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I don’t even know where to start, and I’m not sure how to write what I want to say. It’s somewhat complicated, and at this point I’m leaning into apathy. I started to share these things with you the other night after you arrived home, but you seemed to be your usual preoccupied and disinterested self, so I let it go. Then I thought, I’ll just start writing and see what happens.
Well, here it is. I know—it’s long, but it’s what came out, for what it’s worth. Let me be honest: I’m afraid to say some of these things to your face, which is why I took to writing my thoughts on a computer. It also helps me to stay focused and on track.
I hope you will read it all. I’m laying it out here. I’ll be traveling to colleges this week, so I figured you’d calm down by the time I came back. I’ve seen the anger you have shown to mom. I’m not saying it is all your fault; I know it’s not, but I don’t want you to yell at me the way you yell at her.
I’ll be eighteen-years-old next week, and even if you don’t receive this well, it’s worth a final shot. I know we don’t talk like this face-to-face, and you might not believe it, but I do love both of you. You’re the only parents I have. Minimally, I hope this will make things better for my brothers and sisters. We do talk about these things, you know.
We have talked a lot through the years. It’s like we have two families: my screwed-up parents and the weird kids who are trying to figure out things by themselves. None of us ever had the courage to talk to either of you, though mom is easier.
Biffy is the most scared. He told me the other day that he never knows from one day to the next if you are going to stay together. He assumes that he would come home one day, and one of you would be gone. He hates the thought of me leaving for college.
I used to think the way he did when I was his age. I’ve heard you tell mom to leave. I’ve listened to her tell you to go. Dad, we don’t know what to do with that. Don’t you know we can hear you both yelling through the bedroom walls? Do you think closing the door makes things safer or quieter for us? It doesn’t; we have listened to so much of your conversations. It’s painful.
The way you both act toward each other was the driving reason why I have a girlfriend now. She has made things a lot better for me. She cares for me, and before you blow your stack, we haven’t done anything dumb yet. Safe sex has been as far as we have gone.
I’m strong and smart, and I’m not going to do anything dumb, or at least like what you and mom did before you got married. Yes, I heard that fight too. She said she wished she’d never married you, knowing that all you wanted was to “jump her bones.” And, BTW, I’m not a mistake. Just because you fornicated doesn’t mean I’m a lesser human.
My girlfriend is not like you at all. She loves to be loved, and I like her loving me back. We have good times together. She has been my salvation. I gave up a long time ago on you ever being my dad, and mom hasn’t had it together forever. I can’t even remember when I gave up on her.
I wish you both would get some help—at least for the rest of your children. I’ll be okay. I have someone, and we talk all the time. She’s a good listener. She has even given me a new motivation for school. She wants to go to college in a year, and I figured I’d better get my grades up or I won’t be able to go with her. That’s what we’re doing this week—looking at schools.
I think Marge has a crush on Bart Jones, BTW. You know, the kid who came to her birthday party wearing all black. You were mean to him, but he seems like a nice enough kid. He’s lonely and Marge is shy, so they hit it off. His dad split from his mom when he was three, so he doesn’t know what it’s like to have a dad.
He’s weird in some ways, but Marge is good for him. She can help him; she’s bossy enough once she gets comfortable with someone. Don’t tell her I told you. She made me promise that I would not tell you, but she also busted me on the weed thing, so this is payback. Anyway, she just got her license, and she needs to start fending for herself.
It’s time for her to move on too, and I think they are right for each other. Besides, you spend most of your time at work, and when you’re home, you and mom are arguing. We four have pretty much raised ourselves all of our lives. Desiring to be loved, liked, and cared for has always been important to us.
Before I met my girl, I thought that I was unlovable. I gave up, which is why my grades went downhill. I didn’t care anymore. That also explains the cutting. You said you couldn’t understand, and I didn’t bother to explain, but since I met my girlfriend, things started making sense, and I wanted to live again. She’s been the best thing to ever happen to me. I don’t think I could live without her.
