Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Of Guilt and other Just Desserts

I look back on some old photo’s I’ve been scanning lately and see happy smiling faces staring back at me. And of course that would be the case because family photos aren’t called happy-snaps for a reason other that they are generally taken during the good times. But in looking at them I start to feel guilty about why I let things turn pear shaped over the past few years. And that’s when the guilt kicks in.

Much of the time I have spent with my counsellor / therapist has been about examining things that occurred in my childhood and issues that are unresolved, but I wasn’t abused, nor thrown out of home, nor made to feel unwelcome. Sure things happened which have lead me to the person I am now, but lots worse has happened to others and on face value they seem to cope OK with that.

And even now, beginning as I am to understand that midlife happens to most people, I still find it difficult to put things into proper context. I should not, therefore, expect that other people should understand me when I don’t fully understand myself.

That is one of the hardest things to come to grips with – the lack of answers and it’s so hard because you often can’t actually work out what the questions are. In the past few months I’ve been told that I was a bad husband and father, not through abuse, but through neglect, but I didn’t know that was happening. I was a grumpy old bloke, but now when I try and laugh with my kids and crack jokes I’m told that it is all a false reality. I’m told that things are better at home without me being around but have also been accused of not paying enough attention since I left.

It is the boundaries that get muddy. It’s not my house anymore, so I should not make myself comfortable. I should not do things I would have done when I was living there because it’s their space and not mine.

One of the hardest things over the past year has been that my kids have not wanted to visit the place in which I live. The girls have stayed over maybe twice and that was in the very early days, but have used every excuse since not to turn up. I was lucky enough to have son number one stay for nine days recently and it was great to have some company in the place.

But if as an absent father you force kids to be in places they don’t want to be in, what long term consequences does that have for them? Will they too end up in the place I am at now in 30-40 years time with unreconciled issues with their father and feeling guilty for reasons they can’t put a finger on?


paisley said...

like it or not most human interaction is manipulative in that we are forever laying the groundwork for what we may want in the future...
if you were truly unaware that you were distant, or grumpy, or inattentive, then go with it... that is who you are,,, and someday,, when you are gone,,, those little quirks will be the dearest remeberances of you...despite what they would like you to beleive now....

your children have to test the waters at playing both ends against the middle,,, it is human nature... i would say be who you are ,, remain aloof but available,, and allow them time to settle in...

Laurie Joyce said...

We like to think that the opinions of others don't matter. In fact Ruiz in The Four Agreements says that we shouldn't take things personally. Fact is I care deeply about what my kids think about me and maybe that is as much because I never told my father that as anything.

Be yourself is great advice if you actually ever get to the stage where you find out who you really are.

I enjoy your comments Paisley. Thanks for making me think :)