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Father's Day Makes Me Feel Guilty


BTDT
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I've seen a couple threads on bad parental relationships in the last couple days with which I could totally relate. I didn't want to usurp them with my own whining. So I'll do it here.

 

I just did the Father's day ritual of sifting through what seemed like hundreds of cards looking for one that I can send to my dad. One that doesn't say, "because you were always there for me, and shared your strength and wisdom, and helped me to grow, thanks for making me who I am,' and all of that. Basically, one that just says "happy father's day" and leaves it at that.

 

Inevitably, after such an Father's / Mother's day excursion, I wind up feeling depressed and guilty.

 

Guilty because I know my parents desperately WANT to hear all that other stuff that I cannot force up from anywhere within myself, and all they get is "have a nice day," and I feel as if my card ends up hurting them almost as much with the obvious lack of sentiment, as if I hadn't even sent one.

 

I also end up feeling cheated that I don't have the kind of parents I can say all those great things to. I get jealous, reading those greeting cards, that somewhere out there is a daughter who has a parent they actually feel those things about! I'm jealous of my friends who have close ties to their families.

 

Here's the thing. I don't have any morbid stories to tell about how one or both of my parents abandoned me, or physically or sexually abused me, (other than spanking me with 'the rod,' as the good book told them to), or anything else that would more, in my mind, justify the scary absence of emotion I have for them. I came from a 'good Christian' two-parent home. My parents married each other fairly young and are married to this day, and have a good relationship with each other. They clearly love each other, and I"m glad they have each other. They tried to do 'family things' with us kids.

 

It's just that...I feel cheated! Where two parents who should have loved me for exactly who I was, who focused on my strengths, should have been, I had two robots in love with God raising me! Who actually tried to actively suppress the things about me that are my exact strengths! (My intelligence and curiosity, for one). Oh, and god forbid if they ever let me for a second think I was attractive. I once beamed to my mom when a cute boy told a friend of mine that I had nice eyes. She said, naturally, "Well that's the light of Jesus in you that he is seeing."

 

I once got the courage together to tell my mom I felt a little embarassed that she would answer the phone "Jesus loves you" and that it had gotten around school and kids made fun of us for that. Of course, she burst into tears and told me that "Jesus would deny me before God," for being embarassed by it. I just avoided giving anyone any reason to ever call me, as much as possible. Real healthy way to have friends. But then again, I was supposed to not be of the world. So I succeeded.

 

I look back at times when a 'real' parent would have provided guidance. Would have attempted to relate to me and help me through something hard. Would have given me some sort of encouragement when I was down. Would have noticed I didn't have healthy emotional responses to situations that other people can normally handle gracefully, (I was an extremely anxiety-ridden child), and would have tried to shore me up in those areas. Would have tried to pass along basic life-skills in other areas, preparing me to be self sufficient and capable.

 

What did I get? I got platitude after platitude about God, (Have a problem? Just pray to God !), lectures about displeasing Him (when I was suffering some crisis of self-esteem or other, there was usually some lecture about 'pride' involved, and how 'pride' was a sin, etc.) and bible verse after bible verse for every occasion. When I asked rational questions, I was told I was relying on 'wordly wisdom,' that was pretty much the biggest sin you could commit.

 

I honestly cannot think of a single time when my dad ever voluntarily conversed with me about anything, big or small, growing up. And although my mom and I had 'deep' conversations when I would go to here with things on my mind, they seemed always to end up being about sin & God. Not anything that would have actually helped make me feel better or given me a new perspective on something.

 

So I helped myself; worked out my issues myself. Honestly, I feel I 'raised' myself. I taught myself how to cope.

 

So about 12 years ago, I shed the skin of religion (and told them about it). It was really the only way I ever had in the first place, to relate to them. Now I'm left with a relationship that consists of two people who stand for just about everything ideologically that repels me, who don't know me at all, yet who outright pity me; whose main concern about my life is that I am not saved. Who don't respect my views, think everything about my sincerely held values and reasons for valuing what I do is just me 'rebelling against them,' all the way up to the age of 38! How egocentric can they be? Everything I do now also confirms their negative view of the 'unsaved.' I don't care enough about them; reach out to them or my brother enough; I'm a cold person; it's because I've turned my back on Jesus, of course, not because our relationship was incredibly shallow from the start and the thing it was all ever built upon, does not exist for me.

