… from the bungalow

With Love from Dad: An open letter to my three kids

37 Comments

This post is dedicated to all the dads/parents who desperately love their kids, but have a hard time seeing through the visual din of life with depression.

Dear kids,

I have not been the kind of dadย  that I want to be. In fact, I am not the man I thought I’d be in many ways. I walk through life viewing the world around me like a movie. I come home from work feeling like a zombie, only to spend a few hours in a house that doesn’t feel like my own. I am disengaged; from work, from you, from life in general.

I wish I could say that I’m doing the best I can with the resources I have, but I’m not sure I’m even doing that. I could spend five minutes each morning in silent meditation. I could talk to a doctor about medication options. I could exercise once in a while, even if it’s just running up and down the stairs for two minutes. I could go to bed half an hour earlier. There are plenty of things I could do; things of which I am fully aware that could have a positive affect on me and, subsequently, on you. By that same token, there are plenty of reasons I could cite for my apparent inability to do and be more, but they would be excuses.

The fact of the matter is: I have let you down, and I am sorry.

But then there are those rare moments when I do feel connected. As I sat on the couch the other night, F resting peacefully under my arm, I looked at the Christmas tree and thought, all of this is mine. I have a house with a tree, and my little blended family is here.

This is my home.

Christmas tree FtB

The fact that it was a strange feeling to me, a feeling that I noticed clearly popping out of the muted, hazy background, makes me so sad. I thought, shouldn’t this feeling be more the norm, and the other dull feeling the exception? It’s something I’ve struggled with for a long time. This is not an excuse, but an explanation of sorts.

I know you know I love you. What you don’t know is just how very much that is.

May I have the strength to do everything in my power to be the best dad I can be. May we both have patience and loving forgiveness when I don’t live up to my expectations. And may you always feel loved. Always.

This is my prayer.

Love,

Daddy (Chris)

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Author: Chris

A dad with a self-evaluation complex. Also a music therapist, college enrollment administrator, and hippie-nerd.

37 thoughts on “With Love from Dad: An open letter to my three kids

  1. Beautiful, baby. I’m sorry you’re feeling this way. I wish I was able to help you, but you know that I’m also dealing with my own issues.
    What I can do is love and support you and our kids as well as I am able and with what I have. I know it isn’t much, but it’s all I’ve got.
    Our kids know we love them. They may say otherwise, but it’s only out of anger and frustration.
    I love you, and I know we’ll make things work. We always do. โค

  2. I love your forthrightness about this. It will help your kids someday, and will certainly help other readers who struggle with the same questions day to day.

    Right now I’m working from home because of food poisoning. I love living minimalist, something I haven’t been able to do for a couple of years. When I’m home instead of “working from home,” my discontent with that blends into the background, but when I’m working from home (as today), I feel a bit of discontent. It’s hard to focus with all this clutter around me.

    But I see my little boy and I’m comforted. I’ll take him over the clutter a million times older. I just wish I could be more tuned in, the way I was a few months back. I need to get back to the place where I am truly with him when I am with him, not waiting for my phone’s green notification light to blink.

    Even when I fail, though, like you . . . it is not for lack of love. Never for that.

    • I hear you, Deb. I wasn’t so much referring to my literal clutter (although it is there, and it is distracting) as the metaphorical, yet very real haziness of living with depression. That cuddle on the couch with my special little guy, staring at the tree brought me out of it for a moment. It’s difficult to hold onto that feeling. I’ll take it when I can get it.

      • I got that; I was trying to grok what you wrote by comparing it against my experiences. It’s been hard for me to feel “at home” when home is such a foreign feeling place to me. It’s a divergence in our experiences, but one that does impact how “in it” I feel.

        I dream of starting anew in a new house and seeing if that physical change mightn’t help other landscapes as well.

        • Ah, right! Sorry for the misunderstanding. ๐Ÿ˜‰ My house often feels foreign to me because I’m only there and awake for about the same amount of time that I’m away from the house for work. Depression doesn’t help.

          Thank you, as always, for commenting.

