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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. Honestly, I don’t even know where to start, and I’m unsure how to write what I want to say. It’s somewhat complicated, and I’m nearly, almost apathetic at this point. Then I thought, I’ll just start writing and see what happens. So, here it is. I know—it’s long, but it’s what came out.
Let me be honest: I’m afraid to say some of these things to your face, which is why I’m banging them out on the computer. I hope you will read it because I’m laying it out, and I’m not sure I’ll ever do this again. And I’m heading to college next week, so I figured now’s the time. I’ve seen the anger you have shown to mom, and I’d rather not be in your sightline after you see this letter. I’m not saying your anger 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.
Next week, I’ll be eighteen, and even if you don’t receive this well, it might be worth a final shot. I know you don’t like to talk face-to-face either. Eye contact has never been your thing. And just so I’m clear, though you might not believe it, I do love both of you. You’re the only parents I have. Minimally, I hope this will make things better for the siblings. We talk about these things; we have talked a lot through the years. It’s like we have two families: my screwed-up parents and your weird kids who are trying to figure out things by themselves.
Brice is the most scared. He told me the other day that he never knows if you and mom will stay together from one day to the next. He assumes he’ll come home one day, and one of you will 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, and I’ve heard her say similar things to you. Dad, we don’t know what to do with that. Don’t you know we can hear you yelling through the bedroom walls? Do you think closing the door makes things safer or quieter? We have listened to so many of your conversations. It’s painful.
The way you react to each other is why I have Maggie. 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. Yes, I heard that fight too. Mom said she wished she’d never married you, knowing that all you wanted was to “jump her bones.” Oh, and, BTW, I’m not a mistake, as you told her during one of your fights.
Maggie is not like you at all. She loves to be loved, and I like it when she loves me back. We are good for each other. She has been my salvation, which is great because I gave up a long time ago on you ever being my hero, and mom hasn’t had it together forever. I can’t remember when I gave up on her. I’ll be okay, though I wish you both would get some help for the rest of the kids. I have someone; we talk all the time. She’s a good listener. She has even motivated me to finish school. She wants to go to college next year, and I figured I’d better get my grades up, or I won’t be able to go with her.
Little sis 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 she 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 either. He’s weird, but Biffina 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 about Bart. 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. We have pretty much raised ourselves all of our lives, always looking for someone to care about us. You spend most of your time at work, and when you’re home, you and mom are arguing. It’s time for Biffina to move on, and I think they are suitable for each other. Before I met Maggie, I thought I was unlovable, so I gave up for a few years, which is why my grades went downhill. I didn’t care, which also explains the cutting. You said you didn’t understand, and I didn’t bother to explain, but since I met Maggie, things started making sense. 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. Video games were boring. Friends were a pain in the butt, and the sibs were annoying. I know you don’t want to hear why I was cutting, but I will tell you now. I used to think you and mom did not get along because of me. All your anger and harsh words you threw at each other made no sense. One night, I heard you arguing about buying that bicycle I wanted when I was eight. 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 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 because of what I did to you both. He didn’t kill me, so I experimented with cutting—and a few other things. The cutting worked—some, but the weed worked much better. There is no use for you to get ticked now because you already know I smoke weed. I need to feel better about myself, at least inside my head.
Each time I cut myself, the pain escaped, and as the blood ran down my arm, it was a warm, huge relief. It’s weird. I can’t explain it and don’t expect you to understand. I knew cutting and weed were masks that hid what was happening in my heart and our home, but desperate times require desperate measures, right? I even told a few friends. A couple of them cut too. One of them went too far; his dad is an angry man like you. They shipped him off to a military school. I didn’t tell you why they shipped him because I didn’t want to get shipped. I don’t really care what you know now: I’m out of here next week.
I’m sure this is pretty heavy on you, Dad, assuming you care. If I read something like this from my kid, I think that I would freak out. But no alarms. I’m cool now. I’m sharing these things after the fact. I’ve worked through most of this stuff. 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 now. I hope you don’t overreact and start yelling at them. Perhaps you would want to try drawing them out about what they are doing rather than condemning them like you do.
I’m on my own now. I don’t need you. I have dreamed of this moment for many years. You screwed up my childhood, so now it’s my turn to do it my way. I do 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 with you because we won’t be there. Empty-nesting is going to be a beast if you don’t change. I don’t see how you both will keep from killing each other with us not around.
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, and I did not want the sibs to feel the brunt of whatever you might do if the good church folk found out who you really are. So, don’t worry. This letter is for your eyes only. Your secret is safe with me. I won’t even blow the whistle to your Bible study group. What would they think of their leader if they knew the truth about what he is like at home? My guess is that half of them are as hypocritical as you are.
You keep on rocking with the boys, telling them how great God is and how much you love Him, your wife, and the kids. Not me. I’m out. You can keep your God and your religion. I prayed many nights, asking God to help me, to get me out of this mess. He never did. I can’t even tell you how many times I cried like a little kid, asking God to fix my parents, change my life, kill me, or give me something better than what we had. And here we are.
Your life has been a powerful example of how I do not want to be when I grow up. I suppose you can thank your God for one thing: I will do it differently from you when I get married. Unlike you, I will get my anger under control because I know how devastating it can be to others.
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; I cannot change that, but don’t expect me to be in your life. I may be, or I may not. I have not decided. I need time to work out a few things, and creating distance is the best thing that I can do at this point.
I do hope that one thing does come from this letter, that you and mom get some help.
This letter is fictional. It does not represent any specific family, though everything in it is faithful to the repercussions of how some parents live their lives and the effect it can have on their children. I have counseled many families who struggle in ways that this letter communicates, though there are many more problems I did not address. My strongest appeal is that if you see yourself in this letter, whether you’re an angry child or a misguided parent, you seek help.
As you reflect on what you have read, perhaps these questions will aid you in how you respond. You’ll see that I have directed the questions to the angry teen who is not married. As with most situations with angry parents, they have a former manner of life that they have brought into their marriage. Biffy’s dad did not just become a dysfunctional parent when he had kids, but he brought his former shaping influences into his marriage and family. If Biffy does not see how this can happen to him, the chances of him doing similarly to his dad are high.
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