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Don’t let your pain be your child’s burden

As you can imagine, my mother was really hurt after my father left us when I was only 9 months old.  Even after almost 40 years, I still hear stories of how inseparable they were in college.  I know she still cared deeply for him, so how was she able to hide her pain from this horrific breakup?  Why was she so willing to let me spend time with his parents knowing what their son had done to her young and dare I say naïve heart?

These are great questions right?  Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer other than she realized that I needed a father.  She believed in her heart that my dad was a good man and they just married too young.  Maybe it was the willingness of my grandfather (his father) W.P. to pick me up and drop me off at my mom’s parent’s house when I got out of school for summer vacation.  He was willing to make this 240 mile shuttle run just so he could spend a few hours with his grandson.  Again, I don’t know the answer, but I’m glad she did… THANKS MOM!!!

My mother rarely let me see the pain she carried over the years due to her failed marriage with my father.  This takes a strong woman of character.  Even when my dad remarried, she always allowed me to go out to Los Angeles to visit them.  I have friends (and you know who you are) that will not let their kids go across town to visit their dad and his new family because you don’t want your child around the new wife or girlfriend.  You have to ask yourself, what are you doing to your child by not allowing them to spend time with their father?

As a child, I didn’t understand the pain.  I only knew that my mom and I were in Nashville and my dad was in L.A.  I knew nothing about the fights over money and the challenges they faced in their early twenties living in Washington, D.C.  All I knew was that he was my daddy and he lived in L.A. while my mom and I lived in Nashville.

I didn’t know what child support was or what financial impact consistent payments could have had on my life.  I only knew that my dad was living out in L.A. with the movie stars, Mickey Mouse and the ocean and we were living in Nashville.  Fisk University, Tennessee State University and the music industry were cool, but they failed in comparison to Disneyland, Hollywood and Santa Monica Beach!

As you can see, a child’s perspective is based on things other than the pain parents feel. Are you viewing your situation and making decisions through your pain or through your child’s eyes?  Please share your thoughts and experiences both as a child and as a parent.  I look forward to the conversation.

Forgiveness freed my mom from her pain enough to allow me to develop a relationship with my dad. Forgiveness of self allowed my dad to be open to having a real relationship with me.

9 Comments For This Post
  • Robert Jackson
    January 11, 2011 at 1:25 am

    At some point, you have to play the cards you were dealt. Like your mom, my mom never discussed my father or the pain he caused her until I was 38 years old. I never met my father who passed almost 16 years ago. I did grow up angry because I didn’t know him and I constantly made excuses when I would get in trouble, etc. I changed when I reached a point in my life that not forgiving others will cause you to carry a big burden yourself. I was carrying that anger daily which wasn’t healthy. I had to learn to forgive in order to heal and move on. I understand that it wasn’t my fault that he never came around, but I also needed to forgive him for not coming around. I also needed to move on and be a better father to my children. Like you, it never affected me until Father’s Day or Bring a Dad to school, etc. As a child, I thought as a child. As a Man of God, I have learned that forgiveness is the key to moving forward! Brothers need to look at child support differently. When you operate outside of God’s Will, you leave yourself open for attacks!

    • sedriknewbern
      January 13, 2011 at 5:34 pm

      Rob, thank God you were wise enough to recognize the impact anger has had on your life. Because you have been able to forgive and move on, you now are making an impact on countless other young men. Keep up the great work you are doing and I look forward to your perspective as we continue this dialogue. Thanks for your support!

  • Chara Nicole
    January 11, 2011 at 2:03 am

    I read this holding back tears…scratch…typing through the tears in my eyes. As a child I was kept shielded from the truth – never knowing yet always curious.

    I thank you for your courage to be open and so appreciate you sharing your journey. It has already stirred something in my soul…memories, unanswered questions, life parallels…challenging me and the decisions in my family and how they protect or build up my baby girl.

    • sedriknewbern
      January 13, 2011 at 5:30 pm

      Chara, thank you so much for your support! As children we are often shielded from reality because of our lack of understanding and wisdom. However, children are often more aware of what’s going on than adults realize. Although I am no expert, I have to admit that it’s always better to know the truth than to create your own truth. I think that’s when you really get hurt emotionally. Especially when you discover that your truth was the furthest from the truth.

      On the other hand, parents are doing the very best they possibly can to raise their children. In some cases, keeping their children shielded from some harsh realities is better than the alternative. I’ve personally seen the emotional and even physical scarring that occurs when a child takes on the pain, suffering and challenges of a parent. It’s not healthy and can cause long term issues. Again, I’m not an expert on the psychological side of these discussions, but I hope to find someone who is and would be willing to provide coaching and commentary as we open this onion.

  • Meika
    January 11, 2011 at 6:36 am

    I grew up without my father. He was never mentioned and even as an adult I was somewhat afraid to ask my mother about him. My mother died unexpectedly four years ago, a year later I asked friends and family , got a name and begun my search on the internet. I found him here in Nashville living in a big nice house , with nice cars and discovered he was an educator. I believe discovering he was successful angered me because although we lived in a decent neighborhood my mother struggled to feed us and put clothes on our backs. I went to his home but didnt have the courage to knock. I called and left a few messages and wrote a letter with no responses. I felt the hurt all over again.

