Day 13: Issue a public apology. This can be as funny or as serious or as creative as you want it to be.
Dear Hollyn and Jensen,
I am sorry that we don’t have a better relationship. There are oh-so-many reasons for this, and some of the fault lies squarely with me.
In the beginning, I wanted to give you some space. You were under tremendous pressure to feel certain ways, to believe certain sets of facts, and to demonstrate absolute loyalty to your mother. I thought by hanging on the sidelines you wouldn’t feel like I was pressuring you to like me.
That didn’t really work so well. By not making a case for myself, by not challenging the assumptions which were pushed on you, I let your mother and her family shape your impression of who I was. Naturally, it was unflattering in the extreme. It’s hard to change first impressions.
I remember one night, I was running on the treadmill in the garage. You both came out, stared for a minute, and then Jensen said, very matter-of-fact, “My mom calls you the big fat girl.” I asked you if that was a nice thing to say. “No,” you admitted, “but she says it’s true, so.”
I took that personally. I shouldn’t have – I was the adult – but I did. Right then and there, I felt like I could never win with you two. Moments like that shaped the first couple of years of our relationship.
I’m sorry that I didn’t see you as children, and instead chose to see you as miniature copies of your mother.
I am sorry that you are still in such an awkward and untenable position. Your parents have not spoken to each other in almost six years. Your mother makes decisions for you – when to let you shave your legs, when to get you a cell phone – without any consultation/discussion with your father. We feel like Bad Cops when we have to remind you that we have different rules at our house, and your mom doesn’t get to dictate how we parent you.
I am sorry that your mom displays breathtaking insecurity. It’s just now starting to bother you, and I’m afraid that will only get worse. It’s not enough to have custody of you 56% of the time – she also has to visit you at school or at after-school; schedule and attend every doctor’s visit, haircut, extracurricular activity, and school event; and when she’s with you in public, she pets you like lapdogs, constantly. There is literally no room for your father, much less me, to get close to you when your mother is around. It’s like she’s terrified that you’ll forget all about her if she’s not waving her hands in front of your face.
Over the last few years, I have made a conscious effort to push back. I have only made it a few steps off the sidelines, but I feel it’s made a difference. I have tried to meet you where you are. You’re both good kids. You are succeeding in school, you behave reasonably well, and you interact appropriately with your friends and other adults. Jensen, I am particularly impressed with your ability to be happy for others – that’s a hard skill for a child to learn. Hollyn, I very much appreciate your willingness to take a stand against your friends – even if it’s just defending “Adventure Time” as a great cartoon, your ability to go AGAINST the flow will serve you well as you grow up. I am deeply humbled by the way both of you love Tyler so much. And I know you like me, even if you feel guilty and disloyal for doing so. I can live with that for now.
We still have a long journey ahead of us, but I hope things continue to improve. I have learned a few things along the way, the first and most obvious being BE YOURSELF. Or, put differently, I need to be confident that I am worthy of your admiration just the way I am.
So, to sum up: I’m sorry things have not been better between us, and I promise to continue working on it.