November 2011 archive

when we don’t care about our children

A friend summarized it best when he said “Boy, when we fail kids, we fail big time.”

What does it say about a community that cares more about football than children and their well-being? What does it say about our society? I have long felt that we don’t care enough about children and we have tons of policies that show that. We fail children all the time. And we fail them in bigger ways every year. I mean, look at the apathy shown to Wang Yue who was run over by a van (twice!) and laid bleeding in the street for over 7 minutes and later died. I know people like to think that would’t happen here, but it’s classic bystander effect in action. And I can’t help but think that a lot of these men held their tongues because they expected someone else to step up and help.

Real talk, I didn’t know who Jerry Sandusky, Tim Curley, Gary Schultz or Joe Paterno were yesterday morning. I had heard whispering about shenanigans at Penn State but didn’t pay attention until yesterday. But I spent most of the day reading and talking about the Penn State scandal and the easiest way to describe my feelings are: totally pissed off.

I read the indictment and almost couldn’t believe what I was reading. Sandusky was caught not once, but twice, in the act of raping children in the showers at Penn by two different grown men who could not get it together enough to call the police.  I can understand that both men where shaken, but what about the children?  I don’t know what I would do if I saw someone being raped in front of me but I hope that I would have enough sense to say something to stop it and then continue having sense and call the police. I’m sure I would call my mother, like then-grad student Mike McQueary, did. But I know my mother, and I know that if I had not already called the police she would talk me through it.  (But I certainly would not work for the same people who traumatized me and ignored the victims like McQueary,who is now an assistant coach for PENN. shady.)

I can understand that people may not know what to do when they know a child is being abused. The only reason why I feel confident about what I would and should do is because I was trained when I got my MSW. (go go social work!) And I realize a lot of people don’t get trained but I’m surprised most of these people in this situation aren’t mandated reporters. In fact, I can’t believe some of them aren’t.  Looking squarely at Schultz.

I also can’t help but wonder if more women had been involved in this process along the way. From what I’ve read, the only two people who have called the authorities were women – Victim 1 and Victim 6′s mom. I don’t know the gender of the official at Victim 1′s high school, but they also called the authorities and banned Sandusky from the school. While Penn State eventually banned Sandusky from bringing children from his organization to the school, there was no way to monitor it and he obviously did not follow this rule.

I can’t help but think of how many more young men he took advantage of. I was reading that child molesters are often caught 16 years after they start and charged with hurting far fewer children than they actually did.  And with all his victims being men, it’s likely that many will not come forward because of shame

I almost can’t believe this happened.  Almost. People ignore child abuse all the time. Unfortunately this is not a special or new situation. And that is the worst part.


On Daddy Issues

I hate the way people talk about “daddy issues.”

I think the biggest misconception about daddy issues is that people know how to deal with them. It took me easily 15 years to figure out that “dealing” with my father meant forgiving him and accepting him where he was. It took me a few more years to actually be able to do that. And I was lucky (using that term real loosely here) because my father had an excuse I could buy (addiction and PTSD) but more importantly, because he changed. (I wrote about it yesterday.)  I’m only beginning my research on adults and their fathers, but from what I’ve learned so far, this is not the way it always goes.

More often it’s a painful disaster. A few months ago I read Naked With Socks On’s piece about when he confronted his father about why he wasn’t there. His father didn’t have a good answer, he barely had an answer at all. And when that happens you are crushed. Hell, I was crushed and it didn’t happen to me. Another public example is a scene in the documentary the Prep School Negro. Andre visits his father’s house for the first time and confronts his father about what happened, where he’s been, what the deal was. To be honest, watching this scene was like watching a horror movie. I didn’t want to watch because I was scared of what the father would say.  And like NWSO’s father, this guy didn’t have an excuse and it hurt.  It was literally painful to watch.

I think the fear of these scenes becoming a reality is why I think a lot of people avoid having the conversation. What in the world do you say to a parent who wasn’t there and offers no acceptable reason? What do you do with that information? I don’t have the answers. I don’t know what I would do. And my guess is, a lot of you don’t know either.

What was the point of me writing this?  Lately, it seems that everyone fancies themselves experts on fathers and fatherless children.  And frankly most of what I’m reading comes from people who have no idea of what they are talking about.  I also have many, many thoughts on how we talk about women who grew up without their fathers, but that is another post.  I say all this to say that I hope the next time someone wants to tell people to go deal with their daddy issues, they’ll think for one second about what that really means, how much time it takes and how it feels.

