he can buy one thing, he never asks for a second one, though he points out things he finds interesting. That must be his mamma in him, becasue I know I wasn't like that as a kid!!!), go to a movie or watch a video. His mother says he practially bounces off the walls the morning I'm going to arrive.

It probably comes down to the word mentioned at least 8-10 times here...patience. I have no patience for that word!! I know it's how I need to be, and believe it or not, I have gotten better with it. Patience was one of the big reasons, (well excuses at least) that I smoked pot all the time. In my mind it made me into a "Zen master". Of course all it really did was numb me completely to everything in life. So now I feel, the good and the bad. I do feel much more "calm" now than I used to. Day to day things don't really get to me like they did, but I still struggle with the whole "life patience" thing. I understand it. It took me 20 years to screw up everything, it's certainly going to take more than a few months to "unscrew" it, and some things will never be completely unscrewed. That last part is the hardest to deal with. That and not knowing what is going to take time and what is lost forever....Guess I just have to have patience and it will all work itself out, right? Well, thanks again for all the suggestions and support. I've made some notes to refer when I'm feeling bad about the situation. Now I just have to remember to refer to them!! Take care.
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