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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Letter to My Father-In-Law, Because I Just Need to Vent


I've thought about this for two days, wondered whether or not I should write you, and ultimately decided that regardless of whether or not it will change anything (and I don't anticipate it will), I have to attend to the matter for the sake of my family, so here I am.

[FIL], first and foremost, you disappointed my son. You hurt his feelings and you let him down. That will not ever happen again on my watch. You do it to your son regularly and I wish he wouldn't allow it, but he is an adult and he has to make those decisions for himself. [Zen Son] is under my care. Much the same as with [mother-in-law, your ex-wife], I will not allow you to do to my son what you've done to your own. You won't be given that opportunity and I won't ever purposely put him in the position to feel that again.

We did a little math on the way home from pizza. You spent two hours with your son and grandson when [Zen Son] was just about 6 months old. He is now almost three years old. In the last 2 1/2 years, you've not asked to speak on the phone with [Zen Son], you've talked to your son on the phone a handful of times (your typical 2-3 times a year), you've not asked for pictures, you've not concerned yourself with either of them at all. You've been in no way a father or grandfather. (That can actually go for the last 15 years with regard to [Zen Husband] and precious little for the 17 years prior to that.) During this visit, you saw fit to take a couple hours out of your potential time with your only child and only grandchild to sight see. Now, you very well could have done that on the way back up, taking, instead, the time out of your visit with [your lady-friend's] brother (an entire week-long visit as opposed to the 24 hour visit with your family), but you didn't. You arrived at 5:40 p.m. on Saturday. We left at 6:30 p.m. and drove separately. We spent an hour together at the restaurant. You didn't bother to say goodbye to your grandson. He was disappointed. That's less than two hours together that day. Add that to the two hours the only other time you've seen your grandson and you're up to four hours (I'll round up, for the sake of argument) in nearly three years of his life. The next day, you arrived at 11 a.m. We left about 1 1/2 hours later and, again, drove separately even though you were invited to spend the hour drive there and the hour drive back with your family. You spent approximately 15 minutes putting together a puzzle with [Zen Son] and then left, never to be seen again. What was the point of us all going there together exactly? You disappointed my son. You disappointed my husband. You yanked them around, giving little glimpses of involvement as a patriarch and then snatching it away as I have come to fully expect, but your son has yet to understand and your grandson is too young to comprehend. All they know is you disappointed them. You hurt them. We then spent another hour at the pizza joint. Now, as we arrived as a group, I (wrongly) assumed we would at least consult one another to see if we wanted to share a pizza together. Obviously, that was never a consideration for you. Just like at the museum, you did your thing and we were left wondering why we were there together if only to share the same air. Let's add that time up, shall we? Two hours at the museum (but that doesn't count, since you weren't there), an hour an a half beforehand, and an hour at dinner. All told, in the entire visit, you spent 4 1/2 hours with your son and grandson. And that was clearly plenty, as you could not wait to get back to the hotel, forgoing, even, a final goodbye to your grandson. I will never again allow you to bring out that intensely disappointed voice in him when he asks over and over, "Why, Mama? Why did they go? Where are they? Why did they leave?" Can you explain to me how I'm supposed to explain utter selfishness to a two year old? I mean, toddlers are fairly selfish themselves, but even he couldn't understand such an egregious level. He was near tears and, as a result, [Zen Husband] was in tears.

[Zen Husband] wasn't crying for himself. He knows exactly who you are. Sure, he lives in denial about it a good chunk of the time, because the truth is painful and he blames himself for your shortcomings as a father. But he was crying. He was crying (hard and long) for the hurt you caused his son. He was crying, because you did the same thing to [Zen Son] as you've been doing to him all these years. He was crying, because, like I said before, you would give glimpses of goodness, you showed that you COULD be someone worthy of [Zen Son], but then showed that you CHOOSE not to. And that was the worst part. If, like [MIL], you had just proven yourself incapable, the hurt wouldn't have been so bad. But you're not incapable, you're unwilling and that's just shitty, [FIL]. You know it is. You know it is, you even admitted as much on a recent call with [Zen Husband], you said a lackluster "I'm sorry" and, per your M.O., nothing changed. You know what is right and what is wrong and you are choosing wrong, because it's easier. Right would require more effort on your part and I know that's not going to happen. Your grandson doesn't. Your son is learning, slowly, but surely.

Let's do a little comparison. I won't ask you how much time you spend with [lady-friend's] son, because he lives nearby and that's not a fair comparison. I won't ask you how often her daughter comes to visit you in Michigan, because, in fairness, we don't come to visit you (for very good reason, you must understand, given what is outlined above), so again, not a fair comparison. I have to ask, though, how often do you visit her daughter in Georgia? And how often to you visit her brother in Vegas? And when you visit, how much time do you spend with each? Why is that, [asshole FIL]? You know, don't answer that last question. I know why it is. [Zen Husband] knows why it is, too, though he often denies the truth that it is a fault in YOU by tricking himself into believing if he is good enough, funny enough, impressive enough, you'll love him enough to want to spend time with him. And it is heartbreaking to watch. You, of course, wouldn't understand, because you never have to see such heartache in him. That is, in fact, one of the reasons I'm writing. By avoiding your son, you get to fool yourself into believing things are well with the two of you. You get to fool yourself into believing the couple of stories you share when you actually do see him or speak to him and the few laughs you have mean you are doing right by him. Things aren't good. You're not doing right. And you know both. You can try to deny it, but look at the evidence, just the tiny bit of evidence, outlined here. And you're not going to be allowed to treat our son the same way. I won't see him hurt like I so often see [Zen Husband] hurt.

I'm well aware that you'll avoid this email. I'm well aware you'll not write back or address the issue head-on, so I won't even expect it. However, I will say that if you have any even fleeting thought of confronting the pain you've caused, don't bother writing me. You didn't hurt me (not directly, anyway, only by way of my family). Address it with your son or don't be surprised when the time comes that you find yourself without a son. You've already managed to find yourself without a grandson and that is by your own hand. Someday, [FIL], [Zen Husband] will grow out of the childish hopes he has for you. When that day comes, you'll lose him completely, not that you seem to care much.

Consider it all, [FIL]. Take it in. Search your soul. And ask yourself: If [Zen Husband] were the kind of dad and grandpa that I am, what would I think?

[Zen Mama]


  1. As much as this situation sucks, there is a good learning opportunity in here for Zen Son; never force anyone to try to be/do something they aren't, and if someone doesn't want to care about you and treat you with respect, then no need to waste time trying.

  2. I don't even contact our dad anymore. He saw child one for an hour as an infant, child two for an hour as an infant. Has never asked to meet the 3rd. He doesn't ask for pictures. The few (one a year or less, usually when he needs something) times we speak he does not ask about them. I tried to take them over once and he told me he was too busy washing his car. So I tell my kids that some people enjoy the company of others, and some don't. That it's his loss. And that we will go visit grandma and people who want to see us instead :-)

  3. I understand your feeling. I've been there before. That's how I know that all you can do is forgive. You say you're not hurt but clearly you are. Move on. Forgive. Don't hold him to any of your expectations. You know what they say, "expectations are just premeditated disappointments."