And so you raise your two children and remind them of this belief every year on their birthdays. By the time they are adults, they have heard you state this belief enough for their eyes to glaze over. But they know it is an important belief, and one day they will share this belief with you.
But that day has not yet arrived. It is 11:00 p.m. on your birthday and you have not heard from either of them. There are several possible reasons:
- One or both of them have been hospitalized after car crashes, and your ex-wife has failed to notify you;
- They have forgotten you exist; or
- They are exercising the still-new freedom you granted them when they reached their respective majorities, the freedom from having to do everything in their power to please you and earn your approval.
Your feelings are probably hurt, and why shouldn’t they be? The Divorced Dad loves his children and hopes that his love is reflected by them.
And so what does the Divorced Dad do when one or both children eventually call (because they will) and say “I’m sorry about your birthday?”
The first word out of the Divorced Dad’s mouth should be “and?” The reason for this, you have learned, is that your adult children are still not fully raised. They still have knowledge and wisdom to acquire. Which is why they will not understand what you mean when you ask “and?”
Without getting angry, the Divorced Dad will explain the three meanings of “I’m sorry”:
- I am sorry you feel that way, which is a terrific passive-aggressive play;
- I don’t know what else to say, because I am pathetic; and
- Here’s how I am going to make it up to you, which is a genuine, mature, and bridge-building response.
Just remember, your children are still capable of mistakes, and you are now teaching them how to be grown-ups capable of fixing those mistakes.