The damage is done.
The child doesn’t realize that you — the deadbeat parent — are a loser until the damage is done. Of course, the deadbeat never cares about the damage he or she has made.
And if eventually the deadbeat gets it, he or she spends a lot of time playing “make up”; although, in the present parent’s mind there can never be an apology strong enough or real enough to make up for the days, weeks, months, years and maybe decades of neglect that happened.
To the child you’ve left in the shadows while putting your ego and needs front and center, the relationship and feelings are more nuanced and complex.
It’s harder for the child you left behind than the present parent who is left to pick up your slack. The present parent has more than enough love to give the child you shoved in the backseat of your mind while you are off being an egomaniac and narcissist.
Sure, maybe you were or are sick mentally. Maybe you’re battling addiction. The present parent empathizes with your plight, but believes you should pick yourself up by the bootstraps and get help because, here’s a news flash:
While you’re being sick, the present parents don’t get a chance to have a sick day for anything. We don’t get to take off and heal. We don’t get a minute alone to grieve for the broken hearts your selfish BS left in your wake.
Here are 8 things your child thinks about you, deadbeat parent. But the question is, are you even listening?
1. They love you, even though they shouldn't.
Underneath the anger, your child still loves you. At this point, it may be a tiny drop of love, but it’s there. Your child wants so badly for you to be a better parent, Deadbeat.
The only time acceptance usually comes is when a child is old enough to process that your deficiencies, Deadbeat, are not a sign of the child’s worth but a sign of your morals, values and mental health. So you have your child’s love, even though you don’t deserve it.
2. They wonder what they did wrong to make you this way.
While you’re busy with your new boyfriend or girlfriend or off living out your midlife crisis, your child is wondering what they did wrong to make you this way. Your child will run down a list of imaginary and real scenarios and wonder how he or she could have done something differently to make you change.
Your child will wonder if it was something he or she did or said to make you this way. And until your child is older, that poor baby is taking your sh*t behavior as a sign that something is wrong with him or her.
3. They wish they could protect you from others' disapproval.
As much as your child knows who you are deep down inside, he or she still wants to protect you from others’ deserved criticism of you. It’s not that people are talking smack about you, but that when your name comes up, people freeze. People grimace. People get quiet.
As much as your kiddo thinks you deserve and have earned a big fat F, he or she wants to protect you from that glaringly obvious response and critique. Your kid wants so badly for you to earn an A just once.
4. They know your game.
It doesn’t happen at first, but eventually, your child catches up to your game. Your kid realizes that daddy isn’t really working for months at a time but, instead, is off with his younger new girlfriend.
Your kid realizes that mom isn’t really on vacation but has run off into the distance to find a new man and family. The child knows your game, Deadbeat.
5. They remember the good moments, even though they're few and far between.
Anything remotely good you’ve done is firmly in your child’s brain. Your kid remembers the one time you came to bring him pizza. Your kid remembers the times you called and the visitations you showed up for. They remember the good moments and hang onto them until they’re bare threads.
6. They feel bad for you.
Once a kid realizes the parent is a deadbeat and stops being angry at you, that same kid starts to feel bad for you. Your kid feels bad that you’re mentally unstable or selfish. Your kid feels bad your “habits” or sexual/romantic partners have become your sole life.
Your kid pities that you are not the person that fathers and mothers are supposed to be. Your kid feels regret that, essentially, that kid drew the short end of the stick when it came to parents — minus that fantastic present parent.
And on the other side, if you’re an addict or mentally unwell — and not just a selfish narcissist — your kid feels bad that you are struggling. Your kid feels bad that you are burdened with issues and wishes the best for you.
7. They worry they'll be like you, so you're their inspiration in a way.
Your kid doesn’t want to become you — so much, in fact, that he or she will do everything possible to be the opposite of you. Your kid will worry that somewhere in his or her DNA, he or she is just like the deadbeat parent that selfishly left or ignores him or her.
Your bad behavior will be inspiring your child to be better than you are and were, in every single damn way.
8. They wish you would change.
Every kid believes in magic, but none more so than the child missing or grieving a parent either due to death or due to deadbeat status. They wish you would change, Deadbeat. Your kid wants you to be different. Your kid wants you to turn your life around for the good.
Most importantly, your kid wants so badly for you to not forget that he or she exists.