The Eve of Construction

I almost began this post with an apology. I’m self-conscious about my posts this week. The phrase that comes to mind is soap opera.

Then, I found compassion for myself. No one is forced to read this. I need the catharsis writing provides. This process helps me sort out the fireworks of emotions exploding across the evening sky within my head. So score one for the new me!

I skipped the annual Caroling party our dear friends, Jack and Andrea host. First time in twenty years. Yesterday, at lunch with Zoey, my 26-year old daughter, I told her I was skipping the party. At first she was pained. By the end of the lunch, she understood my feelings and didn’t try to change my mind.

In the course of lunch, Zoey talked about her sisters’ challenges with me. How emotionally draining our interactions are. Zoey told me her sisters are so concerned with my feelings they accept invitations to see me even when they’d rather not.

Ouch.

The good news is, I remembered to pause mindfully when Zoey bravely told me this.

I thought about the long road ahead to reconstructing our relationship and finally said, “I’d rather you not say ‘yes’ out of kindness. I’d prefer a real, authentic relationship, even if it is tiny right now, over one based on you feeling obliged to see me. If it makes this easier, I’ll stop putting you on the spot, inviting you to do things and wait to hear from the three of you.”

Zoey’s eyebrow arched. It felt like we were playing poker. “Is dad bluffing? Will he really be okay, waiting for us?”

I reassured her I meant what I had said.

Zoey explained how difficult the last two days had been for her sisters. I had lunch with Lexi, 20, and Sarah, 24, and my mother, on Wednesday. On Thursday, Lexi, Sarah and I had lunch.

It hurt to think that the cumulative 3 hours we were together was “emotionally exhausting” for my daughters. But then I found compassion, remembering the depth of their pain. That helped me focus more on what Zoey was saying and not how I felt.

I had been vacillating about the Caroling party because I really wanted to go. Not so much after lunch.

I sent Andrea a note explaining it made sense for me to take a break from some of our family traditions. In the conclusion, I asked them to promise not to exclude me next year.

I’m trying to respect my daughters’ feelings. I know I need to create new traditions with them in addition to those already ingrained into our family’s DNA. But this is the first holiday season since their mother Caroline, and I ended our marriage. Their is still a great deal of pain all around.

I’m giving them space. As the wounds begin to heal, I am confident we will reconnect in an authentic, meaningful way. Until then, I’m striving to manage my expectations, while appreciating how good things are at this very moment.

Stay in touch. Connect.

Jon

P.S. In honor of the holidays, sorta.

6 thoughts on “The Eve of Construction

  1. I think you’re right. I’ve been through it myself. Keeping old traditions can become painful memories of what had been. They get awkward instead of enjoyable. Then add a new ex-wife boyfriend to the mix. Make your own new memories instead. The past is dead. Your daughters should be old enough to understand. Warning that it can get ugly though and certain relationships can suffer, so you have to decide what’s most important. I’ve been through that too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree with almost everything you’ve said. Almost.

      “Your daughter should be old enough to understand…”

      I think you might be shortshrifting familial dynamics. Even as young adults, they will forever be my children. With that knowledge, I think often emotions overwhelms the rational.

      I hear you on the subject of old traditions growing awkward. I will gently bow out of some of them as the finality of new situation grows more concrete in my duaghter’s eyes. Until then I’ll walk fine lines.

      Best,

      Jon

      Like

  2. I’ve experienced divorce with my daughter twice – once as a teenager when her father and I split, and recently again as an adult (22), when her step-father and I split. My last husband, although not her biological father, stepped in when her own dad left her life and slowly disappeared. She took his last name at 18 – he is more her father than her biological dad was.

    It was so much easier when she was younger – I could control the path of her emotions, console her with words she believed, and pick up the pieces for her. But as an adult, there is no way to filter or guide the emotional journey for her. She has had to make her own decisions on how to cope with the break up. There have been times when she hasn’t taken my side, and in those times she was admittedly right not to. As much as it hurt, I’ve admired her for navigating this in a way that is healthy and healing for her.

    You should be proud that you’ve raised daughters who are strong enough to acknowledge their own emotional needs and who are mastering their own journey. It’s proof positive that you have sent them into the world as independent women, with a strong sense of self. 🙂

    Like

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your own journey in such an honest way. It is so encouraging to hear what others have experienced in similar circumstances, and perhaps more importantly, how they’ve responded to their challenges.

      And thank you for reminding me that despite what is taking place, I do have three strong daughters, for which I get some of the credit.

      Stay in touch,

      Jon

      Like

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