To be clear, I’m not saying that people shouldn’t “deal,” I’m saying offer some compassion instead of ordering someone to do it.


my father and me

This something I’ve been meaning to write forever. It looks like I first tried to write this last June and I’ve come back to see that I only wrote two sentences (and I’m not even going to use them). I want to write more about fatherhood in general, but I figured it would make sense to start with me and my father’s story.

But it starts before I even got here. My mother and father don’t agree much on the details of how they met but from what I can gather, my mother came to California, met my father and they fell in love. Like for real love, they got engaged and bought a house. Then my father messed up big time (“groupies” according to my dad and drugs, bad combo) and my mother left him. After she had me, she moved back to Connecticut. And since my father loved both of us, he followed. Since he didn’t know anyone in CT, he couldn’t get drugs and so he got clean.

For a while we all lived together with my grandmother. My mother’s work required her to travel a lot, so I spent most of my early years with my father and my grandmother. Eventually my mom was able to spend more time in CT, enough to buy a house and we were a “regular” family. I’m not sure what happened, but my father moved out but we still hung out all the time. I was the ultimate daddy’s girl and it was awesome. He spoiled me rotten and I loved it. Whatever I wanted I got and I got used to it.

When I was nine, my mother told me she was going to have a baby (with her husband, not my dad). That’s when my father decided to tell me that he had just had a baby with some woman I never met and that I had a six month old brother.

Somewhere along the way my dad started doing drugs again. His visits became more sporadic and when we hung out it was sometimes with real shady people and sketchy situations. I was also getting older, so I was more aware of what going on, but for the most part everything was cool.

Then my dad started going to jail. The first time was devastating. I remember hiding in the closet and crying. But after that, I began to look forward to my dad going to jail because when he was in jail he called and wrote all the time. And when he was out, he was gone.

During another stint in jail, the woman he had my brother with had a little girl. She was born addicted to crack and was placed for adoption. I only met her once, the day after she was born. And then she was gone.

Though I was getting frustrated with my father around this time, I was not done with him. I figured eventually he would clean up and get his life together. He had kids and all these mistakes had costs. But my father couldn’t clean up. My breaking point came when he missed my high school graduation. Later he told me that he was high and didn’t want to see me in that state. But I didn’t know then and that was the first time I cut him off.

Through all of this, mother has always remained calm. She never says anything negative about my father and his shenanigans. And whenever I talk crazy about his, she reminds me that he is my father. I’ve always admired this about her because if some man was driving my children crazy, it would be all over for him.

I don’t remember how, but we reconciled. I didn’t trust him and I barely liked him but I still loved him. My mother made me invite him to my college graduation. He came and was so proud you would have thought he had anything to do with my success there. It infuriated me.

The next few years were strained. I was going through my own stuff and didn’t want to deal with my father’s. I can’t remember now what happened, (I’m sure it had something to do with the truly awful man that I was dating) but I decided that I needed to deal with my father and our issues before it ruined any chance I had at obtaining and maintaining a function romantic relationship. So I wrote him a letter. It said three things: 1. You don’t know me, you haven’t made an effort, so I’m going to tell you who I am, 2. You’re either in or out. I’m not going to continue to chase you around and beg you to act like a father. You either do it on your own and leave me the hell alone and 3. You are not going to be the reason I don’t get married.

To be honest, I didn’t expect an answer. But my father, ever full of surprises, wrote me back and sent a packet of other stuff. He said he was sorry. He said he had been clean for a year and was diagnosed with PTSD. He had been in therapy and was back to drawing again. He sent me all the information he had about my sister. He sent me info about veteran benefits for children (way too late as I was 25 but it would help my brother). And he said I was right. I was finally able to forgive him.

He started to call me. If we had plans to meet, you better believe he was there. And for that I am grateful.

Our relationship now is not perfect but it’s much better. I have accepted my father for who is. I can see who he is. And I am ok with that. He’s never going to be Bill Cosby.   He’s never going to be the man to financially bail me out of situations.  But he is the man who will come down to to New York year after year and move me to different apartments, even mice filled ones that scare both of us. He’s the man that tells me I’m beautiful, smart, funny, insert positive adjective here when I need to hear it. He’s the man that helps me calm down because he’s incapable of not seeing the bright side to a situation.  He’s the man that makes me laugh.  He is my father.