I have a sense of humor, albeit a slightly warped one. I try to find the humor in anything I write about. Well placed humor can help lighten up any subject, and can even help get a point across. I've always enjoyed writing satire.
You will find none of that here.
Sarah let's me write on my own subjects. She will rarely suggest a topic for an article. Yesterday was different. Yesterday she faced the culmination of years of tedious contact with her estranged seventeen year old son. It did not go well. We both have children we are estranged from due to parental interference. We've both had our hearts broken by children we raised and had taken from us. In the last few weeks, without input from each other, we reached our breaking point.
When Sarah left her emotionally abusive husband she took her son with her. She has ample evidence of her ex-husband misusing funds for personal use, constantly criticizing everything from how she managed the house to what she served for dinner, and multiple instances of adultery. He ignored her for years and left her to raise their son. She did her best to fill the void left by his months of absences. Ski trips. Sleep overs. Taking he and his friends everywhere. Sadly the boy even cheered when Sarah took him, packed up, and went to her parents. Sarah made the same mistake I did. She wanted to be fair. It took weeks, but she finally got her son to agree to visit his father for a weekend. He never came back. In the course of three days the man had convinced him of the most atrocious lies everyone knew to be false. There was only one truth the man told his son. Daddy had all the cool stuff. The big house. The race cars. The four wheelers. The motor cycles. Like a typical early teen whos parents are separated, they want to stay where the cool stuff is. As Sarah admits now, the boy was spoiled, but it's also something she can not be blamed for. What parent wouldn't give their child everything?
My case was only slightly different. I was my daughters primary care giver from the moment she came home from the hospital. I cooked every meal, changed every diaper, gave every bath. I rearranged my life to spend every moment with her I could. I thrived as a parent. I can best sum up my ex-wifes stand on parenting with something she told me one night. She sat beside me on the couch and gave me a look of total contempt and said, "I can't stand the relationship you have with Meghan because I never had that with my father.". Things went down hill from that. My former spouse started drinking heavily. When drinking she became violent, one night shattering my cheek bone when, after a room full of people listened to her offer oral sex to a mutual friend, I asked her slow down the drinking. She committed adultery with multiple men. It did not take long for her to get back in to heavy drugs. Before long she was sexually involved with her cocaine dealer. She had me removed from the house by police on charges later found to be manufactured. In the interim she moved her dealer/boyfriend in. I still spent every afternoon with Meghan. I split my work schedule in two so I had every afternoon free. Until one day I went to her day care to be told her mother had withdrawn her. I went to the apartment and they were gone. That was over ten years ago. A year ago I finally tracked them down and emailed Meghan, my daughter, to learn that what I'd feared was true. Her mother had spent more than ten years convincing her I had abandoned them.
Sarahs son and my daughter are both victims of PAS, or Parent Alienation Syndrome. One parent, in essence, brainwashed the child to believe...well...anything they chose. Abandonment. Abuse. Alcoholism. When one parent alone has access to a child it is easy to take advantage of that one on one trust. That parent can tell that child the sky is green and he or she will believe it. Sarahs son, last night, told her she had done nothing for him in the last two years. The irony in that statement is that for the better part of the last two years he would not reply to any attempt to contact him. She emailed, texted, sent letters and gifts and for nothing in return.
In the last year my daughter and I emailed back and forth. I asked her no more than that. The emails seemed very civil on the surface. If read deeper, though, there was always an undercurrent of accusation. A few weeks ago I realized my mistake. I was dancing around things as if I had actually done all those things her mother has convinced her of.
Experts and child psychologists, in their infinite wisdom, almost all give the same sage advice. We should continue to affirm our love for them. Result: The more adamantly we tell them the more adamantly they tell us, literally, to go to hell (I toned down the actual response). We should, in no way, mirror the behavior of the deceiving parent. I agree, but all this accomplishes is makes them look better, us weaker. We were both told we should apologize for wrongs we never committed. We should be patient because they will "come around". No. They do not, or at least not any time prior to their 30th birthday or so. We should treat them as the young adults they are and attempt to discuss the nonexistent issues we purportedly caused. Our facts fall on deaf ears and the responses are in the form of accusations.
There is only one way to reverse PAS. The parent who caused it to begin with must tell the truth. There is a better chance of finding intelligent life in a crack house. What parent is going to willingly say, "Sweetheart, all the things I told you about your mother/father were lies to make you hate them.".