  3. Chris, this is sweet admission of your humanity to your kids, and us, the readers. I do not struggle with depression, but I struggle all of the time just as a single mom with feeling “adequate”. Much of the time I feel I just don’t measure up in terms of providing the life I wish I could for my daughter. Then, I snap out of it realize this IS our life, and she IS loved beyond words-the most important gift our children deserve. All of the fumblings, mistakes, shortcomings will be by the wayside with each passing day. And, when our children are older, they won’t necessarily grasp for the things they “didn’t” have or see or experience, they’ll know we gave it our all, and our love reigns. This has been my own experience with my parents, with time, as I’ve grown up (and keep on growin’.) Thanks for sharing so honestly, and may you have more blessed moments throughout Christmas-keep huggin’ those lil’ ones. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thanks, SWM! I hope theyโ€™ll someday understand how much I do love them. I also hope other parents will see this exactly when they need it. Maybe their kids will feel more love on that day than they did the day before.

      I will be sure to get in some cuddle time tonight!

  4. I applaud you for writing this, Chris!

  5. what a beautiful mantra/prayer/promise to try harder. We can all do better and be better. It’s the recognizing that is the first step, taking action is the more important part. Faith without works is dead. I heard that somewhere. ๐Ÿ™‚ Anyway, this is lovely because you are lovely.

    • Thanks, Kitty. One of my hopes in writing this is that I’ll hold myself more accountable for the way I interact with my kids in the evenings, when everyone’s had a long day and attitudes are inversely proportional to tempers (tall/short).

  6. Yes! This is a good thing…that others will read and relate. Then, what you are going through is not without purpose, even though so difficult. And, btw, thank you so much for subscribing to my blog. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoy reading yours! Hugs by the tree-the best! I’m gonna get some in with my lil’ one tonight, myself. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Beautiful prayer, Christopher. I think you are not alone. I believe everyone plugs along and neglects to appreciate what they have. I’m glad you recognize how precious those three boys are, and I know they know how much you love them. ( I’ve prayed the same prayer for you ever since F was born.)

    • Thanks, Mary! I know you have. Something Colleen always used to say when I was driving somewhere with the boys: “precious cargo!” That reminds me… We still need to buy a more suitable family vehicle. I should get on that.

  8. that was beautiful.

  9. I could have wrote that. Every. Single. Word. Except I am mom. That is exactly how I feel. Every day is a strugle, and I don’t have “good days”, I have good moments. I always feel like I need to do more and somehow I don’t. More times then not I don’t even care to get out of bed if I don’t have to go to work. I know I should appriciate so much in my life but it is a struggle. Then the guilt is suffocating. Its a cycle for me, a nightmare. I struggle to find things I care about. How terrible am I?! I have two great, well behaved boys, three great step-sons, a husband that loves me, and I struggle to care?! I know how I want to raise them, and I also know how far short I fall in my own day to day life. Then I go getting mad at myself for not appriciating that. I wish my boys knew what they mean to me, from the bottom of my heart, I wish they knew. I try to make sure they know, but I don’t know. I’m such a mess. It wasn’t always this way. Please know what you wrote is amazing and there are others that know that pain. Here’s to the next minute of our lives. -Laci

    • I understand, Laci. Knowing that we want or need to do something differently isn’t usually enough to motivate change. But the understanding and support of others can go a long way.

      And please go easy on yourself. That’s not to say “become complacent,” because I know how easy it is to slip into that at times. Be forgiving. I think one of the worst things about depression isn’t necessarily the not-knowing that you’re depressed, but recognizing that you are and having a disconnect between knowing that you should do something about it and not being able to. To use your word, it’s suffocating.

      Take care, Laci. Thanks for your comments.

  10. This is so beautiful. I truly believe that the awareness you have described so articulately is a HUGE step in going where it is you want to go. You ARE a great dad, just having a difficult time right now. My dad went through a very depressed period for many many years when I was in middle school. Recently he told me he was sorry for those years. And you know what? They had been replaced by happy ones of him being present and attentive.
    Let go of the past and the mistakes of yesterday. You want to do better and you will. That is my prayer tonight for you.

