Misplaced Praise of a Father

I think I’m done.  I’m done agreeing with the generalized small talk and factually inaccurate praise of  the mere suggestion of  the presence of my Ex-husband in our children’s lives — like he’s some kind of magic man.

People who know, know better.

An ex-neighbor dropped by yesterday.  I hadn’t seen her in over a year.  We don’t have much in common and she does not read people well.   She’s had four husbands, yet when my husband up left me and the children and I was visibly devastated, dehydrated and malnourished,  she went on and on about how we should stay together and that maybe there’s hope.

I wish I’d tried harder.  Don’t give up. Maybe he’ll come back.  I hope you can work it out.

That’s  what she said to me.  She said this to me, though she knew that my husband had, suddenly, cruelly, left me.  Now that I’m thinking back, it is quite possible that this woman is a nut job.

She was one of the people I avoided back then.  Some people say the wrong things.  They can’t help it, they won’t change.

Yesterday, she dropped by unannounced to invite me to her mother’s memorial service.  She arrived just as the kids were preparing to go on a dinner visit with their dad.  Like before, she went on and on about how that’s so good that he sees them, that –the alternative in her mind — total abandonment —  is so bad, and told me a story about how her daughter-in-law’s absentee father showed up on her wedding day and practically ruined it.   So she reasoned that my situation is so much betterblah blah blah

I don’t recall asking her opinion at all.

I did not enjoy our one-sided conversation.   There are always stories of the most horrendous parents, male and female, but if you set the bar at those folks, hey, everybody   looks good. I have one  good father and know many more.  The fatherhood  bar is high in my world, or actually, it’s where it needs to be, but I digress . . .    Not only did this woman irk me, but she  went on and on while  there was a child within earshot.   I wonder how it  makes kids feel to hear an adult praise their father for  merely seeing them?    Completely clueless,  the ex-neighbor didn’t notice when I tried to change the subject by talking about the children themselves, their accomplishments.   I was being polite.   Perhaps too polite.

Bitch, you don’t know my life.”  Is what I wanted to say.

I’m sorry folks, I don’t usually talk like that, but sometimes people piss me off.

In fact, I’m a polite sort –to a fault, really, I can make small talk and seem to agree to the most ridiculous statements for the sake of decent society.  But sometimes, it seems, this gives a pass and an exaggerated sense of importance to people who don’t deserve it, as well as an acceptance of past, current and likely future bad behavior.  And sometimes, it just makes me mad.

As we sat in my tiny living room, on a house on a busy street, in the neighborhood of “The Help”  that I had to work my butt off to get the Hoarders smell out of ,  it seems that no matter what transpired and how well the children have adapted to and excelled in  a difficult situation, the most important thing for her to discuss was the seemingly magical appearance of their father.

I call bullsh*t.

Maybe if he looked like this his appearance would be, indeed, magical.

So now, instead of nodding politely, I’m going to try to opt out  of the small talk that makes me blinding mad.  I think it’s better that way, don’t you?

And before I get the “What about the kids?” speech, I’m talking about conversations between grown folks.   Children are not invited.

From now on every time some  random acquaintance inquires about the time my kids spend with their dad and says,

Oh that’s good, he still sees them.

My new response will be,

Yeah,  I hear there’s gonna be a parade.

And then I will launch on full-out campaign, an attack,  if you will, describing the awesomeness of my children in excruciating detail.  And I will note that my elderly parents, even at their advanced age, rarely miss a concert and get to many sporting events each season —  because they enjoy it and they are so proud . . . and the kids are . . . wait for it . . . AWESOME!

And then I will turn and leave, because, you know, I’ve got things to do.   I will not talk about or allow discussion of  the perceived  importance of  the (magical) father’s (mythical) encouragement of said real accomplishments by these awesome kids.  His is not my banner to wave, or shoot at.  As I said, I’ve got other things to do.

My point is this: It is presumptuous to make sweeping  statements about the perceived importance of an absent party, without any knowledge of or inquiries into the actual situation, and expect me, the one clearly in the trenches,  to agree.

And frankly, it’s rude.

Just Me With . . . good manners.

