Did you hear about the guy last week who wrote to his three children? He signed it off “… bitterly bitterly disappointed, Dad”. Here are my thoughts on why you should never tell your children you are disappointed with them.
I read that and the first thing that I thought was that he needs to take a good look at himself as a father. Surely any parent who writes a letter like that has failed and should be disappointed in himself, not his children. This is the letter in its entirety:
Dear All Three
With last evening’s crop of whinges and tidings of more rotten news for which you seem to treat your mother like a cess-pit, I feel it is time to come off my perch.
It is obvious that none of you has the faintest notion of the bitter disappointment each of you has in your own way dished out to us. We are seeing the miserable death throes of the fourth of your collective marriages at the same time we see the advent of a fifth.
We are constantly regaled with chapter and verse of the happy, successful lives of the families of our friends and relatives and being asked of news of our own children and grandchildren. I wonder if you realise how we feel — we have nothing to say which reflects any credit on you or us. We don’t ask for your sympathy or understanding — Mum and I have been used to taking our own misfortunes on the chin, and making our own effort to bash our little paths through life without being a burden to others. Having done our best — probably misguidedly — to provide for our children, we naturally hoped to see them in turn take up their own banners and provide happy and stable homes for their own children.
Fulfilling careers based on your educations would have helped — but as yet none of you is what I would confidently term properly self-supporting. Which of you, with or without a spouse, can support your families, finance your home and provide a pension for your old age? Each of you is well able to earn a comfortable living and provide for your children, yet each of you has contrived to avoid even moderate achievement. Far from your children being able to rely on your provision, they arefaced with needing to survive their introduction to life with you as parents.
So we witness the introduction to this life of six beautiful children — soon to be seven — none of whose parents have had the maturity and sound judgment to make a reasonable fist at making essential threshold decisions. None of these decisions were made with any pretence to ask for our advice.
In each case we have been expected to acquiesce with mostly hasty, but always in our view, badly judged decisions. None of you has done yourself, or given to us, the basic courtesy to ask us what we think while there was still time finally to think things through. The predictable result has been a decade of deep unhappiness over the fates of our grandchildren. If it wasn’t for them, Mum and I would not be too concerned, as each of you consciously, and with eyes wide open, crashes from one cock-up to the next. It makes us weak that so many of these events are copulation-driven, and then helplessly to see these lovely little people being so woefully let down by you, their parents.
I can now tell you that I for one, and I sense Mum feels the same, have had enough of being forced to live through the never-ending bad dream of our children’s underachievement and domestic ineptitudes. I want to hear no more from any of you until, if you feel inclined, you have a success or an achievement or a REALISTIC plan for the support and happiness of your children to tell me about. I don’t want to see your mother burdened any more with your miserable woes — it’s not as if any of the advice she strives to give you has ever been listened to with good grace — far less acted upon. So I ask you to spare her further unhappiness. If you think I have been unfair in what I have said, by all means try to persuade me to change my mind. But you won’t do it by simply whingeing and saying you don’t like it. You’ll have to come up with meaty reasons to demolish my points and build a case for yourself. If that isn’t possible, or you simply can’t be bothered, then I rest my case.
I am bitterly, bitterly disappointed.
I am just appalled that any parent would write that to anybody. Children who are talking to their mum about problems in their lives being berated. How does he know categorically that the marriage failure could have been the total fault of his child and not as a result of a failing by the other party?
Not having a “fulfilling career based on your education”. What the hell does that imply? That, presumably they went to private school and maybe university and are now not doing some mega bucks job in the city?
What happened to just wanting our children to be happy? Would he rather his children stayed in loveless, maybe even abusive, marriages just to keep HIM happy? Do a job they despise, just so their bank accounts satisfy dinner party guests at daddy’s house.
Is it not our job, as parents, to “listen to your miserable woes”? I love that my children come to me with a question or concern. They might not take my advice but at least they asked me for it. And they know that I will respect their desire to make their own choice, and possibly mistakes, but that I will be here to pick them up afterwards.
He has grand children yet where is the joy? Where is the thanks for that? The love. It is certainly not evident in that letter.
What a shocking approach to parenting this letter appears to be. Not a shred of love comes from this letter to his children.
All I want for my children is to be happy and content. I couldn’t give a fig if the marry and divorce and re marry ten times, as long as they are happy. Or if they go to university or empty bins. I don’t care.
And what is important is that my three know that. They know Mr B and I are not insisting they go to university “just because you must, you have had a good education”. We are not insisting they get high flying jobs. We are bringing them up to know we are here for them, no matter what.
Are these children a failure? Or is he the failure? Does he have impossibly high expectations? I certainly think so.
We forget as parents that the things we say and do can have long lasting effects. A throwaway line said in jest can actually really hurt. I addressed some of those in a letter to 30 year old me that I wrote a while ago.
I seriously hope these three children never have to do the same.