March 14, 2017

When a Parent just Can’t Show Up.

“This article is about the principle of fatherhood, not one specific person. It is, according to the author, the experience of many people she has observed and worked with.” ~ Ed.


“My dad broke my heart way before any boy had a chance to.” ~ Unknown


Every day, children wait at the window, fogging it up with their hopeful breath, expecting to catch a glimpse of a car as it rounds the corner.

They hope for something to show them that their absent parent isn’t going to leave them waiting this time, that maybe they really will follow through with their promises.

The thing is, children like this don’t trust easily.

Sometimes it seems that these children do nothing but give futile second chances. Regardless of the outcome, there’s no question that they are loved—even by parents who just can’t seem to show up.

The problem is that these children can’t keep having their hearts broken.

An absent parent has never had to see the tears they’ve caused.

They’ve never had to hear the way their child’s voice cracks or the way they cry so hard, it’s difficult to catch their breath. And the children don’t understand why their parent can’t see that all they’ve ever wanted is for them to show up.

Despite everything that has happened, these children hope that maybe this time will be different. Mom or Dad has asked to visit, and the invitation stays on their mind all day long, causing smiles and giggles to break out during school as they count down to the time they’ll run into the loving arms of their parent.

They spend their day watching the clock, looking forward to the moment when they’ll be picked up, their voices singing out to ask if Mom or Dad has texted yet—but all they hear in response is “not yet.”

And these children are getting tired of “not yet.”

Each time these absent parents break their hearts, it gets more difficult for them to trust. They find it almost impossible to open up to anyone, let alone the person who seems to never be around. They are told that no one is perfect and that they are loved in the best way possible, but they are often left wondering—is this really your best?

Even with all of these doubts, even with all of the history that has left scars across their hearts, they still find themselves standing at a window because all they want to see is their parent’s car pulling into the driveway. All they wanted to know was that they were a priority.

At the end of the day, when waiting becomes too much, they go in search of something to help take their minds off of the disappointment. They hear reasons and excuses, but none of that matters because all they know is that no one came for them.

They won’t remember who told them, what was actually said, where they were, or even what they thought—the only thing echoing in their minds will be “not coming.” And they thought this time would be different.

Their little hearts drop each time they get let down. They feel as if they are the only ones who have had a parent who can’t show up for them. Sometimes they wonder if they are the reason.

Yes, these children know that they do have another parent who will show up—but it doesn’t mean they don’t need both.

Just because they have someone, doesn’t mean they don’t need more. Just because they know they are loved, that they are important, doesn’t mean that they don’t need it to be shown.

Whether these children are aware of it or not, the relationships with their absent moms or dads are setting the expectations for the relationships they will have when they are older. One day, they might expect to be left because abandonment is all they’ve ever felt. One day, they might question their worth because they never felt that they deserved consistency.

“A daughter needs a dad to be the standard against which she will judge all men.” ~ Unknown

The parents who do show up will try their best.

They’ll snuggle close and hold these children against their hearts, kissing their foreheads and making sure they know that the other’s absence has nothing to do with them. They’ll whisper that they are worthy, that they deserve the kind of love they can rely on.

Sometimes, these children know they’re loved, and other days, deep down, they still wonder why someone they love so much just couldn’t show up for them. But, even if their hearts still hurt, they know that an absent parent is trying their best. They understand that not everyone is meant to be the same kind of parent.

And that we can only choose to love them anyway.



Author: Kate Rose

Image: Simpleinsomnia/Flickr

Editors: Callie Rushton; Catherine Monkman

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