Dear Jimmy, Danny, and Emily,
Your father is not what you would call ‘normal’. He has an obsessive control disorder combined with anxiety and depression. What does that mean? Well, it will mean a couple of different things.
First, he will go through what seem like mood swings. He will seem relaxed and calm one moment, then upset and angry the next. He is taking medication to control this. He has seen therapists, and will probably see more therapists in the coming years. The important thing is to realize that when these changes occur it is not your fault. You may have done (or not done) something that triggers one of these moods, but you are not responsible for his moods. You cannot control his moods.
Second, the obsessive control disorder means that he will feel like he has to take control of everything he can in his life. Even things that he cannot wholly control, like you, his kids. It is important to understand that when he does this is it is not something he can moderate easily. So he will either attempt to control things or not attempt at all. It is very difficult for him to find a middle ground, a compromise where he pays attention to you and what you are doing, but does not attempt to get involved and take control.
Third, the anxiety and depression stem from his heightened empathy. He will feel things and take things to heart very easily. When you say or do things that affect his emotions he will take them seriously, he cannot easily just move past them. If you are hurting he will be there for you and feel really bad. But he will also worry about how you feel, and often read bad feelings when there are none.
Why am I telling you this? Well, it is good for you to know what you are dealing with. And to maybe give you some ideas on what you can do to help him cope.
Control, how to deal with it. You kids, especially Jimmy now, but the other two as you grow older, will want more control over your life. That is normal, and part of growing up. But you father has a very hard time giving up control in some areas. When the time comes and you want to show more responsibility and control over your life, start by showing what you can do. Do not demand control without showing him you can handle it. Above all, do not just try to challenge head to head. He is smart and very aware of what is going on. So if you show you are responsible, and can take care of things completely, he will find it easier to let go.
On the other hand, if you ask for control of something, and get it from him, and then do not do it, it will trigger his conditions. And if he has to take back control for something he will find it that much harder to let go a second time. This is trust, he will trust you to do something, but if you do not do it, he will have a very hard time trusting you again to do that thing. In short, if you want to take charge of something from him, he will let it go, but be completely sure you can handle it.
Involvement, he will be there or not. In his best interests, your father has learned that for a lot of things he can either be all in or all out. Which means that many days he may seem to ignore you, and not do things with you. And then he will turn around and spend a lot of time doing something with you. That is often how he interacts with a lot of people and things in this world. If he is seemingly ignoring you it is not because he does not care or love you. It is because he has a very hard time splitting his focus between things and people. Which often means he will focus on doing something with your mom, and not you. It is frustrating for him to be in situations where he has to spread his focus among multiple things or people. In short, if you want him to do something with you, ask for it, but be prepared for his full attention and involvement in what you are doing.
Last, because of his anxiety and empathy, he will want people around him to be happy. Which means he will do whatever he can to make you happy. If you appear unhappy or act in such a way that he gets worried, he will do whatever he can to alleviate that. This will make it seem like he is a pushover who will spoil you. However, he knows this and will worry about spoiling you, so he will sometimes go the opposite direction to counteract that. Which means he may punish you one moment, then turn around and give you a treat the next. Just be aware that he knows this about himself, and to not abuse or take advantage of this because he will realize that is happening and view it as breaking his trust.
Your father loves you all more than life itself. He loves his family and his life. But loving something does not make it easy for him. He will be there for you. But his conditions will cause him to do things or behave in ways that make you question that. Just recognize that what he is doing is often beyond his immediate control.