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Delicate, this one.....struggling with understanding how any parent (male or female) lets go of their child

(45 Posts)
Punkatheart Mon 27-May-13 14:18:16

I do not want to bring up any pain or make ANY judgements on anyone - male or female, who may have done this for any reason. But because of my personal situation, I need to understand.

Short background - ex left 2011 and my little girl (then 14) was enormously stressed - to the point of serious physical symptoms...passing out etc. Enough to be recommended for her to have a heart scan. Serious stuff. I was very ill too at the time, with pre-existing lymphoma. Bad time. But ex was appalling - a previously fantastic father with enormous ties to his daughter, just seemed to let go of her and did not want to know any of her subsequent problems.

He has not got better and my daughter made a very harsh decision not now to spend time with him. She is suffering some anxiety and depression and it has been suggested that she may have some post-traumatic stress syndrome - which seems odd (usually connected with war etc) but would fit. Of course, I would love her to have some sort of relationship with her father and as such, I have seen and spoken to him several times - told him to call up once a week to check on his daughter, to make her feel loved. Maybe then she will eventually thaw, although she is adamant that she wants nothing to do with him.

I have begged him to call - become quite upset because my daughter is really struggling with her depression. But he won't. In the last conversation, he was truly unpleasant. He gives money when asked, but will not respond on any emotional level. She had whooping cough for three weeks and he wouldn't even respond when told.

Why wouldn't a parent check on their child? I know you can care from a distance, but surely you would want to know? He even missed her 16th birthday. All I hear from him is that 'Oh well she doesn't want anything to do with me - what am I expected to do?'

To call. Once a week. To help a girl who has currently has a few mental health issues - including an eating disorder and terror at being abandoned.

So please - please talk me through the psychology of this, so that I can try and understand.

LyingWitchInTheWardrobe Mon 27-May-13 14:22:58

I think because they 'manage/parent by exception'. No news is good news and all that. Perhaps they really just don't care or maybe they think they do in their own way? When a relationship breaks down perhaps the departing parent feels unable to bridge that gap and doesn't have the wherewithall to make themselves do it for the sake of their child(ren).

You can't make them care, Punkatheart, that I do know.

LadyBeagleEyes Mon 27-May-13 14:23:12

No, I don't understand either Op.
I'm divorced, but whatever I think of my ex, he has always kept ds in his life.
He phones every night (ds is 17 now) and they go down every year to see his Grandparents and extended family.
Your ex is quite simply a bastard.

LyingWitchInTheWardrobe Mon 27-May-13 14:25:04

... and I would stop imposing my wishes, Punkatheart. If he's going to care at all, it will be between him and his daughter and won't be because you want it to happen. You might actually be the excuse he makes for not being in touch, even if that's not the case in reality, so I would just stop and let him/her establish a relationship themselves.

Tooearlyintheday Mon 27-May-13 14:26:33

I don't know. My DSSs mum left when he was a tiny baby, she is still in contact with him but has no interest outside of the allocated contact time. No phone calls, no text messages, no contact with his school. Nothing. It makes me sad but, honestly, it doesn't seem to bother DSS at all but that's probably due to him being so small when she left - he doesn't know any different.

flowers for you and your DD. I hope she's on the road to recovery soon.

Yettish Mon 27-May-13 14:29:01

Countless women over the centuries have been astonished to realise that the men they have children with actually don't give a shit

I think it's got something to do with viewing women/children as possessions, not human beings. Whatever it is, the main thing is to protect your daughter, and it sounds like you're doing a great job of that. Stay strong x

fergoose Mon 27-May-13 14:29:40

I don't understand either - my ex did exactly the same to me and my daughter, I have begged and pleaded - he refuses to engage and has cut himself off totally. My ex it appears has had huge mental health issues since our split, plus the OW has caused massive problems plus accused me of all sorts of awful things - but that aside, no decent father would walk out on and then ignore his own child.

Someone said to me that I will never understand or comprehend, as my brain isn't wired the same way as his. Maybe you should stop trying to understand his thinking - it is incomprehensible and I think you will just upset yourself further. You have my huge sympathies - it is utterly heartbreaking to watch your child be so abandoned and rejected. The only positive I can see is my relationship with my daughter has improved massively. We are much closer than we ever were, and I hope she knows she can trust me and knows I would never leave - the thought of doing such a thing is against everything I stand for as a parent tbh.

decaffwithcream Mon 27-May-13 14:39:40

There was a study done in America with non-custodial fathers, exploring why some of them spent so little time with the children they had been so close too. It found that when a father had been very close to their child and involved in their daily life, the contrast between that previous relationship and the current access was so painful that that prompted them to avoid/miss contact altogether.

