It’s Father’s Day and that, for a lot of men, means a healthy reminder that it is never too late to make amends! The attempt to make amends takes tremendous courage. Before you consider how to go about making amends to children whose faith in you, and in men, and in God as a Father figure, has been damaged by your repeated failures to act like a man and keep your promises, a word of advice from a grownup daughter of a lame dad who never attempted to make amends.
Step 1. Put yourself in the child’s shoes. Stop thinking of yourself, your feelings, your reasons, your circumstances, your excuses. The fact is, whatever you did (or did not do, and that is the problem), you were the adult, and they were the child, and no matter how mature they seem to you now — that little boy or girl is still inside, those memories of pain, fear, confusion, doubt, hopelessness…those feelings are still attached to thoughts of you. The moment they found out you could not be counted on for love and support — that is the nerve touched at every thought of you, and they have to set that aside and try to override the negative emotions with rationalization.
Note: Even if they reject your attempt to make amends, the fact that you knew that was a probability (deserved) and that you attempted anyway — that you were willing to risk pain yourself in order to heal theirs — it at least gives Men and Dads and God as a Father figure a better reputation!
Step 2. Think carefully about the approach. More often than not the problem is not the problem — the problem is how you approach the problem. A handwritten letter of apology in the mail might be a nice touch, unless there is a restraining order in place, in which case, you should follow the law to the letter of it on how to communicate with those you have already traumatized.
Note: If you write a letter, don’t write about the weather or the hooker you’re trying to save, and never lay blame on anyone but yourself for your failures to act as a responsible parent. YOU chose to put your impregnating device into an impregnable place. YOU chose to do things, or not do things, that were destructive. So, no excuses and no blame game.
Step 3. Don’t ask for anything in return and don’t expect that all will be forgiven. Even if you are so lucky as to be forgiven, verbally, the negative feelings and memories will take a long, long time to heal, and you obviously have some growing to do as a human being to understand how bad what you did (or did not do) was and why trusting you enough to let you back into their world will take a lot of positive reinforcement initiated by you. BABY STEPS: Give your word on little things, and then keep your word on little things. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Don’t tell lies, fibs, or exaggerations of the truth — be straight. Don’t introduce your young adult children to your hooker girlfriend. Don’t leave porn out where your grownup daughter can see it when she finally comes to spend a little time with you. Don’t tell your children you can’t help them even a little bit with college or rent, when your checkbook shows $500 here and there paid to your 21-year-old friend named Pam. Someday, you too will have a heart attack or stroke, and your checkbook will become part of the family record. If you are a sex addict, own up to it and get some real help!
It’s time to man up! Do or die in dishonor.
Note to the idiot who screwed his many second chances to be the hero to my son: This is not an invitation to bother me, or him. We stopped caring about you years ago when you failed to attempt to make amends when it would have made a difference. It’s definitely too late for you. Remember the time you were concerned about his well being and asked to speak to him on the phone when you called my best friend’s house the week we left? Remember when you wrote to him c/o the Safe House PO Box? Remember when you cared enough to prove to him that you had stopped abusing drugs and alcohol? Remember when you saw the happy tears in his face? No? You don’t remember that? Hmm. I wonder how you could have forgotten doing such important things. Oh well. Whatever. Your loss. Remember the judge’s words, recorded in court, “Leave her alone…no contact…?” Good. At least you remember that! Don’t make me file another restraining order.