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Absent father since birth. How/when to introduce topic of dd's father?

(16 Posts)
bellbottom Tue 06-Sep-11 15:59:52

Looking for experiences on this topic please.
Did not proceed with relationship with DD's father since pregnancy, although allowed him some windows of opportunity to be in her life when she was small. He blew it every time due to his drinking habit so I decided best for DD to have no contact and instead have a stable life with me.
It has worked out great, but she is now 3.5. I feel as though the subject of ' dad' has become a bit heavy in her mind. I am scared of this long term. I made a decision not to talk to her about it until she came to ask me. I wanted her to be ready. But I feel as though she is avoiding that. When her friends ask where her dad is I did clench up in the past, because I was scared of giving an answer that may harm or upset her. I did recently make progress and told her friend that DD does have a dad but he doesn't live with us. DD looked immediately relieved and said to her friend ' see, I also have a dad'. It confirmed what I already believed, that somewhere in her consciousness that was a confusing element of her life, that her dad was never spoken about.
Am I doing the right thing by not approaching her? What is best for her? I have a boyfriend for the last 1.5 years and dd is as close to him as a real dad. He sees her as his daughter and wants to make a life with us. But I told him I don't want her to call him dad as that would be emotionally confusing for her. He was asked by someone the other day if he had any kids and he said yes, a daughter. I approached him on it and he said that to him, she is a daughter. But I told him that this could be very damaging to her if that person asked her about her dad when he was there. We are still having discussions on this point....
My main concern is DD and how to approach it with her. I don't want her to grow up feeling as though dad is a strange word or something taboo, but I also dont' want to burden her with too much information too soon.
I do know that when the time comes I have nothing bad about her dad to tell her. I will only pick out the best points but also be honest about the fact that he does not have the capacity to be a dad and that it has nothing to do with her. She is the best thing that happened to me.
I hope that maybe someone has some light to shed based on their own experience or simply an opinion to share.
Thanks :-)

piellabakewell Tue 06-Sep-11 20:18:34

How can it be damaging for your DD if someone who loves her, cares for her, considers her his daughter and wants to share his life and home with you both is allowed to be her dad? There's much more to being a dad than providing sperm.

My friend had a baby by an ex of mine (that's a whole other story, we didn't know each other when she met him!) and that baby is now 13. By the time she was 5, her mum had met and married a man that she now calls 'dad'. She has never met her biological father and does not consider him her 'dad'. He has had no contact with her or her mother in the last 14 years - his choice.

spongefingeranyone Tue 06-Sep-11 22:24:06

I'm in a similar position wrt very absent father of my 16mo DS. Have no idea how or when it what to tell him so watching this thread with interest. I don't have a new partner tho. Good luck.

MollieO Tue 06-Sep-11 22:33:01

So for almost half her life she has had a father figure? If he is a keeper and you are planning a life together then why wouldn't you want her to refer to him as dad? Seems rather odd to me to instead not allow a man who clearly loves your dd to have an interest when her biological father has none.

Ds's flaky father has no contact (his choice). For various reasons there is no father figure in ds's life and any questions about his father are answered to a limited degree - vague and non-judgemental. He is 7 and has been asking questions since he was 2.

orangehead Tue 06-Sep-11 22:35:18

I think you should bring the subject up. You dont need to give her too much info, rather bring it up casually then go from her lead. Maybe telling her she can ask you anything. She might not have much to ask but knowing she can ask and it is not a taboo subject will help her feel better.
Regarding your partner my dc call my husband dad. When we got married I said you can carrying on calling him x or you can call him dad its entirely up to you. I also made sure they understand he was not they dad and they had another dad. My youngest called him daddy straight away, my eldest carried on calling him by his name for a couple of years but now calls him dad.
They now see they biological dad and they think it is great they have two dads.

Daisy1986 Tue 06-Sep-11 22:51:44

You could tell her she had a dad who helped make her (and wasnt ready to be somebodys Dad) and a Daddy who helps look after her and loves her very much. As above let her know its up to her what to call him

bellbottom Wed 07-Sep-11 08:56:40

Thanks for your advice everyone. Very helpful and inspiring.
Regarding my BF: There is more to know. We have broken up several times since getting together and had many problems. I think mainly because the focus has always been based around DD. We never really dated and built something strong between us. This is largely due to me living abroad without family to help, so financially and timewise it makes building a relationship independantly very hard!
Because of these troubles I am not totally convinced he is a keeper. We both know now that we have to find a way to solidify what we have between us and give that some time. So, although his bond with DD is unquestionable, I can't take the step for DD to call him Dad. We need to feel really stong as a unit but most importantly, I think, as a couple.
I guess my main question is not about all that. It is in fact a seperate subject. Its more about tackling the subject of DD's real dad.
Orangehead - I like your story. Great for the kids that it worked out that way :-)

JustForThisOne Wed 07-Sep-11 11:03:32

I think you should most def trust your gut instinct and to me, even before reading your last msg, it was clear from the OP that you have reservation about this man.
If I let my imagination run wild I would also add that he sounds like he is raising this dad issue just to test how serious YOU are about him, rather than wanting to ensure his position is clear to your dd.
He is not her dad, if anything I would refer to him as a step father and it is down your little girl to call him dad if she wish so when she grows up a bit.
WRT the absent father I had to answer the same type of questions. I told my dc that we were very much in love and that is how/why he was born and dc had a massive smile on his face and liked that thought (he previously was going around telling friend his father was dead in a car crash so I had to approach the subject myself) Now that dc is older he asks if I do still have his phone number to which I repeat (time and time again) I do not but I do remember where his house was, and that if he want we could try to write a letter. At 7 he still has not express his wish to write such letter (thanx god)
When the questions start your heart sink but it is amazing how things get better and to see your child that grows up happy and well adjusted is so beautiful that you feel stronger each year. I would keep info to a minimum and never add more that your dd is asking at that moment in time. But surely she has to know she has a (biological) dad and she is lucky to also have some great father figure to hung around with.
Keep us posted, all the best
(than I feel s@@@te cause I have no man in my life - hence in dc's but hey c'est la sucking vie) :-)