I read the paper pre-internet so have no idea how to find it.

It sounds like your daughter has made a decision to protect herself from further hurt and rejection by not seeing him at the moment and that seems completely understandable. Her mental health is more important atm.

MammaTJ Mon 27-May-13 14:40:24

I don't get it either. When my ExH left me, I asked him to ring our DD every day just for a while to make it easier on her. I even got her a mobile phone, at 8 years old, purely for that purpose, so he did not have to speak to me. He didn't bother. He did see her sometimes though and she went to live with him at 14.

He still does not take responsibility though. He let her do what she wanted. She ended up saying to me 'Dad is worried about me going out drinking too much, he's worried I will get pregnant by accident and wants you to take me to the doctors and sort out contraception'. She was 15. He had her living with him, but it was not a parent/child thing, it was more on the basis of a lodger, with me still having to be the one who took responsibility for her. He should have stopped her going out drinking/taken her himself. So there are many ways in which they dessert their children, even if there in body!!

NotYoMomma Mon 27-May-13 14:46:22

Cut him out completely, the battle to get him to actually care and occasional contact might be making her.worse.

I would take his money and other.than that.pretend he.doesn't.exist.for your dds sake.

SmiteYouWithThunderbolts Mon 27-May-13 14:51:09

I don't have the answer I'm afraid, but I have experienced this both with my father and the father of my two eldest children. Neither man makes contact without being nagged. Both fail miserably at keeping up regular contact arrangements, be it by phone, email or physical visits. As for paying maintenance - ha! The only display of effort I've seen from either is the extraordinary lengths taken to avoid handing over any cash.

I realised at a young age that my dad was a waste of space and have very little to do with him these days (my parents split when I was 4). My sons are also beginning to see their father as not worth the effort of missing him (they're 6 and 8, we split before youngest was born).

I wish I had something useful to suggest for your dd, but realistically all you can do is carry on being 100% there for her and showing her that YOU will never abandon her. I hope she gets better soon.

xylem8 Mon 27-May-13 14:54:42

probably feels guilty and has talked himself into the 'she's better off without me frame of mind' because it is just easier than having to face up to the harm he has caused.

stepawayfromthescreen Mon 27-May-13 15:00:43

this has happened to friends of mine.
I think it's guilt.
They know why they did, but go into a sort of denial.
The only way they can cope with their new life is to detach almost entirely from the old one.
They are spineless useless fuckers.
One day your dd will realise this and be able to process it properly. Right now she's raw and vulnerable and needs lots of love from you. Have an unmumsnetty hug x

Kittensandkids Mon 27-May-13 15:05:45

Sorry I don't understand it either.

My DC was in hospital last year and unwell, we got message via facebook last month hmm Ex has missed birthdays, Xmases, arrange to collect them, never turned up I bought DS1 a phone EX used it to get to me again and this was before I stopped him having any contact at all.

The thing which hurts the most as the DC still seem to think highly of this person.

Bumply Mon 27-May-13 15:09:57

My ex is a good dad - when he remembers that he has children. He's currently struggling income wise and working every hour he can, understandable to some degree, but means he hasn't had the two of them over since just after Christmas. He works odd hours so I can't guarantee to get hold of him. He never rings unless its late on a Friday saying he's unexpectedly got the weekend free, can the boys come over. He doesn't respond to email and says he can't afford to send texts in response to my occasional ones asking if he's still alive if/when he'll be able to see the boys next. I've just given up now. Ds2 occasionally asks when he'll see them. Ds1 never talks about him, but both are still happy to go (or were - it's been a while now)
You can't change people. Just be the best parent you can be yourself and support your kids.

macreturnofthe Mon 27-May-13 15:25:45

you have to make sure your daughter understands that her fathers behaviour towards her is not a reflection on her, but of his poor attitude.

Your daughter has made a very brave decision at the moment - support her with this and make her realise that her father is the one missing out not her.

My Mum did this for me, it was hard for both of us, I have no contact with my father - his choice, I have never chased though.

Work on building your daughters confidence and sorting her issues - only you ex can sort him self out.