 

I try to tell myself they are just imperfect, fallible people who love me at heart and they have absolutely zero way outside the language of religion, to talk to me about anything or to show it. Why can't I be the bigger person, the atheist with the open heart, the tolerant, compassionate one, and reach out to them more? I can be this way with other people, but not my family?

 

I just don't feel it. I fear there is something wrong with me that I don't. I have nothing to bond with them over at this late stage. I've had emotional moments where I 'shared feelings' with my mom, but when I do, I always regret it - feel manipulated or patronized or disrespected in the end - and want to put a lot of distance between us again.

 

I don't know where I'm going with this post now. I just hate feeling this way about my parents and wishing things were different. I guess my main point is, I certainly don't have a god-shaped hole but I do have a parent-shaped hole, and they have a child-shaped hole, but at least their invisible friend, Jesus, fills it for them, as they've always chosen for him to do.

 

Thanks for tolerating my self-indulgence in posting this. I guess I'm hoping someone else will say they understand what I mean.

 

I saw Shiva's post about the "I release you" email from his Father, and what he emailed back about not needing to be released, thank you very much. I've had eerily similar exchanges. "I release you" just comes from a place of utter presumption, and I would not have let it slide either. I guarantee I would have felt bad no matter what I said back, though.

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This certainly is tough- I think many of us can empathize.

 

For one thing, it may just take time. I don't know how long you have been an ex-Christian, but I know for me it took a while to get over the bitterness.

 

I finally realized, in my case, that my parents were only doing what they thought was best. Unfortunately, in many ways, it was not, but the important thing is that I got out of it and can decide things for myself now. They also cannot make me be under those things anymore.

 

I also realized that my parents (and they were practically fundies- at least mom was and dad didn't do anything about it) did many good things, whether in the name of God or not, that did benefit me. They encouraged me to learn in school and on my own (even if in the biblical area) which is what led me to have such a thirst for knowledge that I was able to see through Christianity at some point. Without this, I might have remained a mindless sheep. Also, my parents provided an environment for me to grow in, even if I don't make that same environment for myself now. I wasn't abused (well, maybe I was in some ways mentally but not physically), and my physical needs were taken care of. I don't know if this is your situation, but it helped me to try and see what good things they did that helped me be the person I am or the things they did that were bad that actually helped me become who I am today (the good parts).

 

But make sure you don't make yourself feel bad about not feeling close to your parents. You aren't close to them and that is natural when your beliefs deviate so greatly from theirs (or vice versa). Hopefully, with time, they might come to accept things the way they are and you can find other common ground to meet on. I have found that love is a good start because that is something that Christians and ex-Christians can share with one another. Also, underneath whatever we believe, we are all human and share similar experiences. We can understand each other if we take the time to, even from different belief systems.

 

I hope things get better for you and that your parents begin to be more accepting of your choices and of you.

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I think the way you feel is to be expected. It terrifies me though that this may be the way my relationship with my children turns out. I can only hope that they will have minds of their own and not be sucked into their mother's fundamentalist ways. I had hoped that when they got to be old enough they would want to come live with me and I could help them escape at an early age. Unfortunately, I recently found out that in Alabama, children never have the opportunity to choose which parent they want to live with. The law does not allow it. So they'll be with their mother til they are 18 at least, because she won't let them leave, I know it.

 

Anyway, YOU should not feel guilty about your lack of feelings for your parents. They wore Jesus around them like a shield for your entire life. Their belief not only shielded them from the harsh world outside, it shielded them from you and the things you needed as you grew. It's not your fault. It's theirs entirely. They are your parents, and despite your beliefs, they should love you unconditionally. It's sad that things haad to end up as they did, but do NOT beat yourself up over it. There was nothing you could have done differently that would have changed them. Love them as best you can. Don't try to force yourself to love them more than you are able. You'll just grow to resent them more and more. I love my mother, but I keep myself distanced from her too. She was a fundamentalist pentecostal while I was in high school, but backslid at the end of my senior year. I had hoped that it was for good, but about 10 or so years ago, she went back to the lord with a vengeance. She's usually good about not proselytizing though. She just gives me the typical "We'll be praying for you." I have to restrain myself to keep from telling her not to bother. But I love her as best I can, and we have a good relationship. She was the only one there for me when I was growing up. She was a strong woman. I just hate that she had to lean on Jesus instead of on her own true strength.

