I have 2 sons (the pride and joy of my life) from 2 different husbands.
My oldest son’s father was the disappearing one. We left him when my son was only a year and a half old after the relationship turned violent. I tried to keep a connection for my son with his dad, but I couldn’t do it alone. He did not make the effort to stay connected, so he disappeared from his son’s life. I worried about my son and tried to provide him with father-like figures throughout his life. He had my dad and my brothers as father figures in his life and some of my great friends who were there for him as well.
But mostly he had me, as both mother and father. He is an amazing 19-year-old young man who is surprisingly well adapted and not bitter about his disappearing father.
My younger son has known his dad most of his life. He is 11 years old and we are only recently divorced. He sees his dad every other weekend. Every other weekend he is faced with disappointment from his father. He says it doesn’t hurt when his dad shows up late or cancels, but I know it does.
Being the one who’s home with his all the time, I sense a difference in his voice and his spirit when talking about his dad. He is careful and guarded. He is shy and uncertain. When he wants to make a change in his plans with his dad, he asks me to intervene. When he wants his dad to come watch him compete on his swim team, he asks me to invite him. And when he comes home from his dad’s, he holds me tighter.
I think that because he had a dad involved in his life for a long time, he misses the “dad” role more so than my older son did. He talks more about what kind of a dad he wants to be. I have a few friends who he looks to as a father figure. He talks about them to me and always tells me what he admires in them. He is constantly comparing and questioning.
He thinks things through very thoroughly. We were visiting with my sister one day and he asked her he could live with her if something happened to me. He had it all planned out. He told us all about it. First he would live with my sister and her family, then if something happened to all of them, he would live with my brother and sister in law, then if something happened to all of them, he would live with my friends. Then if he had to, he would live with his dad. He said to my sister, “You know, my dad is a pretty good dad, but he’s not a great parent, if you know what I mean.” Unfortunately, he does know what he means.
While both my boys are different and have had different experiences with their fathers, I think that the disappointment is harder than the disappearance. While my older son was probably disappointed by the fact that his father was not in his life, it was not a constant sense of disappointment every other weekend.
It will be a struggle to help my son deal with the constant disappointment. I will continue to give him positive role models in his life, both male and female. And I will continue to be there for him, as both mother and father. And I will continue to love him enough to grow into the wonderful young man I know he will be.