Punkatheart Mon 27-May-13 20:54:57

Thank you sincerely for all your stories and advice. I hope that I have not stirred up too much pain for anyone. I have now let go of him - I worried for ages if he was OK. But when he sneered at me recently 'You were special, just not that special,' it really helped me to see that he was not the man I had loved for 20 years. It was my daughter who had in the beginning, seen the changes in him and not liked them - hence her reaction. Every day I asked if she wanted to see her father and I told her repeatedly that her relationship with him was separate to the one I had with him.

I do respect her decision but he will not. Hence the aggression and nastiness now. He contradicts himself all the time. One minute he says he is not happy, the next he is more content in his personal life. At times he gives me truth and says that the situation with his daughter is very painful and he cannot understand it because he has done nothing wrong - 'people split up all the time - get over it.' etc etc.

But yes - overthinking as I always do. My worry is my daughter, who has had some scary meltdowns and has been so acutely sad. She is not the same person she was and I know that every day is hard for her. But help is coming and I want to get her through her exams and also try and build some kind of future.

I value kindness and compassion. When I man I knew for 20 years - who was the kindest lovely soul - becomes so very different - it just puzzles me.

Thank you again for all those life stories - some so very sad too. But what strong wise people you all seem.

Sometimes, when it is dark and I can hear my daughter's breathing in the next room, I do think I am the luckiest soul on the planet. There is such a sense of contentedness. It doesn't last - as life has a lot of challenges - but just for that brief time.....

Here's wishing you all love and contentedness with your lovely children.

xxx

christinarossetti Mon 27-May-13 21:00:16

hope no-one minds me marking for later

IfNotNowThenWhen Mon 27-May-13 21:39:32

I dont understand it either punkatheart, but I think you are a fantastic mother for trying to build a bridge between them, despite how you must feel about him. Your poor little girl. I know she is a teen, but she must feel so hurt by all this. I hope she gets better soon. Honestly, she is probably smart to just cut him off. At least she has you.

WafflyVersatile Mon 27-May-13 22:11:37

I came to say the same as someone above. partial contact can be so painful that you end up having no contact.

It seems very odd that your ex went through such a seachange but you can't change him or his relationship with his daughter. It's probably better for you and your daughter to work towards her getting better without false hope of him coming up trumps.

PTSD does not have to be from war situations at all.

SoftKittyWarmKitty Mon 27-May-13 22:19:39

Punk you sound like a lovely, supportive mum and I've no doubt that you can raise your DD without her dad being involved. Clearly that won't help you or your DD to understand her dad's behaviour. To be honest, I don't think you can.

My ex chose not to have anything to do with my DS and he's never even seen him. Like a poster upthread, the most effort he's made over the years has been to do his utmost to avoid paying maintenance, which he's done an amazing job of hmm. I don't understand how any parent can completely detach fom their kids. I don't understand what goes on in their heads when they walk away without so much as a backwards glance. I'm having counselling at the moment and my counsellor has commented that my ex is damaged. I think she's spot on. Sounds like it's the same for your ex, tbh. I think you're doing a great job of helping your DD through it all and I wish you the best.

LadyBeagleEyes Mon 27-May-13 22:31:21

She really doesn't need her dad, she's got you.
That's all.

fergoose Mon 27-May-13 22:40:04

I agree with Waffly, partial or half hearted contact is more painful than radio silence.

At the end of the day it is his loss - and your daughter will always value and admire you.

christinarossetti Mon 27-May-13 23:28:30

softkitty, that chimes a chord. The only effort my father made during my childhood towards me and my sibling was to try to avoid paying maintenance. He even adopted his second wife's child, so that he could use his responsibilities towards him to avoid paying my mother anything towards our upkeep (well before CSA).

I agree with whoever said that people who do that (and it is usually men) find some way of detaching from the consequences of their actions and somehow manage to convince themselves that x 'is too busy for me', 'doesn't want anything to do with me' etc. They then continue to avoid contact so that no evidence to contradict this like their child saying 'please call me dad' enters their radar.

LibraryMum8 Tue 28-May-13 01:14:22

I'm so sorry. I worked with someone who had 2 children with wife number 1. After he got divorced and remarried wife number 2 he would forget he had kids. When I first met him I asked him if he had kids, he'd kind of look at me like he was trying to remember and finally say yes. They were 12 and 14!! Yet he forgot he had kids!!

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