While some women have a lengthy list of chores to greet them at the beginning of each new day, she had two lists – one of her chores, and one of her failures. It’s hard to enthusiastically fold towels or chop vegies for stir-fry, all the while knowing she’d be criticized for both. Certainly, the kids were a bigger priority than perfectly folded towels, but he didn’t see things that way.
She could handle his indifference toward her. She was used to it. By now, she was aware that she’d never perform well enough to meet his standards. But it broke her heart to think he held their precious kids up to the same standards.
She noticed his growing disdain for the oldest child, and the way he patronized the youngest. Was it all in her head? Most days he treated his kids as if they were mere inconveniences.
As the boy got older and developed preferences, the father had less and less patience. He might be bothered to interact with the child, but only if the boy expressed interest in his father’s pursuits. Skiing would be the only thing that brought them together. But even then, the father turned skiing into a chore. “Ski this way, son. Don’t ski like that. Stop messing around on skis, son.”
But it was the father’s interactions with his daughter that concerned her the most. If his daughter tried to talk to him about one of her dolls, he’d dismiss her. If she mentioned needing space for a baby to take a nap, he wouldn’t make room on the couch. Her requests were ignored. Her questions went unanswered.
One day she realized that he treated his daughter very much the same way he treated her. If she could be of use to him, then he would grace her with his attentions, but if she couldn’t clearly demonstrate her usefulness, then he acted like she was in the way.
Was it just that he simply didn’t like his wife and daughter? Or did he feel this way about all women? Was it a coincidence that he never communicated with his mom, or rarely found a kind word to say about her? Hadn’t she heard him use that same patronizing tone with the women who worked for him? How hadn’t she seen this in the beginning?
It was her INFJ-ness that made her overthink his treatment of the kids. Plenty of children had it much worse. Maybe the children wouldn’t notice his treatment of them. They were young and oblivious. Maybe she was making something out of nothing. But she noticed that they always came to her when they needed something – even when he was home. They would walk across the yard or into the house to ask her a question, even if they’d been seated right next to their dad.
One warm afternoon, it was nice enough to sit on the back deck and enjoy popsicles. She was in the kitchen getting drinks, or starting dinner prep, or cleaning a mess, so as to keep them from getting in trouble. Taking turns, each kid came in from outside with requests or questions. One needed her popsicle opened. One wanted to know if he could turn on the sprinkler. One needed a bandaid. They were a tiny, sticky, giggling parade in need of an adoring crowd.
When she’d gathered the drinks and walked out to the deck, she said, “Why didn’t they ask you to open their popsicles? Did he ask you if he could turn on the sprinkler? Can’t you kiss boo boos?” He laughed (like he’d just been handed a Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card) and said, “They always prefer going to you. You know that. They’ve always been that way. They barely even talk to me unless you are in the room.”
And she got to wondering. Did they prefer going to her with their tiny dilemmas because she was always there? Or did they go to her because he had a habit of dismissing them? How could she get them to go to their dad more? Could she get him to entertain their requests? Could she get him to make them a priority?
Who was she kidding? She couldn’t even get him to make her a priority.
To be continued …