With a few thrillers and detective tomes under our belt, most of us crave knowledge over suspense. However, for our kids, if they are collateral of #ParentalAlienation, suspense may be the preferred state.
I grew up with an alcoholic mom who wanted to die so bad that paramedics commended me for my suicide prevention nous when I was just eleven; and a dad that “made it work” until he beat my mom so bad that she had a couple of feet of vein surgically removed due to deep-vein thrombosis.
I could never have written the above sentence when I was fourteen because it would have shattered my world.
I suspected my mom’s addiction was beyond her choice. I suspected she was incapable of being the mother I needed. I suspected my dad was a good dad but not a good man. I suspected my parents were too absorbed in their issues to prioritize me – all complex conclusions that were bearable only because there was still a chance they were wrong.
I believed we were a family way past the point when we were. I believed my parents were good, noble, selfless and infallible—because I needed to believe it.
I was a kid.
And a kid needs certainty.
Today, my kids are teenagers. And watching the past repeat itself, I believe my kids’ entire worlds are held by the threads that separates ‘suspecting’ from ‘knowing.’ While denial is rarely the best tactic for adults, for children it can be a survival strategy.
Their mother has stopped at close to nothing in over a decade to sever our relationship, but I still have a deep emotional connection with my kids. So I watch them, smart and logical, twist their beliefs into pretzels because “mommy can’t lie” and “mommy wouldn’t make our lives so difficult.”
“Why do you always make everything so difficult?” they ask me when their mother single-handedly changes school break schedules or blocks communication via mobile phones I got them. I suspect my kids feel, somewhere deep down, that this isn’t right; that this isn’t logical. But I remember being a kid, and I remember that suspecting something – and creating nearly-plausible explanations you can live with, even if they hang by mere thread – and knowing it for sure are very different things.
So I am always “the bad guy”, the imperfect, lesser parent. I have received plenty of advice to stand up for myself and to shine the light onto what she is doing, but—and I hope time acquits my choice—I won’t: I would rather be the parent they ‘suspect’ of being inadequate than confirm that one of their parents is so obsessed with revenge that they are used as collateral.