It hurt to tell my father that I had left an abusive relationship. It also gave me a stark insight that strengthened my resolve to keep my own child safe.
My father beat my mother before and throughout their marriage. One day, she took me and fled to a refuge. This time, she didn’t return. He launched a smear campaign – telling anyone that would listen (and many that wouldn’t) how much of a bad mother she was. She sought a divorce, and got one. My father never forgave her. His response was to have nothing to do with me, his daughter.
I grew up with a loving mother and a step-father I’m proud to call ‘dad’. Growing up, I never missed my biological father. However, as an adult, my vague wondering about my roots solidified until I reached out. With my family’s help, I tracked down my father, and we began to correspond. Eventually, we decided to meet in person.
He couldn’t wait to badmouth my mother. I stopped him, telling him that what was past, was past – and I wanted to focus on the future. He seemed to let it go. Just days later, he erupted in a fit of rage and I saw the monster that he claimed never existed.
I didn’t speak to him for years. But then, out of the blue, came his email. I let him back into my life, cautiously, and we’ve since maintained an amicable – though distant – relationship. We studiously avoid murky topics, or subjects that are too close to home.
Today, all that changed. With Christmas looming, I could no longer put off the conversation I was dreading. I had to tell him that the father of my child physically and emotionally abused me, and that I had left him some time ago. I told him why I was anxious about sharing this, but his first reaction – though not surprising – still cut me to the quick.
He sternly warned me not to use my child as a weapon. My ex was to have full access to the child. Only a wicked woman (like my mother) would do otherwise. I must not make my child suffer because of my problem with my ex.
Though he went on to offer sympathies and emotional support, which I welcome, his first – and utterly unnecessary – words said it all. Even though he had learned that his daughter was abused by the man that should have been her biggest supporter, my father’s initial response was all about him. Just as it always was. He will never accept responsibility for his actions. He will never acknowledge that children are damaged by growing up with abuse. He will never see offspring as anything other than – in his words – weapons to be used to bludgeon the other parent.
I guess that tells me all I need to know, really.
© Avalanche of the Soul, 2013-14