The general public’s  persistent blanket praise of fathers who may neither  be good men  nor good  fathers  is a disservice to men who  are both.  It’s a disservice to the mothers who are doing the best they can with or without (or in spite of)  the existence of “the father.”   It’s a disservice to the brothers, cousins, friends, sisters, uncles, aunts, neighbors, teachers, grandparents and whole loads of people who provide support and encouragement and  love even though they have no parental ties nor court ordered obligation to do so.  It’s a disservice to the kids, the children who should expect parents to do for them, without kudos.

So I’m opting out.

I have other things to do.

For other misinformed comments, see: Weekends Off .

For other misplaced praise, see: The Unspoken Pain of  Sharing Celebrations

24 responses

  1. A parade! I love it! I’m going to add that to my, “oh yeah, he thinks he’s dad of the year!” response. People have such low expectations of exes. I’m joining you in calling bullsh*t!

    1. Yeah, I’m all about finding the snappy comebacks.

  2. And the choir shouts AMEN!!
    I have been told, regarding the part-time father who makes 3.5 times my income and still collects support from me,”He’s a great father, and makes enough that she’ll never want for anything”. DON’T try to polish a turd, it still a turd.

    1. I would imagine that if one tried to polish a turd, he/she would end up with a lot of crap on her. So you are right, “Don’t try to polish a turd.” Ha!

  3. Yes, I too have just divorced “father of the year”. It sucks…even my young girls “appreciate” his visits, as if there is an option? The whole system stinks, so much expectation on the mom, so little on the father, and oh so much praise for the little to almost nothing that they, the “Disney Dads,” do for their children.

    1. For me, people far removed from the situation make assumptions. People even remotely connected, even just by distant observation, know the deal. It’s just that those relative strangers feel the need to make the silliest comments and I’m done agreeing for the sake of making small talk. So done. I won’t add to the praise by my silence.

      1. I was done a long, long time ago. I so vividly remember, him, the Psychosissy, (my newly formed word for him/it) always, and I mean always, tooting his own horn. It made me sick then, and that was just the beginning. I would care for the children 24/7 take care of the two dogs 24/7, the home, the everything, and the one time a week, one time per month he was seen with either the children or the dogs he would be praised by neighbors, praised by his family members, praised by all, as the rules seem to be a bit skewed for such individuals. He almost asked for this praise, acted always so put upon, he is/was will always be an actor, mimicker, and people like to buy the fantasy. People would rather not know, people would rather remain stupid, remain in the superficial, as to really examine, really give due regard is more than most are willing to do for those in need and suffering.

        This makes me so sad. I live in the real world, have woken up, will advocate, will crusade for all those I feel are suffering from some sort of injustice. I love human kind, I lovveeeeee animals, I love children, and I love good people, I have great disregard/dislike
        for the Psychosissy’s/Narcissopaths (also my own definition) of this world. I often wonder why g-d created such monsters to live amongst us, why? They must serve some purpose, right? My ex was very successful, a very successful salesman, who did afford us a good lifestyle. I would imagine he did so by conning others on a daily basis, something I never really realized before.

      2. Unsolicited, misplaced, praise for the wrong person to the wrong person, by an idiot. I wish I could say it’s an isolated incident for me — or for anyone. I can’t. Thanks, for the comment and understanding.

      3. You sound awesome!

        I too live in Stepford, and it’s high time we shake things up! Life is messy, life is good, we would not have it any other way…but please neighbors, onlookers, society, give credit where it is deserved and not just apply it where it often is not, as to do so is harmful and clearly ignorant. It is easier to project, easier to be stupid, easier to give empty/senseless compliments to those who require such affirmation. Sadly it harms the ones that are authentic, the ones who truly do all the work.

        You sound strong and wonderful, remember your neighbor is stupid, and stupidly assigns praise to those she knows little about.


  4. AMEN….great post. You know my feelings on this issue all too well…

    1. Yes, yes I do. Thanks for commenting.

  5. The general public?

    I don’t know what sort of influence their father is or isn’t. . . but what I can say GENERALLY is. . . “it’s none of my business”. And to your point, if it’s “none of my business” you can be SURE I will not bring it up in casual conversation because, to paraphrase you quoting baby mama. . . I don’t know your life.

