Dear Deadbeat Parent: Today, your child took his first steps, rode a bike for the first time, learned to read, went to a dance with a boy, tied his shoes, started preschool.
Deadbeat, every day, you are missing something new that your child did do, didn't do, or just can't do—yet. Every day, your child grows an inch, gains a pound, learns a new word, loses a friend, gains a friend and then some—but you never know. Is it that you don't care? Or have you decided to compartmentalize the child you once called yours?
Did you make a new life with a new wife or husband after the divorce, and now, fitting in your "commitments" seems to be too hard? Did you just decide you couldn't be a parent anymore? Are addictions or troubles weighing you down so much that you've decided it's "okay" to not see your child/children?
Deadbeat, you've been missing much of your child's life while you bury yourself in your selfish new life, post-divorce; or perhaps are waist deep in problems you can't even manage—much less a child's problems and care.
Each day you are gone, your child forgets a little more about you.
She forgets how you used to hug her right before bed. He forgets the time you chased him at the park. Your kids forget how you sound, smell, and move. You become a ghost, and no longer the tangible person he or she called Mom or Dad.
Even if you sometimes take a minute to see your child for an overnight here or there, with each time you forgot to or chose not to show up, your child loses faith in you, love in you, respect in you. Each time you don't pick up the phone, or show up for visitation, you fade into the distance like a plane flying off from the tarmac out into the big, wide world. You are no longer the arms that greet your child—even when you can manage to show up for a hug—but a fictional character with mystery written all over your forehead.
Deadbeat, you probably think your child misses you—actually, that's if you even managed to think about your child before yourself. The answer is, yes, no matter how selfish you are—your child misses you.
Your child misses the person he or she once knew, or perhaps, wishes to have once known. Your child misses what he or she believes he or she deserves to have—that dad or mom who coached soccer; that dad or mom who made pancakes on Sundays. That child still believes in the missing parent. He or she misses the hugs, the love, the financial and emotional support, the guidance. They miss all of that from you.
But really, Deadbeat, your child isn't missing that much. But you? You are missing everything. While you sit in your stupor of selfishness, you are missing out as a growing human who came from you is evolving, faster than you can imagine. You are missing milestones, moments, memories, heartaches, laughter, sickness, triumphs, battles, and so much more.
While you fade off into the distance to become some fictional character, your child continues to develop into a forceful being who impacts people and the world at large. Every day you spend using your child as a pawn, neglecting, or indulging in destructive behavior that prevents you from being a parent, your DNA spins out to make something wholly unique.
And you miss every moment.
Every fiber of your genetics and your bloodline will continue to exist and grow—grow without your influence, your imprint, your memory...and, sadly, you.
To the Deadbeat parents missing it all: your children are living and thriving without you; but truly, what have you become? Just a fictional ghost that no one will ever remember. Most certainly, not your kids.
Written by Laura Lifshitz
Laura Lifshitz is a pint-sized, battery-operated, writer, comedienne, and single mother. Laura will work for chocolate. The former MTV personality and Columbia University graduate is currently writing about divorce, sex, women's issues, fitness, parenting, marriage and more for the New York Times, DivorceForce, Women's Health, Redbook, Working Mother, Pop Sugar, Your Tango and numerous other sites. Her own website is FromMTVToMommy.com.