Many years ago I divorced and got custody of my two very young children. Although I had a civil divorce, I did not receive my get for three more years. My ex-husband was vindictive and was withholding it. It was only when he wanted to remarry that he gave me the get.
Although I had wanted to remarry, it didn’t happen. I raised my children basically on my own, and they are two very special young people. My ex had three children with his second wife.
Two years ago he started calling my son and wanted to renew his relationship with him. My son was sixteen at that time and agreed to meet with him. Ever since, he has become quite close with his father and spends many Shabbosim with his family and even some of the holidays. My daughter, now 17, feels very hurt, although she says that she really doesn’t want to have anything to do with her father.
I hate to say this, but I am also feeling hurt, but it is from my son. For so many years both kids were totally neglected by their father. All of a sudden his father is Mr. Wonderful? And my son has an additional family and siblings? My son refuses to discuss this with me except to say that he loves me and his sister, but he also loves his father and half siblings.
Can you help me get over my hurt, and also how can I help my daughter?
Hurting and Resentful
Your feelings are understandable. You raised two fine children on your own and now their father gets to enjoy the fruits of your labor, having invested little to nothing towards their upbringing. You don’t mention whether he contributed child support in all those years. If he did, it would be surprising for him not to have pursued visitation rights or expressed a desire to maintain a relationship with them.
You say you are hurt “from your son.” I gather that means it hurts you to see your son enjoying a father/son relationship with the man who caused you pain, as well as neglected his son for years. The fact that your son will not enter into a discussion with you about the subject rubs salt into your wound.
You can’t really blame your son. It’s obvious to him that you are at odds over his new camaraderie with his dad, and his refusal to discuss it with you is his way of dealing with your negativity and avoiding hearing a barrage of criticism of the man he has come to like and respect.
In life we must often set our emotions aside and allow our intellect to rule our hearts. While girls look to their mom as their role model, a boy needs his father. Your son has been deprived for years. I’m certain both your children felt this void, but your son was apt to be more strongly and adversely affected by the absence of a father.
Every rational parent wants what is best for his/her child, and every child benefits from having a close relationship with his/her parents. Your son’s bonding with his father is a boon to his emotional growth and you should be happy for him.
Your daughter has mixed feelings. She is somewhat envious of her brother’s newly acquired family, while at the same time picking up on your negative vibes.
The Torah commands us to show respect for a parent, regardless of our personal feelings for them. In other words, one doesn’t have to like a parent, yet needs to show him/her respect. Easier said than done, true, but that’s the way it is. Also keep in mind that with the passing years people have been known to change.
Another common phenomenon is how someone who was less than a desirable partner in one marriage ends up being a wonderful spouse in his/her second marriage.
My advice to you is to focus your concentration and energy mainly on the wellbeing and happiness of your children and to keep an open and positive frame of mind.
Your daughter, I gather, wouldn’t mind meeting her father and his family, even if perhaps at this time mostly out of curiosity. Yet she does not wish to appear to be disloyal to you nor to jeopardize her good relationship with you. Allow her to choose her own path and let her know you’d be supportive of whichever choice she makes.
Ultimately, our children’s mental and emotional health is the crux of our nachas and joy. Train your mind to be stronger than your emotions and keep telling yourself this is not about you. Recognize that the happiness in your life depends largely on the quality of your thoughts. As they say in Yiddish, “tracht gut vet zein gut – think good, and it will be good.”