 

You're not to blame, BTDT. Don't kick yourself anymore.

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  • 4 months later...

Wow!!! I swear I was reading my own story reading yours here.

 

I posted my story in the ex-christians testimony section - 'Confessions of a Pastor's Kid'.

 

I have no family at all now. All of my relatives totally cut me off because I do not speak to my family anymore because they abused me. I have a great husband though, and his family are decent, normal people, even though they are baptists. We do not go to church and won't ever!

 

I can't believe how much you sound like me, and I'm so sorry you had to go through this too.

 

Hope to hear from you soon!

Amelia :)

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I agree that they were just doing what they thought was best for you but thats not an excuse. Time and time again I hear "he's just doing what he thinks is right" or "I thought I was doing the right thing". Frankly telling you Jesus would deny you because you were a bit embarased is sick. This sort of thing is mental child abuse and if there is anything wrong with you (and I don't think there is) then the blame rests solely with them. Childhood forms our whole outlook on life and the world (something evident in EVOLUTIONARY theory) and we need to stop making excuses for this kind of behaviour. Being english and the child of teachers I got a very very watered down version of your tale, but it still fucked up my thinking today. If I retaliate when someone punches me I still feel guilty for not "turning the other cheek" before my rational mind kicks in. Enjoy what you can of your parents but don't allow their failings as parents make you think badly of yourself.

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If you ever wonder whether or not your folks were doing what was right for you, pick up a copy of Alice Miller's "For Your Own Good" and take a peek.

 

I'd certainly count the sheer lack of recognition and acceptance of a child's individuality as a form of abuse, though perhaps a much more subtle one than, say, outright physical beatings. The kind of narcissism you describe may not be particularly malevolent, but it serves to leave a child feeling bereft and disconnected at best, because you are essentially neglected from birth - perhaps not materially, but emotionally.

 

I don't doubt a lack of connection with them. I'd probably feel similarly.

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I feel the same way every father's day. I sulk at the thought of looking through cards at Hallmark. I always get a "humor" card with some funny message in it. Then I scribble 'happy father's day" and leave it at that.

 

My male parental unit isn't a xitan (female parental unit is), but he is a member of this indian cult that he joined in the 70s. He follows the guru who leads it like any fundie follows their church pastor. Long story short it ended up with my parents divorcing.

 

I'm not particularly fond of either of my parents, but with my dad its like I've never felt close to him at all in my life. In fact I go to many lengths to avoid seeing or talking to him.

 

It hurts me when I see other people with their dads. I cant tell how many times Ive been in a store or in a park and seen some kid with his/her dad. It makes me teary-eyed, and sometimes I even follow them for a while.

 

But I know things will never be like that for me and the male parental unit. I just accpet it and live with it. If I had no real need to keep in contact with either of them, then i would probably do so without a question.

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I've seen a couple threads on bad parental relationships in the last couple days with which I could totally relate. I didn't want to usurp them with my own whining. So I'll do it here.

 

I just did the Father's day ritual of sifting through what seemed like hundreds of cards looking for one that I can send to my dad. One that doesn't say, "because you were always there for me, and shared your strength and wisdom, and helped me to grow, thanks for making me who I am,' and all of that. Basically, one that just says "happy father's day" and leaves it at that.

 

Inevitably, after such an Father's / Mother's day excursion, I wind up feeling depressed and guilty.

 

Guilty because I know my parents desperately WANT to hear all that other stuff that I cannot force up from anywhere within myself, and all they get is "have a nice day," and I feel as if my card ends up hurting them almost as much with the obvious lack of sentiment, as if I hadn't even sent one.

 

I also end up feeling cheated that I don't have the kind of parents I can say all those great things to. I get jealous, reading those greeting cards, that somewhere out there is a daughter who has a parent they actually feel those things about! I'm jealous of my friends who have close ties to their families.

 

Here's the thing. I don't have any morbid stories to tell about how one or both of my parents abandoned me, or physically or sexually abused me, (other than spanking me with 'the rod,' as the good book told them to), or anything else that would more, in my mind, justify the scary absence of emotion I have for them. I came from a 'good Christian' two-parent home. My parents married each other fairly young and are married to this day, and have a good relationship with each other. They clearly love each other, and I"m glad they have each other. They tried to do 'family things' with us kids.