Before she came into my life, I’m not sure what would have happened. Video games were boring. Friends were a pain in the butt, and my siblings were annoying. I know you don’t want to hear why I was cutting myself, but I’m going to tell you now. I used to think the reason you and mom did not get along was because of me.
All your anger and harsh words you threw at each other made no sense. One night, I heard you both arguing about buying that bicycle that I wanted for my eighth birthday. You said it would be a cold day in hell before you spent your money on it. Mom said she would buy it with her money.
I had no idea that a dumb bicycle would cause so much trouble. I bet you don’t remember it. I’m not sure how I got it, but I always regretted having it. I felt like I was the cause of you both not getting along. It was my fault. I used to pray that God would kill me for being part of your anger toward each other.
It seemed He was never going to kill me, so I started experimenting with cutting and a few other things. No use for you to get mad now, and you already know that I smoke weed, thanks to Marge. I needed to feel better about myself, at least inside my head. The cutting worked some, but the pot works much better.
Each time I cut myself, it was like the pain was escaping my body, and as the blood ran down my arm, it felt like a relief. It’s weird. I can’t explain it and don’t expect you to understand, but it worked. I suppose I created another pain that masked what was happening in our home.
I even shared this with the sibs and a few friends. They tried it too. I think my friend, Bert, went too far. His dad has anger problems like you. They shipped him off to a military school. I didn’t tell you that because I didn’t want to get shipped. Now, I don’t care because I’m out of here in a few weeks.
I’m sure this is pretty heavy for you, Dad, assuming if you care at all. I suppose if I read something like this from my child, I would freak. But no need to be alarmed; I’m only writing this after I’ve worked through my problems. I’m okay now. There is no way I would have shared this before, though I don’t think things will go well with the sibs because of your overreactions and overcorrections.
Though you won’t change, I do hope you stop yelling at them. Perhaps you would want to try drawing the sibs out about what they are doing rather than condemning them through your anger. But you better know that it’s easier to lie than to tell you the truth, and you’ll never know about their lies. Your parenting method has taught us to rely on ourselves, which includes keeping secrets.
You’re the most self-reliant person that I have ever met. Trusting God is not your deal. If you want something, you get it, even if you have to manipulate others with your anger. You taught me a valuable lesson, dad. If you’re going to make it, you can only trust yourself.
I’m going to live my life the way I have dreamed of living it for years. You screwed-up my childhood, so now it’s my turn to do it my way. I hope you both get your act together because, in about six years, you’re going to be on your own, you and mom. There won’t be anyone to blame but her, and she won’t have any reason to stay because we won’t be there.
BTW, you’re welcome to share this letter with your pastor. I started to make a copy and send it to him, but I knew you’d blow your top. Don’t worry. This letter is for your eyes only. Your secret is safe with me. I’m not going to blow the whistle to him or your Bible study group. What would they think of their leader if they knew the truth about what he is like at home?
You can keep on rock’in it with the boys, telling them about how great God is and how much you love Him. Not me. You can keep your God. I’m done with your religion. I prayed many nights, asking God to help me. He never did. I can’t even tell you how many times I cried like a little kid, asking God to fix my parents. And here we are.
I suppose you can thank your God for one thing: when I get married, I will do it differently from you. Your example has been a powerful example of how I do not want to be. Unlike you, I will get my anger under control because I know how devastating it is.
Dad, I said at the start that I love you. I do. I’m not mad with you anymore—at least not as much as I used to be. I’ve moved on. You’ll always be my dad but don’t expect me to be in your life. I may, but I may not. I have not decided. I do wish one thing from this letter: that you and mom get some help.
This letter is not real in that it represents a specific family, though everything in it is faithful to the repercussions of how some parents parent. I have counseled many families who struggle in ways that this letter implies, and there are many more problems that I did not address. If you see yourself in this letter, whether you’re the angry child or misguided parent, will you seek help? Here are a few other questions for your reflection.