Within days of one another Sarah and I reached the same decision. A week ago I emailed Meghan to say goodbye. Instead of holding my tongue about the truth I told her some of it, the less graphic issues, and told her how to go about learning the rest. Then I did the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life. I said goodbye to the human being I love the most on the face of this earth, and this time I meant it. Yes, I could have dangled a lot in front of her. I could have tried to entice her with the comfortable life Sarah and I have built, but I will not. I will not bribe my own child.
Yesterday Sarah came to the same realization. We have invited him to our home. She has sent him gifts. She invited him to go to Alaska with us. She first was tempted to try and bribe him, like I had been. Yesterday she reached the same place I have. She said goodbye.
It sounds harsh. Many of you who read this will fault us for giving up on our own children. You're right. We've both done just that. You can trust me when I tell you, it was the very last resort. Though we've spoken to one another about it frequently we've endured the worst of it in our own little private hells. Sarah has spent the last two years enduring every abuse her son could dish out, smiling, and asking for seconds, thinking that by allowing the abuse they may "get it out of their system" and see things differently. We've both woken many nights to find the other in tears, swamped with grief and wondering what we did wrong...never quite able to admit that we did...nothing. I've spent the last year emailing at least once a week and allowing my daughter, through my silence, believe her mothers lies. Out of fear of driving her away I allowed, through my silence, her to find credence in her mothers lies. It came down to a choice of desperation. Sink in to utter depression...or cut the ties dragging us down.
This article isn't just about us. It's about every parent who has had a child turned against them. It is so common a syndrome has been named for it, and this is one of those rare occasions I don't think this is a case of pharmaceutical companies inventing conditions to sell medications.
Parent Alienation Syndrome is very real, it is very destructive, and it is the lowest thing one adult could do to another. It is unfortunate that no recognized medical body will recognize PAS. They neglect to do so because insurance companies do not want to pay for the treatment which, as I state above, is nearly nonexistent. It's difficult to tell who the real victim is, the child, or the parent left to sit and wonder. Sarah and I have both been through it. We've spent time wondering what more we could have done for them. We wonder if we did something to push them to it. Did we not love them enough? Did we discipline them too much? Not enough?
We imagine a childs love as untainted, but in this day and age it's not the case. They are so easily influenced. Unfortunately that love can be tainted when one parent is willing to take advantage of that trust. Young teens are not stupid. They can also be very manipulative. Both our children could learn the truth. In the case of Sarahs son, he was old enough when his parents split that he knows a lot of the truth. Meghan was only five, and her mother has had far more time to work on her, but neither is she stupid. I have given her enough fact to cause her to pause, but she instead has chosen to punish me. To what end we'll never know, because I have cut off communication.
What kind of monster turns a child against a parent they know loves that child? We can not fathom it. We'll never understand it. The one thing we both did wrong? We both, in our divorces, wanted to keep things as calm as we could for our children. We bent and bent to keep things civil, in the process giving away more and more, giving our former spouses so much more room to work their lies. It was the first and most important mistake we made. If you are in a similar situation I implore you...FIGHT. FIGHT for your child. If your child seems to be becoming distant DIG, even if you think you are invading their space, you BE PART OF THEIR LIFE.
If not you will end up as we have. I have a daughter I love more than anything in this world, a daughter I gave everything for, a daughter who was turned against me by a vindictive woman with Daddy Issues, that I had to say goodbye to before I drove myself to destruction. Sarah has a son she raised nearly alone, tried to shield from his fathers drugs and absences and cheating, a son she gave everything in her considerable power, who now believes things about his mother I will not even justify by listing here.
IF YOU LOVE YOUR CHILD YOU FIGHT WITH EVERY FIBER OF YOUR BEING TO KEEP THEM!
Then be the bigger adult and never do the same. You can take what I've said here as you please but I've aired no dirty laundry there isn't abundant proof of. I have listed only fact, and I have shared the most painful thing I've ever gone through.
Through it all I wonder what the hell we've become. We have so called adults who make children pawns. They don't care what damage they cause. If you ARE one of them, I pity you. If you are a victim...
You won't change your childs mind with reason. Telling them the truth will only anger them. What you must, MUST remember is that you did nothing wrong. The more your former spouse works to turn them against you the more you must KNOW you did right. Please don't believe what you read...that they will come around, that if you keep telling them you love them it will be fine, because no, it doesn't work.
Go on with your life. You can never put them out of your heart, but wake every day and tell yourself you did what you could and it's time to move on. One day, far down the road, they might grow up, and you can deal with it then. Stop trying to find out what you did wrong.