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I closed my eyes and opened my mouth wide to accept the lie I was being fed. I hated the bitterness of it as its substance touched my tongue, but I swallowed hard without chewing, believing that it was necessary.

My family chanted repeatedly that every child needs a father. They claimed my sons would grow up to be gay and effeminate with only my influence on their young lives. My ex-husband convinced me that only he could teach boys to work “like men,” in spite of the fact he considered work a “dirty four letter word.”  One pastor after another preached on the importance of fathers.  From every corner the mantra echoed, “He is necessary and vital!  If you leave, you’ll ruin the children!”

I knew better.  I truly did.  I’d been an abused child.  And, I’d never blamed my dad for leaving.  I was never angry at him for abandoning his covenantal vows.  I hated him for leaving us with a woman who had no business being left alone with anything tender and requiring care.

After a lifetime of mockery, however, I was convinced that I was indeed somehow born without the ability for basic reasoning and, therefore, could not think for myself.  I feared every decision I made.  It was just better that I let others make my decisions for me because I naturally would screw everything up if left to my own volition.  And, they said stay.  Stay.  Stay.  Stay for the sake of the children.  Don’t be selfish.  Think about someone other than yourself for a change!  For crying out loud, L, what would that do to the children?  You made your bed, now lie in it!  You can’t make it on your own!  He’ll try to take the kids from you and, then, where will they be?!  You’re all better off if you stay!  Stay!  Stay!

As the old saying goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.  And, this concoction became a bitter, gelatinous mess in my life.

Half of my children are now grown or nearly grown.  Only one of those older four doesn’t show signs of puking on the lies his mother ate.  But, who knows what his blood pressure is like.  I can only hope he doesn’t just have a complete break down twenty years from now after a lifetime of holding it all in.

Two of them are caught up in relationships where they are exploited, used, devalued, and discounted.  One shows character signs of strategic domination, dishonesty, and abuse, just like his father.

So, my greatest fears–those fears that kept me locked in the prison of my home and my marriage–have come to full fruition in spite of my own attempts to manipulate the outcome.

He took my children from me anyway.  Not physically.  Not literally.  But, emotionally and spiritually, my adult children are wounded and have not been allowed to blossom into all that God created them to be.  They are constricted by their pain and their acceptance of my own delusion.   They have been robbed of the best things in life–love, acceptance, and deep connection.  They are bitter toward me.  They blame me for staying and subjecting them to neglect, want, and abuse.  Just like I blamed my dad for leaving me with her and, thereby, subjecting me to neglect, want, and abuse.

My children did learn how to work.  But, they learned that from my dad and me and would have whether my ex had been around or not.

My sons are definitely not gay or effeminate, but one fathered two children by two different girls before he turned 20 and has contracted diseases.  If avoiding sexual aberrance was the goal, we missed the mark.

Fathers are vital.  Children do need both parents.  But, they need two healthy parents.

If a child is starving and in desperate need of nutrition, you wouldn’t feed him/her rat poison just because it offers some substance.  But, that is, in essence, what I did.  I offered them a poisonous example of paternity in lieu of what is good and right and necessary.

Now, in 20/20 hindsight, I wish I’d spat out that bitter, toxic pudding everyone spoon fed me.  I wish I had left………..for the sake of the children.