 

It's just that...I feel cheated! Where two parents who should have loved me for exactly who I was, who focused on my strengths, should have been, I had two robots in love with God raising me! Who actually tried to actively suppress the things about me that are my exact strengths! (My intelligence and curiosity, for one). Oh, and god forbid if they ever let me for a second think I was attractive. I once beamed to my mom when a cute boy told a friend of mine that I had nice eyes. She said, naturally, "Well that's the light of Jesus in you that he is seeing."

 

I once got the courage together to tell my mom I felt a little embarassed that she would answer the phone "Jesus loves you" and that it had gotten around school and kids made fun of us for that. Of course, she burst into tears and told me that "Jesus would deny me before God," for being embarassed by it. I just avoided giving anyone any reason to ever call me, as much as possible. Real healthy way to have friends. But then again, I was supposed to not be of the world. So I succeeded.

 

I look back at times when a 'real' parent would have provided guidance. Would have attempted to relate to me and help me through something hard. Would have given me some sort of encouragement when I was down. Would have noticed I didn't have healthy emotional responses to situations that other people can normally handle gracefully, (I was an extremely anxiety-ridden child), and would have tried to shore me up in those areas. Would have tried to pass along basic life-skills in other areas, preparing me to be self sufficient and capable.

 

What did I get? I got platitude after platitude about God, (Have a problem? Just pray to God !), lectures about displeasing Him (when I was suffering some crisis of self-esteem or other, there was usually some lecture about 'pride' involved, and how 'pride' was a sin, etc.) and bible verse after bible verse for every occasion. When I asked rational questions, I was told I was relying on 'wordly wisdom,' that was pretty much the biggest sin you could commit.

 

I honestly cannot think of a single time when my dad ever voluntarily conversed with me about anything, big or small, growing up. And although my mom and I had 'deep' conversations when I would go to here with things on my mind, they seemed always to end up being about sin & God. Not anything that would have actually helped make me feel better or given me a new perspective on something.

 

So I helped myself; worked out my issues myself. Honestly, I feel I 'raised' myself. I taught myself how to cope.

 

So about 12 years ago, I shed the skin of religion (and told them about it). It was really the only way I ever had in the first place, to relate to them. Now I'm left with a relationship that consists of two people who stand for just about everything ideologically that repels me, who don't know me at all, yet who outright pity me; whose main concern about my life is that I am not saved. Who don't respect my views, think everything about my sincerely held values and reasons for valuing what I do is just me 'rebelling against them,' all the way up to the age of 38! How egocentric can they be? Everything I do now also confirms their negative view of the 'unsaved.' I don't care enough about them; reach out to them or my brother enough; I'm a cold person; it's because I've turned my back on Jesus, of course, not because our relationship was incredibly shallow from the start and the thing it was all ever built upon, does not exist for me.

 

I try to tell myself they are just imperfect, fallible people who love me at heart and they have absolutely zero way outside the language of religion, to talk to me about anything or to show it. Why can't I be the bigger person, the atheist with the open heart, the tolerant, compassionate one, and reach out to them more? I can be this way with other people, but not my family?

 

I just don't feel it. I fear there is something wrong with me that I don't. I have nothing to bond with them over at this late stage. I've had emotional moments where I 'shared feelings' with my mom, but when I do, I always regret it - feel manipulated or patronized or disrespected in the end - and want to put a lot of distance between us again.

 

I don't know where I'm going with this post now. I just hate feeling this way about my parents and wishing things were different. I guess my main point is, I certainly don't have a god-shaped hole but I do have a parent-shaped hole, and they have a child-shaped hole, but at least their invisible friend, Jesus, fills it for them, as they've always chosen for him to do.

 

Thanks for tolerating my self-indulgence in posting this. I guess I'm hoping someone else will say they understand what I mean.

 

I saw Shiva's post about the "I release you" email from his Father, and what he emailed back about not needing to be released, thank you very much. I've had eerily similar exchanges. "I release you" just comes from a place of utter presumption, and I would not have let it slide either. I guarantee I would have felt bad no matter what I said back, though.

 

 

here's what you do. grab the first 15 father's day cards you see. take a sharpie and cross out anything that's nice. then, tape them all together and transfer this post into it.

 

don't feel guilty. i hate my dad. i don't even bother with father's day cards. raise a child in a shitty way, and you deserve nothing in return. this is not on you.

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