Raising Kids With An Absent Parent: The Peek-A-Boo Parent

At the beginning of the month I started a two part series about absent parents. For some reason, even in the year 2020 talking about absent parents is pretty much taboo. We talk about single parenting, but nobody ever talks about the effects it has on the kids – and how we can support them throughout this unfortunate journey. Not in my experience anyway. The first post of this series was about raising kids with a completely absent parent. The definition is pretty self explanatory – simply the other parent is NEVER around under any circumstances. Today I want to talk about the “peek-a-boo” absent parent.

The peek-a-boo absent parent is a term I came up with. It basically means the absent parent that pops in and out when it is convenient for them, or when they feel like they need to prove themselves as a “parent”. Before I go any further, I want to point out something very important here: I am not talking about parents who want to be a part of their kids’ lives, and the other parent won’t let them. With the peek a boo parent, I am talking about the parent that chooses not to be in their kids life. 

I know we are not the only ones who have experience with it, and I have actually seen it more often than I care to. Of course I don’t know all the different situations, but the situations I have seen are just sad and disappointing. Someone always ends up hurt, and someone is always left to clean up the mess afterwards. 

Our Experience With The Peek-A-Boo Absent Parent

Girl against rails in front of lake with twinkle lights
Photo by Heiner from Pexels

In addition to having experience with completely absent parents, we unfortunately also have experience with a peek-a-boo parent. The peek-a-boo parent in our lives, is the mother of my oldest bonus daughter who is 16. Much like when we are dealing with completely absent parents, there are many many different emotions that come along with having a peek-a-boo parent in your life. Keep in mind, though, that sometimes those feelings are really similar – and other times they are completely different. It is a constant battle.

The mother of my bonus daughter wasn’t always a peek-a-boo parent as I call it. In fact at one point, she had main custody of Cassidy while Bubs only had visitations (much like a lot of custody agreements). At some point, before I came along, everything changed. Bubs got custody of Cassidy, and now her mom gets visitations. The agreement as it stands right now, is that Cassidy’s biological mom is supposed to have her every other weekend. This just happens to fall on the weekends we don’t have the other two kids, so that on the weekends she is with us, we also have all the other kids as well. 

Notice how I said her mom is “supposed to have her”? That’s because she never comes around when it is her weekend. Her mom will call every once in a while, and that usually ends up in an argument between the two. Cassidy will ask her where she’s been, and what she’s been up to, and her mom will turn it on her. Another popular occurrence is when her mom will promise that she’ll take her shopping either for back to school or prom, or another important event. Her mom might even promise to take her out for a meal. Then her mom backs out. The excuses she uses are usually different, and sometimes outlandish. The results, however, are always the same. Cassidy has a broken heart, she’s left in pieces with a million questions, and we are here trying to comfort her. 

All The Feelings, Emotions & Questions

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com I use this photo again, because it accurately depicts all of the different emotions.

When we are trying to pick up the broken pieces that the peek-a-boo parent leaves behind, it is so very complicated. Every single time Cassidy talks to her mom, and there are promises of them getting together and actually doing something together – she doesn’t want to get her hopes up. It just sort of naturally happens. “Maybe my mom actually wants to see me this time.” “Maybe my mom won’t blow me off this time.” “I hope my mom actually cares.” My heart breaks a little bit every time she goes through this – I can only imagine what it feels like for her. 

Then, our deepest fears (for this situation) come true. Her mom doesn’t come, usually a few days before their outing her mom will text and say that someone else is just going to get her the things she needs, and they won’t be going. Or she just won’t say anything at all and completely blow her off. There are so many broken promises, lies, and an undesirable amount of deceit and hypocrisy.

At this point, our daughter is facing feelings of abandonment, feeling like she did something wrong, feeling like she isn’t good enough, and wondering why. Why does her mom do this to her, why doesn’t her mom care, why why why? As her bonus mom, I continuously ask myself why, why, why? I just don’t understand how someone could willingly do this to their child. I suppose it is not my job to understand her biological mom. It is my job to be there for my bonus daughter. 

How Do We Handle This?

Collage of family
A few of the many things Cassidy and I have done together.

This is honestly hard, because each time something comes up, it is the same but different at the same time. Remember when I said that Cassidy tries not to get her hopes up? Sometimes she is very successful (or so it seems), and other times – not so much. There are times when she is completely shattered by her mom’s decisions. Other times it’s as if she’s got a protective shield around her. 

Honestly, the best thing we can do for her when these things happen is to just be there for her. When I say that the best thing I or we can do for her is to be there for her – that doesn’t always mean the same thing. Sometimes it means giving her some space so she can process her emotions, other times it means giving her a big hug, and letting her cry – a lot of times it also means both. There is one thing that it ALWAYS MEANS, though. That is showing her an unbelievable amount of unconditional love. 

We can’t answer for what her mom does. But we can be damn sure that she doesn’t feel the same sense of abandonment and questioning her self worth from us. If anything, we want to show her that she is beautiful, and worthy of love – and how to love. She also has wonderful grandparents and other family members that do a fabulous job of showing her this.

I want to point out that we know (for the most part) what her bio mom’s decisions consist of – but it’s not my place to share that part of the story. I also want to share that these examples of Cassidy’s bio mom blowing her off are just a small portion of the things that she goes through. If you know, you know. 

If you are a parent that deals with a peek-a-boo co-parent, what are your biggest struggles, or even your kids’ biggest struggles? How do you handle all of the challenges that come with the situation? I’d love to hear about it, and if you’re uncomfortable mentioning it in the comments please feel free to send me an email. I think when it comes to things like this we can all use the support.

Feature Photo by ERIKA CRISTINA from Pexels

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