The girls started a conversation in the car the other day about their dad. It started with Riley asking how I told them we were getting a divorce. Somehow, that morphed into a talk about how they're dealing with things today.
Riley started by saying she hated her dad, but I told her, she really doesn't. She's angry at him, and rightly so, but she doesn't hate him. She clarified that she has moments that she hates him. She said she hates it when he breaks his promises. Fair enough.
Sylvia said what she really hates is when people tell her she can't give up on him. We talked about how they just don't get it. That even if she tries to explain it to them, they will never fully understand what it's been like and how many times he's disappointed her. That for her, giving up is actually a huge step in the right direction. She's protecting herself from further disappointment by not setting herself up for it.
This is not to say that she wouldn't be happy for him if he did change his life around. But we talked about how he would need to prove it first, that words just aren't enough. And how she can't count on it, because all the evidence so far has shown that he can't.
I know most people wouldn't quite understand giving up on a parent, but at some point, we all face that our parents are just people. They see me as just a person. They recognize that while they've lost a dad growing up, I lost a partner and a co-parent. When they talk about how much they've been hurt by him, they know I get it because I was, too. Part of humanizing parents is recognizing our weaknesses, our mistakes. They've had to endure all his mistakes, and it's easier for them to do so when they see him as just a person.
We even talked about the fact that he's not evil or anything. He just can't quite do it, he just can't be a grown-up that lives up to his responsibilities. I can totally understand Sylvia's frustration at those who tell her not to give up, when giving up is the only way we can really cope with it.
We played a little of the "what if" game. If he did turn his life around, they would love it. If he could be a real parent, they would embrace that. But, they also said, he could never make up for the time he's lost. He would still never know them the way that he could have had he been around the last few years. I told them, that's his loss. But I know it's theirs, too.
I can't change any of it and of course, it hurts to know how much they've hurt. But I also can't help but feel so proud of them.