Today I am writing about a somewhat tough and sensitive topic. This will be the first post of a two part series talking about Absent Parents. Originally this was supposed to be one post, but there is too much to cover. Today I will be talking about the Completely Absent Parent, what that means, and how we navigate it. I’m also going to touch a little bit on what might help when there are feelings of insecurities, sadness and or defeat.
A lot of times, we hear and talk about single parents. What we don’t talk about very much is when our kids have an absent parent. We all know that it is a very common scenario (unfortunately) but no one ever actually talks about it. It’s kind of taboo – even in 2020. When we find ourselves talking to a single parent, it’s one of those questions that seems to get asked with an apologetic hushed tone of voice – like “What about the dad / mom, are they around or…?”
There are so many different situations that a parent could find themselves in, that leads to raising a kid without the other parent. I am definitely not any one to judge. If you have been following my blog, you’ll know that between my boyfriend and I, we have four kids. If you would like to get to know our family a little more, you can read Blended & Splendid: The Introduction. Two out of our four kids have an absent parent. My son’s biological father is completely absent. It is so exhausting, for everyone involved – the kids and us as parents.
So Many Questions
Raising a child when there’s a completely absent parent brings up a lot of questions. On the parent’s end, as well as the kids’. We as adults might find ourselves asking questions such as “Why did they make the choices they did?” or “How in the world am I going to answer my child’s questions when they start?” “Wait, when will the questions start and how much time do I have?”
Then we start to prepare for the questions our kids will have for us. The kids’ first question might even closely resemble our first question. “Why did my mom / dad choose to leave?” “Does my mom / dad love me?” “Why can’t I see him / her?” So many more follow, I can’t even begin to list them all.
That is a lot of questions. Each situation is so unique and different, the answers to these questions will be different for each family. Eventually, they will come up, though. In my experience no amount of preparing for these questions will ever be enough. You’ll never know what that conversation will be like with your kids until you actually have it. Not only is each situation unique and different, but so is every child or teen and their emotions.
Our Experience With A Completely Absent Parent
My son’s biological father hasn’t been in any part of his (our) life since before he was two years old – and even before then the time he was with us was minimal. Back then, when my son was younger I knew I had a good long while before I had to start answering questions. As he got older, I would only tell him bits and pieces of what happened, and where he was when he asked. A tiny bit of the truth. I did this because of the extremity of the reason he wasn’t in our lives. He was / is an abusive man, with an extensive record, and locked away for things he has done (he still is). Terrible disgusting things, things I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. I knew eventually I would have to tell him, but between the ages of eight and twelve were not that time. He is a mature kid, but I didn’t want him to have to carry that burden at such a young age.
Eventually, I told him that I would tell him when he was 13. That is still young, I know, but I said it before I could even process it. It gave us a distinctive time frame, and it gave him some sort of sense of when he would find out where his bio father is and has been all these years. At that point, I kept trying to figure out what and how I would tell him. I couldn’t come up with an answer. Finally I decided that I would just tell him the truth. I still have all my old files from protective orders, and the things he has done… It was extremely painful. I didn’t want to tell him everything. I wanted to protect him from that awful part of our life. I also didn’t want to relive that by going through everything again. I told him what I felt I needed to, and showed him the paperwork I had so that he knew I wasn’t just pulling this out of my ass. Once the conversation started, it was a lot easier than I thought.
Did I do the right thing by telling him? I will never know. I could have lied and said that he was off on a deployment somewhere and not expected to return or that he died at war overseas (We met in the military)… No, that’s awful, but not unheard of. My son and I have a lot of trust for each other. Somewhere down the road he would’ve found out. I didn’t want to tarnish our relationship for one uncomfortable conversation.
So Many Feelings & Emotions
When I first told my son about the truth, he had so many feelings. He had feelings of anger, confusion, and sadness. Probably about a million more, but these are the ones I can most easily describe. There are times when knowing this information about his biological father affects him more than others. Sometimes when he has a burst of bad behavior, he blames it on the DNA of his biological father, and says that he is just following his father’s footsteps. It’s very dramatic, and unnecessary, but it is in those times that he unknowingly shows his true feelings of hurt. As I mentioned earlier, each child that is going through something like this will have different reactions and feelings towards the absent parent. It’s important that we watch out for signs and signals that will give us clues as to how they’re feeling. Our kids might not want to tell us outright, or even know how to process these emotions to tell us.
I feel like it’s also important to note that it’s not all negative! There are good days and bad days. As I’ve mentioned earlier though, my son doesn’t really know any different. Him and I have a wonderful relationship, and we have a lot of fun together. Maybe our bond is stronger because of this, but we will never know. (Take a look at some of our pics throughout the years – We love adventures!)
A Couple Things I’ve Learned, Although I’m Still Learning Along The Way
Seriously, do we ever stop learning as parents? Every day has the opportunity to be something new, and no parent is ever perfect. Damn, I try my hardest though. I have been doing this whole “raising a kid with an absent parent” thing for fifteen years, though and there are certainly things I have learned along the way.
- When it comes to having an absent parent, always always tell your kids the age appropriate truth. You don’t want to build a relationship with them based on lies. If you lie to them, it will affect your relationship when the truth comes out.
- They are going to need extra support. Earlier, I mentioned a couple times that they will have extra emotions about the fact that one parent is absent. Try to be empathetic, and realize that you are both going through this together.
- Don’t invalidate their feelings. Again – lots of emotions. It is important for them to know that what they are feeling is very real. Don’t forget to hug them extra tight when they need it.
- Surround them with additional positive role models. Grandparents, aunts and uncles, even a sports coach. There’s an old saying “It takes a village”, and it definitely rings true.
- You as a parent are always going to be learning something new, and trying to navigate something a little different each day. Keep an open mind, and an open heart.
These aren’t all of the lessons I have learned over the years, and I’m sure there will be more down the road. One of my main rules for parenting in general is also to parent with respect. In order to get respect, you have to give respect. Teaching kids about respect is HUGE when it comes to raising decent human beings. I haven’t been able to find much on the internet on this topic, so if you are a single parent, who is raising a child or children while there is a completely absent parent, I hope this has been helpful.
If you are a parent who happens to be raising kids when there is a completely absent parent, what are some of the biggest lessons you have learned? What has helped you along the way? I would love to hear about it in the comments.