    IN general it sounds like your neighbor is ignorant about just how far over the boundary of “none of your business” she’s stepped. Maybe a simple, “Not really, he’s an abandoning douche bag and I don’t really want to discuss him.” would end it, but probably your way is “good manners”.

    1. Now, see, you get it. You’ve got good manners. And my ex-neighbor really is kind of a nut job. Her eyes don’t reflect understanding. Elevator is not getting to the top I don’t think if you know what I mean, especially remembering the way she was in the past. I think it was a combination of her and hearing commentary on the radio that day that seemed to elevate bad guys to make them seem like super-heroes with the ability to fly in and out of children’s lives to save the masses “in our community” simply by showing up regardless of past and current behavior, with no regard to quality of the relationship or the children or their schedules, interests, goals, or the man’s consequences or accountability. Like Batman — swoop in to save the poor wretches below — then leave. But I guess the general public I heard that day in addition to the ex-neighbor wasn’t general, it was black radio. Still, I do get random comments like that from mainstream people in real life, like my ex-neighbor. It’s pretty common, sadly.

      But your point, and mine, is that one should not assume things and comment on them. And if one does, the recipient (me) does not have to agree just to be polite.

      I guess we were raised better than to make such assumptions and comments. Thank goodness.

  6. My wife thinks it’s because I don’t like to open up and share. . . I think it’s because talking to people about their personal biznatch seems like an invitation to them to talk to me about mine. . . and I have NO INTEREST in that.

    Other people tell me it’s because my ancestors were German.

  7. I believe that even Emily Post would advocate for a polite way of showing her O U T of your home and not indulging in a conversation for which she has clearly DISQUALIFIED herself. You are wwwwaaaayyyyy too polite. Don’t let that poisonous tripe around your children, much less allow it to pollute your energy!!

    One of my favorite Anne Lamott quotes is “No is a complete sentence.” Adapted, “Now is just not a good time,” repeated ad nauseum as the answer to every one of her questions until she gets out of your door might do just as well. 😉

    No, their father is NOT magical. The emperor is in fact butt nekked, and frankly, I’d much rather the guy with the wings was instead! (YUM FACTOR 10 BTW! thanks for the eye candy!)

    While I on no way approve of the way this phrase is being abused in Florida, I do believe it is applicable here: STAND YOUR GROUND!!! (And get em that butterfly man’s phone number! Maybe he has a straight brother who’s single. BAHAHAAHAHAA!)

    1. First of all, you crack me up! Second, you’re welcome. I was so pissed and it’s such a serious subject I’d figured I’d spice things up with a little eye candy. And third, yum.

      Seriously, thanks for the comment and confidence boost. I won’t tolerate such rudeness and ignorance anymore.

      I’ll check on the butterfly guy’s brother.

  8. I get comments like this all the time regarding my oldest son’s father. They aren’t here in the situation, they don’t see what goes on, so why do they think they can say anything they want? Ugh. Drives me nuts!

    1. Me too. Drives me crazy. So over it.

  9. Amen to that! And to the myriad of other inane comments uninformed people make about situations and events single parents make solo.

    1. Yeah, the comments just need to stop. And people should stop and think. But I’m not going to let the comments sit there like turds anymore. Nope, nope, nope.

  10. I know exactly how you feel. My ex’s involvement with our (my!) kids is a breakfast or a movie every other weekend. That’s it. When I see how angry my daughter is over his lack of interest in their lives, and how high my son jumps for the scraps his father gives him, I think it would be better if he just went away all together. And when people say things like “well, at least he sees them” I literally want to punch them in the face or invite them over to see how sad my son is at all the unanswered phone calls and unreturned messages.

    1. There is always a sigh of relief in my house when there’s a cancellation, even the ones where no reason is given. It frees up their time for homework and school projects, hanging with friends, and generally getting things done. Then there’s the stress they express every time they get invited to something that falls during the visitation time and they know they might not be able to go — just so that they can sit with their father (and his new family). “I don’t see why we have to go.” People have no idea. Thanks for your comment!

  11. […] To the inevitable comment that “at least he seems them, ” I refer to   Misplaced Praise of a Father is Not Good Manners. […]

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