My Dad, Popo or Not?

May 25, 2014

The relationship I have had with my father has been the fiercest roller coaster ride imaginable for the past twenty years. We have gone years without speaking or seeing each other and then there have been short spurts of time where we were involved in each other’s everyday lives. Thru the years and with much maturity, on my part, I have accepted our relationship for what it is- we see each other when we cross paths, neither of us makes much of an effort and my children and I will never be a priority in his life. I am fine with that.

Thank goodness my mom married an amazing man the second time around! My step dad filled in when needed, guided me when I was lost and took a lot of crap from me during my high school years. He never tried to replace my dad, but I knew he was always there for me no matter what. When I had each of my children, he immediately fell into his newfound role of “Pawpaw.” These three children of mine are the apple of his eyes, his outlet for the biological children he never had and the greatest gift I could ever give him.

But being a child of divorce and a child, now adult, with a strained relationship with my dad, I fight an internal battle of how my children are to perceive my father. Although their contact is far and few between, when they are around my father and step mother, there is always an uneasiness radiating throughout my heart. I want my children to have the same relationship or an even better one than I see him having with my step brother’s children. But that will never happen. One, he will never step up to build the relationship, and two, I will not set my children up for disappointment.

Protecting my children from the same feelings of being left out or pushed aside are a concern every time we are around my dad. It happened to me, his flesh and blood, how could I imagine it wouldn’t happen to them? I mean, old habits die hard, right?
It never crossed my mind that maybe my dad or stepmom had picked up on my ‘one arms length’ relationship. Frankly, I didn’t think they cared. Until I was told that it hurt my dad’s feelings that my kids called him by his first name. Then, I received a text from my stepmom asking why I didn’t allow the kids to call them Momo and Popo. I was stunned. I was in shock. Did it really hurt their feelings? They actually cared? After all, I have spent the whole span of their twenty year marriage feeling like the red headed step child. I simply responded with, “Just because he is my dad, it does not warrant my kids calling him Popo. He has not laid the foundation for a relationship with them, and I will never disrespect my stepdad, who has been there since day one and treats these kids as if they were his own.” End of conversation. Well not necessarily- they still refer to themselves as Momo and Popo to my children, but my children still call them by their first name.

My son, being the oldest, has asked why they cannot refer to them as Momo and Popo. The day I had to try and explain was tough. All these pent up emotions flooded my mind and heart. I felt like my father never stood up for me, never chose me over my step brothers, never put me first…. I never want my children to feel like they have to fight for his attention or love, like I felt I had to. So, I told my son that only special people are made to be a Momo, Popo, Gigi or Pawpaw and those special people love you unconditionally, they support you at soccer games and go to lunch with you on grandparents day. They ask if you can spend the weekends with them, they call you just to see if you can go run an errand with them, they love cuddling with you on their recliners while you pick your favorite cartoon to watch and always make you feel special. Who are those special people to you? He replied with Gigi and Pawpaw do that all the time!

The lack of relationship with my father is a vicious cycle that is unfortunately being passed down to my kids, a little by choice and a little out of protection. It is sad and unfortunate. I can only thank God that he gave me an amazing step dad that is also an amazing Pawpaw. I want my children to feel and know what unconditional love is from their grandparents and us parents. If that means that I have to protect them by putting up boundaries then, as a parent, it is an unfortunate line in the sand that has to be drawn.