By Carmen Staicer, REDBOOK
When I was newly married and very young, my parents got divorced. As kids are wont to do, I sided with one parent over the other. Meaning: I cut my father out of my life for ten years. The reasons don't matter; the whys and the hows are unimportant. I made a decision, and that was it. There was no talking it over, no going back - it was as if I had no father.
It was only after a death in our family that I suddenly came to my senses. My father came to the funeral, and we reconnected. My children dealt with the sudden reappearance of a grandfather they'd never really known, and just like that, the separation was over.
I missed out on ten years of life with my father, and it's something that I still regret. People argue; they disagree. You can't like everyone - it's physically impossible and mentally draining to try to do so. Some of those people you don't like aren't worth the aggravation or the work it takes to maintain a relationship, but in my opinion your parents should not be one of those people.
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I've known many, many people who have no relationship with a parent. Some of those people have valid, necessary reasons - abuse, neglect, and other types of scenarios where, for reasons of mental health, the child must distance themselves from the parent. I absolutely agree 100% that if you are in a situation like that, you must take the steps necessary to keep yourself mentally safe.
Many people, though, get their feelings hurt, are misunderstood, or are just plain stubborn. That was my problem - I was stubborn and didn't want to admit that I was wrong. It didn't help that I was young and naive. If I had it to do over again, I would make different choices. But I can't, so what I can do now is try my hardest to think before I act and to make amends.
I work hard to teach my children to be responsible for their actions, to think before they make rash decisions, and to always remember that there are real people on the other end of those feelings. These are lessons that I wish I hadn't learned with life experience but had absorbed the first 10 times they were told to me.
Are you in this situation? If you are, pick up the phone or send an email. You might be surprised to discover that the insurmountable boulder between you has vanished - or it's small enough to just step over.
Ten years is a long time, but I'm glad it wasn't 20, 30, or more.
Carmen Staicer is a whirlwind of movement. When she's not ferrying her six children to their various sports/drama/forensics/track meets, she's usually to be found exercising. She's an avid fan of 5K and 8K races and she recently earned her Black Belt in Muay Thai boxing. She never sleeps enough, reads avidly, lives on Vietnamese coffee and is a fan of cupcakes, vodka and nachos. If you can't find her, she's probably been buried under the vast mountain of laundry that never seems to dissipate. Look for her at her main blog, Mom to the Screaming Masses, where she chronicles her story of one woman's insanity with her six kids.
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