Heart & Mind:  Parenting

WHY ME!!!!
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A FATHER


By Richard A. Shulman, Ph.D.

Just last night I said to my 5-year-old son, "Hey buddy we have to leave". Within seconds he started screaming at the top of his lungs, "No I don't want to go". Then he slammed down his Nintendo controller and started crying. 

I asked him, "What's wrong?" He turned away and refused to look at me. Then I asked him again. This time he looked at me with anger and fury, and proceeded to run off to his room. I was torn because I didn't know what to do. 

Being a concerned and loving father I followed him into his room, to find him tearing off his bed sheets, emptying his suitcase, and screaming at me to get out and leave him alone. 

This only worried and scared me more. I began to wonder if something had happened to him today that I didn't know about, or if I had said or done something that offended him. I asked him again, "Buddy what's wrong?" He tried pushing me out of his room and started saying mean things to me. He said that he hated me, that I'm the worst father that he has ever had, and that he wished that he could live with another family that loved him. I became so sad after hearing his words that I began to cry. Why is he saying those terrible things to me? I don't understand. I love him so much.

After I gathered my thoughts, stopped crying, and regained my composure I went back into his room and sat down on his bed. I then asked myself what should I do to help him calm down? After a few moments it came to me. I grabbed him tight and started practicing the relaxation and breathing exercises I learned from my parenting classes and individual counseling. While I was doing this I asked him to help me count to 10.

While he and I were counting to 10 and doing our deep breathing exercises, he slowly began to regain his composure. After he calmed down, I asked him "What just happened in there?" He responded with tearful, labored, and short breaths, "Why do I have to leave again? Why can't I stay the night? It's just not fair. I miss you and want to be with you all the time. Are you and mommy ever going to get back together, so that I can live with both of you again?" 

This took me by surprise, because I didn't know how to respond. What do I tell my son? All my skills from parenting classes and counseling tell me to be honest, upfront, and age appropriate. But how can I break his heart and tell him that that will never happen. I was speechless for the first time in my life. I can't be honest with him because he is just too young to know the truth, and I'm way too angry to discuss it.

When my ex-wife and I got married, I believed that it would be "until death do us part". I didn't get married just to get divorced. Nobody in my family ever got divorced, and I wasn't going to be the first. Sure my ex-wife and I got into fights; but doesn't every couple? Sure I worked long hours, but I was the sole breadwinner and I had to provide for the family. Sure I didn't help with the kids as much as I should have. But does all of my wrong doing give her permission to have an affair and end our marriage. I don't think so!!!! 

Now I'm torn between my child's pain and my anger and bitterness. And to make things worse, all of my family, friends, and parenting articles tell me that it's better for the children to have open lines of communication and to work things out with my ex. Well, you know what; I don't think so! How do I tell my ex-wife that she has destroyed my and our son's life by her infidelity? How do I tell her that I'll ignore her infidelity, just look the other way, and learn to get along? 

How am I supposed to be a good father to my son, be supportive of him, empathetic about his feelings, while at the same time, think about my wife having an affair with her co-worker. 

I know I'm angry, but I never signed up for this. 

I'm trying as hard as I can to be a supportive and loving father, but when my kid is crying and saying "Dad why can't I spend the night" and my ex-wife is telling me "No, because it's not your night." It hurts and saddens me. 

My therapist is working with me to vent and process all of my anger and sadness. I'm also trying to remain optimistic, but it's very hard when this unexpected phase enters your life. I just keep telling myself, "This too shall pass". I need to keep it together during this time and be there for my son, because he didn't sign up for this either…….. 

Although the foregoing is fiction, it's based on a composite portrait of stories told to me by individuals in my private practice and groups.


This Article A Day In The Life Of A Father was written by Richard A. Shulman, Ph.D.