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Defending Daddy

Grumble. Grumble. I listened to my son complain about his dad. It was an extremely trite complaint that any 13-year-old might utter, but the tone he used caused me to pause the conversation and have a serious talk with him.

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My son, in all of his 13 years of wisdom, is actually judging his father for not being cool and not understanding what it’s like to be a teenager. He even called his dad a "nerd." While I definitely appreciate that my son feels open enough to talk to me about his true feelings about so many intimate topics, that "nerd" comment hit a nerve. His dad is a nerd, but that’s not for him to say. I’m the only one who can call him a nerd, because he gets on my last nerve.

As I cautioned my son, who lives with his dad while I live on the other side of the country, to watch his tone and his judgment — because that “nerd” is the one who has placed a roof over his head and has been there with him for everything — I felt a pang of guilt about defending his dad.

I can’t pretend that I am a victim because I chose to be with his dad way back when. We were so young and so dumb; I didn’t understand the signs of an abusive man even when my mentor told me that she thought I was in an abusive relationship. I shrugged it off, deciding that if I wasn’t so sensitive, his words wouldn’t hurt me, and if I were smarter, he wouldn’t have so many complaints, and maybe if I were skinnier, he’d stop telling me that my body wasn’t good enough. I blamed myself over and over again as I had conditioned myself to do as a result of being raised by my stepfather, who basically treated me the same way, except he used his fists too.

I have to put my feelings for his dad aside and constantly remind my teenager that his dad makes the decisions he does because he loves him.

Now that I am not in a relationship with anyone and never plan to be again, I can say from the safety of the bed I sleep in alone that I am confused every time I have to correct my son when he is angry with his dad. On the one hand, I want a partner in my pain, but on the other hand I do not think it is right for a child to speak ill of his parents, especially since his dad is the one who is there with him every single day.

I have to put my feelings for his dad aside and constantly remind my teenager that his dad makes the decisions he does because he loves him. I do agree with the majority of the lessons my son’s dad teaches him. In fact, I think he’s a great dad.

How he treats me has no effect on how he cares for his sons, or does it? But sometimes I wonder when someone will stand up for me. I wonder if my feelings ever matter at all. I feel weak and stupid writing about this because maybe I should ignore my feelings and focus on the fact that my sons are well taken care of.

So that is what I do. I paint this picture of this amazing man whenever I talk to my sons about their dad. I brag about his past. I highlight his current accomplishments. I remind them of how lucky they are to have a father who is there for them and how they are better cared for than their father or I could ever imagine.

I build him up and he tears me down, every chance that he gets, with every text message, every phone call and every email he can send. He threatens to have me thrown in jail when I lose my income and come up short on the child support payments. He tells me that my children don’t love me or need me. Should I cry? Should I care? Should I sit in silence when my son tries to judge his father even when he’s being a great dad?

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No. I can’t. Maybe I’m crazy. Maybe I’m stupid. If their dad is doing a great job being a great dad, there is no way that my emotions and pain have anything to do with that. So I speak with confidence while I’m defending their daddy.

Image via Getty Images

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