    I have to say that I always felt like I should have been told about my father and the circumstances at that time , I had the right to know my father even if he didn’t want me. Any parent that keeps a child away from the other parent has to realize you are not protecting but hurting the child. I know my mother did what she thought was the best thing for me. I still don’t know what happen or why but I do know the effects it all had on me.

    Although child support is important , time spent with the child is even more important. I have seen kids not allowed to see their fathers because child support isn’t being paid, he is remarried and other selfish reasons. All players have to keep in mind It’s about that childs well being.
    Thanks for this blog Cedric.

    • sedriknewbern
      January 13, 2011 at 5:21 pm

      Meika, I couldn’t imagine the pain that you felt in your discovery. I couldn’t agree with you more, time spent is far more important than the amount of child support or gifts they receive. I’m definitely going to write about this topic and how children are not allowed to see their fathers. Thanks for sharing your story and I pray that you know your story will help so many others move from pain to triumph!

  • Will
    January 11, 2011 at 4:55 pm


    I too grew up for the most part without my dad in the house. However, I was fortunate to come from a home with four older brothers and will say that my mom and dad were married during the first five years of my life.

    I would tell you these first five years provided me with my fondest childhood memories. Not only was I my father’s fifth son but I am also his name sake and looked the most like him.

    My father, a military man that moved his family from base to base over the years returned from a years’ deployment in the vietnam war to find a wife who did not want to move her family to germany and wanted to buy a home and set roots for her sons in California.

    This to my knowledge was what caused an end to what I saw as a great marriage and family unit in late 1968. I can still recall the day following Christmas when my father left in our brown 1965 Mercury Colony Park station wagon with wood panelling on the sides and drove out of site. At first I was not sure if it was the car or my dad I missed most.

    It turns out that there are 10 years almost to the day between me and my eldest brother and 4 years between me and the next youngest brother.

    Shortly after my father left, my mother who was always a very hard worker, met another man that she married. This individual, who looked almost exactly like Rosie Grier in size and stature became my step dad and moved into our home home. He was extremely nice to my brothers and I at first, but I being the youngest, was the only one of the bunch who was somewhat accepting. As you can imagine, this was phony. This individual was also a military man like my father and was deployed to vietnam as well. Upon his return some months later, this individual was beyond crazy. Our world was turned upside down.

    Based on our suffering and my mothers suffering and a year of having the police summond to our home to control the abuse; my mother successfully ended the marriage and had the individual ordered out of the state.

    During this time and the many years that followed I rearly if ever heard from my father who was such a strong influance in my early years. When it came to playing sports in school and having courage to confront issues that adolesent males deal with, I found myself hesitant and ill equipped. I blamed my father for this hesitancy. Because of age differences, my older brothers rarely made time for me, so I was left to grow and learn these things on my own.

    After highschool graduation, I became a teenage father myself. My father learned about this through the grapevine and stopped paying the very small amount of child support she was receiving as a result. I was upset for my mother, but can now understand why he should not pay based on the fact that I was living like an adult and not a child. .

    Over the years, my mother never talked down on my father but built him up to us as a good man. I just could not see it for myself.

    To stop the resentment that I was building up; I made it my mission to see my father for the first time in 13 years in 1982. When I found him, he was remarried and ultimately had three more children. We had a chance to talk and he explained to me that he never came back to check on us because he said my mother broke his heart. He did not know how to deal with us without dealing with her. I tried to understand but could not. I looked at what my mother was able to do on her own and I looked at what he had done with his new wife and family. Comparing these lifestyles and seeing it first hand what my mother did for my brothers and I; I noticed it was not what my young mind had built up and imagined and could see how my mother and father outgrew each other. Not to put my father down, but he was content living in a trailer park and my mother would have never gone for that. She set her sights on sending me to college and that is what I did.

    Between that first re-encounter with my father and his death in 2000, we rekindled our relationship to a certain extent. I took my wife and two girls to see him and there were happy times. Out of all my brothers, I was the only one to visit him when he got sick on a number of occasions.

    In 1985, my middle brother feel into a coma due to a terminal illness and ultimately died at the age of 28. During his coma, no one could revive him. My father and his second wife made the trip from Georgia to Boston to visit my brother in the hospital. By the sound of my father’s voice and some of the nicknames he had for my brother, my father was able to revive him just prior to his death. During this same visit, I saw my two eldest brothers very excited and to see their father after several years of absense. Beyond this chance encounter, they never made any excerted efforts to see him.

    All four of us were married to our wives in our mid to late 20s and all four of us have 20 years or more of being married to the same women we married initially. We each also have at least two or more children in these marriages.

    I would say the experience of growing up without our father in the home and without any effort from him to make contact has caused all of us to take our committments seriously.

    I will say I am greateful for my mother and father’s contribution to my life. The lessons they taught me both good and bad have shaped the man I am today.

    • sedriknewbern
      January 13, 2011 at 5:14 pm

      Will, your story is interesting in that you and your brothers have maintained long lasting relationships in spite of the challenges you witnessed as children. I think this is the kind of commitment that breaks these generational cycles. Thanks for your support Will!

  • Pingback: Lesson 8: I don’t care enough to let you back in « Unconditional Forgiveness

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