    • I’m glad to hear that the damage is not irreparable, Hands Free Mama! I suspect that my dad had similar issues, but didn’t recognize it or couldn’t express it. We started mending our relationship once I was an adult, but we had already been too distant for too long by then to really have an openly loving relationship. He tries, and I appreciate that more than I can bring myself to convey.

      I constantly struggle to live in the moment. I know it should feel more like allowing than reaching, but it’s human nature to reach, I think. Thanks for the thoughtful comment.

  11. Made me tear up Chris. It reminds me of something my dad said to me when I was little. He never had time for us, he still doesn’t really and I am 32 years old now. He is 63, we just lost my mom in January and the walls went back up after we worked so hard to tear them down as adults. I seriously applaud you for being able to write this, and just know that your kids will always love you no matter what, they may say they don’t, but they do deep down. The only thing you can do is try. The difference between try and triumph is a little UMPH! You are aware and that is the first step to changing it! :0)

    • Sorry to learn about your mom, Christina. Like G.I. Joe taught me, knowing is half the battle. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Thanks for sharing your story. I wish you the best in your relationship with your dad. It’s not too late.

  12. Thank you for sharing this. You are definitely not alone.

  13. Chris, I feel and understand what you wrote. I’ve stumbled through entire months of my children’s lives, just hanging on and hoping I’d make it to the next day. And when I was most sure I had failed them, and that they deserved someone or something better, rather inevitably one of my three beloved children would come running into my arms and hug me just for being there. Just for being their mom. Much love to you hun. Love, El.

    • Thanks, El. I know that feeling. For me, it’s always coupled with a bit of guilt for knowing that I could be a better dad, yet knowing that they love me anyway. It’s bitter-sweet. Love to you, too.

  14. Hey Chris,
    This is so beautifully written and heartfelt. Forgive yourself for being human. Your kids know you love them and you ARE doing the best you can. I can’t wait to get to know your family better. Your sweet kids and you and Karin. ๐Ÿ™‚
    Lynne

  15. I admire you for writing such a moving letter to your children. I have never given it a thought to explain to my own son my anxiety and depression. I’ve struggled with it on and off for the majority of my adulthood. I think I’ve been on medication more often than not. I’ve practiced meditation and yoga. I know, as you stated, that exercise would help with the stress. Currently I am free of medication and the anxiety sure has crept back in-most of life is anxiety inducing, but there are also the “extra spice” situations around me adding to it, and the very real situations I am encountering that should go normally but I am learning how to cope with: e.g. having a panic attack in Toys R Us as I frantically search for my money card (that is there the whole time but I keep missing it when I search). You understand what is going on and that is a MAJOR part of it. Your children will appreciate what you’ve written and this almost makes me think that my own son, may benefit from something like this from me. He knows I love him, but he doesn’t get it sometimes when mommy melts down. Thank you for sharing this.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Rebecca. I do hope my kids will actually read this someday and gain some understanding about why I was sometimes short with them, yell, etc. I definitely feel like I love them more than I’m able to show, but I’m working on showing them more often and more fully. Writing helps provide some of the clarity necessary to do so.

  16. You’re a good man – and a great father!

  17. Reading this hit home in so many ways for me…however, it is my husband who has dealt with major clinical depression for the past three years. It has affected his parenting, professional life and our marriage in the worst ways possible. I think it’s extremely healthy and wise of you to write about your feelings, it surely is an outlet and probably helps put your blues in a better place. I wish you every happiness and all the health this little planet has to offer. Keep focused on the good, the beautiful, the positive and keep loving and communicating with that great family of yours. Fight for your happiness. You deserve it. And your wife and children deserve nothing less. โค

    • Thanks, Beez! This is one of the things I do (write) to help maintain my sanity and clarity. Actually, it’s about the only significant thing I do these days since I went off of medication a couple of years ago.

      You’re right about my family deserving the best I can offer them. I hope that your husband is finding the resources he needs. Seeing for himself that he could use some help is probably the hardest part, but the follow through can be just as tricky. Best wishes to you and your family.

  18. Pingback: FTIAT: I will not sit idly by… « The Monster in Your Closet

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