My children and I have some challenges ahead as a family while we begin to diffuse that huge secret we don’t like to acknowledge lives here. As the mom, I want to spare my children the pain of revisiting it, and question how important it is that they understand who their father was. Some say I should be sure to tell them about some of their father’s more positive attributes, who he was outside of his abusive nature. But that IS who he was and everything and everyone of us revolved around that, and as he intended, him.
What confusing image is it to say ‘Oh, he was a great guy and loved you a lot but he just wasn’t good at handling the pressure of being married, or having children’? ‘That’s how some people deal with it – by belittling, berating, ridiculing, bullying, pushing and shoving, strangling, stalking and eventually shooting when they aren’t getting their way’. ‘He was really a nice guy and the shooting was just a big mistake’. What does that say to them? What does that teach them?
He absolutely could be nice, loving, fun and friendly. Anytime he wanted to he could be a great father and husband. He was clearly capable. He wasn’t mentally deranged or sick. To portray him to my children as other than he was seems to me to perpetuate the lie I led while trying to protect them from the truth while he was alive. The truth came out anyway. All that protection has led to them unable to remember him raising his voice, or his drinking, and many things I as his intimate partner experienced that they were too young to understand or were not privy to.
I hear ‘but he was their father’, they are a part of him. I, just as much as the next person, want them to have wonderful loving memories of their father and them together. But I didn’t create the memories he left. He did. If they are not storybook I can’t make them so.
Once again I am forced to reconcile the events that defined and finally culminated our life together with the husband and father for them I, too, longed for. Though I wish to spare them, perhaps my children need to be allowed to do the same.