climbing the hill of parenting

Tough Love: How Do You Reach a Kid Who’s Avoiding You?

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“Are you avoiding me?”

When I put a text message in my kid’s inbox that says, “I’m driving for the next five hours. Please call so we can catch up.” And I don’t hear from them. Should I continue the hard press? Should I respond in kind? How do I learn from my experience and do better as a father?

My Dad Was An A**hole

I worked hard to find a common ground with my father. He was an alcoholic. He was abusive. He was avoidant. As his son, I continued to pursue him even as he continued to swirl down the drain of drinking to blackout every single night.

As the divorce loomed in my life, my main sadness was for my two kids. I knew what was about to happen. I was going to lose the majority of time with my kids. I was going to be swept out of the house and out of their lives. Sure, I was going to work hard to stay connected with both kids, but I knew the “time” factor was going away.

When you imagine that you will be tucking your kids in every night and waking them up (making breakfast) every morning, and that was taken away by the selfish action of my ex-wife who decided for all of us, to take the Standard Possession Order (awarded to 85% of men in Texas) as prescribed by the family court system all over our country. Yes, it’s standard, but it’s not fair or balanced. And the divorce package is a terrible offer most states offer to moms headed for divorce.

So, divorce in this country is usually advantageous to women. The dirty little secret is why. It’s not because moms are better parents than men. It’s not because all men are making a lot more money than their wives. It’s not because there’s some scientific evidence that moms are more essential for the healthy development of young children. Nope.

The reason child support is mandated in most states is this: The federal government funds the AG’s office of each state based on that department’s amount of child support under management. So, the entire state’s attorney general’s office would be downsized if child support became optional rather than mandatory. Yes, it’s possible to get divorced with no child support, but both parents have to agree to that and present their plan to the court. When ONE PARENT (usually the mom) decides to go for the gold, the law is in their favor, because the law wants to keep their budget as high as possible.

Back to My Kids

So, my wife took 70% of the kid-time for herself, saddled me with a $2,000 per month payment, and was affirmed as supported by her friends, the law, and even 70% of the readers of this blog. (My audience skews 70% women, and *most* women believe mom’s deserve child support and the SPO, regardless of their understanding of any other elements of the family.)

One of my kids is thrilled to stay in touch with me. We FaceTime most days. I offer them support and advice. My other kid only reaches out, or even responds to my texts, when they want money. That’s it. Should I just play it cool? Should I dial back my efforts to reach my AWOL kid?

What I read recently (yes it was a meme, but…) said that “What is most troubling you, is your teacher.”

Okay, so what am I to learn about this situation?

I invite this child to special events. Declined. I offer financial support. Not even a thanks message comes back.

Let’s apply some of my principles and see where I can grow.

Single dad – sure, I’ve got a road ahead that will continue with both of my kids. I even, occasionally, have to deal with my angry ex-wife. So, in the long run, I want to be a constant for both of my kids. My constant is this: supportive, no agenda, continuous outreach.

Spiritual – I feel the pain of loss with my distant kid. I am learning to continue to love and support someone who ignores 95% of my outreach. I can celebrate the 5% connection, and let them manage their own lives.

Self-care – What can I learn about this situation? I have to learn, repeatedly, to let go of the outcome when I’m reaching out to my kids. I have to keep giving them love even when a zero response is the result.

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.


John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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a good dad's guide to divorce

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