A Visit From Dad

On Friday, he called Jessica to let her know that he was grateful for the care we’re giving to his kids. Jessica reported to me that he seemed nice enough and seemed genuine with his gratitude. He and the mother wanted to come see the kids over the weekend. Jessica was open to it and it was left at that.

On Saturday, the mom sent Jessica to let her know that they would be here around 2:00. Jessica needed to be somewhere at that time, and informed the mother that this was typically the kids’ nap time but that we could let the oldest one skip her nap to see her dad. To be honest, I had no idea what to expect. You see, we were able to pull up public records on him and we found that he had some domestic abuse offenses as well as a jury trial upcoming in which he was arrested for brandishing a weapon in a bar fight. I wouldn’t say I was nervous, but I was curious about a man who seemed courteous enough on the one hand, but clearly had anger issues on the other.

They arrived at about 2:15 pm. I had not told ‘T’ that they were coming because the mom had not exactly been reliable with her visitation commitments up until this point. When she saw her dad, she squealed in the way only the most excited little girl can when she’s happy and surprised. “Daddy, Daddy!” It was actually pretty touching.

He and I shook hands and I invited them in to sit down and we talked for a bit. It was abundantly clear to me that he loved his kids. He was disappointed that the other kids were asleep, but totally understanding of the fact that we have structure. Throughout the visit, he complimented our house and thanked us for taking the kids in while they figure out what they will be doing. He played with ‘T’, let her climb all over him while he crawled on the floor and then he asked if he could see his other kids. I took him upstairs where he looked in on them and, once again, you could see how much he loved them.

They stayed, in total, for about an hour and on the way out the door he asked if he could come back on Sunday and see them again. I told him that it would be fine and he could even stick around and watch part of the Packer game with me if he liked.

On Sunday, they showed up at about 12:20. Once again, nothing but courteous. This time, I got to watch him interact with the other two kids as well. They were also excited to see him and spent the majority of the time crawling all over him. Jessica and I observed that while it was clear that he loved his kids, it was also clear that he and the mother are rather lost when it comes to knowing how to parent; or more specifically, how to react to the kids being kids. Handling disputes, sharing, teamwork, etc, seemed to be things that frustrated him and through the frustration you could start to see from where the anger came. By nap time, you could tell he had had about enough.

Jessica took the kids up, who were quite upset about having to say goodbye, and dad took ‘T’ up separately. While I was not present during that routine upstairs, Jessica says that she got a really good glimpse of the temper when ‘L’ threw one of her fits (a repeating behavior for her) and he got tough. While he did not hit her, Jessica could tell that the makings of an abuser were there. They then came down, said goodbye, and were on their way.

Since then, it’s been on my mind a lot. I am definitely one of the fortunate ones who have not necessarily been exposed to an abuser or their explosive behavior. Jessica has not been so lucky. It has always been easy for me to simply chalk it up to saying that the person, simply put, has an anger problem. But actually watching this father go through the emotional stages that got him there, I realize that it’s far more complex. For him, it was obvious that the part that made him angry was the fact that he wants to be a good dad but has the frustration of knowing he has no idea how to go about it. When his frustration reaches a boiling point, he lashes out on the people who may serve as a reminder of his shortcomings. We’ve seen the same sort of outburst from ‘A’ (especially when he just came to live here) and we’ve seen a great improvement since.

It made me realize that it really is likely that we’ve made the right decision to let the kids go into foster care. While we’re not exactly positive *when* that is going to happen (theoretically it should be tomorrow), we are convinced that doing so will help the parents get the help and education they need to become better parents. With foster care, reunification is always the goal, and seeing the love that they do share for each other will maybe be the motivation they need to give those kids the right kinds of love and attention. Time will tell.

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