JustForThisOne Wed 07-Sep-11 11:05:18

a fews more ss would have not gone amiss, sorry poor spelling

WibblyBibble Wed 07-Sep-11 20:56:46

Uh, I really don't think (unless he goes off and leaves her, which is another matter) that her thinking of your DP as a father will be a problem! Kids who are adopted or who have step-parents can feel that they are parents just as much as their biological parents, and if he keeps contact with her and treats her like a daughter even if you two seperate (unfortunately I know a couple of cases where the step-dad has left and then been nasty about contact even though the kid thought of them as dad, glad it hasn't happened to mine!) then really he effectively is her dad. If he feels strongly about it and your ex didn't mind, I think he could even apply with you to have parental responsibility, though I'm not sure on this. I think you are right to leave bio-dad discussions until your daughter mentions it or have a talk about different kinds of dad maybe when you think she's old enough to understand, so it's not a shock later, but if she sees your DP as dad then I really don't think that's a bad thing as it means she has her dad around!

STIDW Wed 07-Sep-11 23:52:46

Children who are insecure about their parentage and heritage tend to grow up with low self esteem leading to emotional and behavioural problems in later life. So they do need to know about a parent they have never known and it is really a case of choosing a good time to tell them. You can prepare your daughter by reading and taking about families, milestones and physical likenesses.

girliefriend Mon 12-Sep-11 20:19:51

Hello i've just written on another post about this very subject! As am in the same position, I think you definately have to broach the subject first as your dd won't know or understand what questions she needs to ask. Try and be honest, something along the lines of 'your daddy wasn't ready to be a daddy but mummy wanted you very much.'

Try and slip bits of information in here and there so there are no big surprises later on, the family book by todd someone (on amazon) is useful for a talking point. It isn't easy and my dd has had a few nights off tears asking for her daddy sad. I hope that one day I can meet a wonderful bloke who can be a good stepdad for her.

bellbottom Wed 21-Sep-11 09:34:43

Oh thanks very much girliefriend. I only just found your post as haven't logged in for a while. I will take note of your advise and seek out that book.
Must be heartbreaking to see your dd cry like that. My emotions are on tender hooks just thinking about how my dd will cope making sense of it all when the time comes. I hope for you that you find someone special. hugs.

notsorted Wed 21-Sep-11 11:11:16

Read this post and took heart from it. Slightly different position for me as Dad has walked out (I think permanently) from DSs life at 3.5. I know the subject is still fresh in his mind and I have decided to stick with Daddy isn't well so can't see you at the moment line for a while. It cuts you up when they talk about Daddys and they feature in books.

StellaAndFries Wed 21-Sep-11 11:18:14

I was in a similar situation with dd1. Xp left when I was 6 months pregnant and has never wanted contact and I didn't pursue it.

I met dp when dd1 was 2 and he was a friend before we started a relationship, she started calling him dad of her own freewill and when I was pregnant with dd2 we changed her surname from mine to dp's so she would be the same as her sister.

It has come up about dp not being her bio dad as she realise that we lived together on our own before he moved in but I told her that her dad she has now is not the man that put her in my belly and at 10 years old she is happy with that explanation.

whethergirl Wed 21-Sep-11 13:32:13

My situation has been very very similiar, my ds is 6 now. To begin with, I was a little overprotective around this issue, would even avoid reading story books that featured dads as a main role! But I learnt to relax with it - it's a balance between not making an issue out of it, but also being compassionate if needed. I waited until ds started noticing/his friends asked him where his dad was/I could see it was troubling him, before I had a proper chat with him. (Beforehand, I was just a bit vague and said that he had a dad but he lived very far away. He was just too young to understand anything else).

So, on the advice of a social worker friend, I showed him photo's which he really liked and gave him a great sense of relief. I explained that I'm not sure where his dad is or why he doesn't come to visit - and then reassured him with my love and how much he is loved by his family (my dad, etc). I have had to give this talk every now and again when needed, and it's slightly altered to be more age appropriate. I've explained how there are all different types of families, and we are just as good a family as any other. I've talked about adopted kids, kids with no mums, divorced parents, step parents etc. so he doesn't feel we are different in a weird way. I also tell him that I feel sorry for the dad because he doesn't get to see this amazing, bright, fun etc. child like I do.

My ds asked me if he could go and look for his dad when he was a grown up, and I told him could. For the record, I think his dad is a complete cunt. And I will never forgive him for abandoning my son. But I don't let any of that filter through, I'm very unbiased. Although as he gets older I'm sure he'll be asking my opinion. I intend on being honest, but in a diplomatic way, I won't just sit there and call him names.

Some months ago, it became an issue for him again because I had split up with my boyfriend that I'd been with for a year, and who he had really got attached to. I'll definitely be more careful about that happening again, and I think you are right for your daughter to not call your boyfriend or see him as her dad just yet. I also informed his teacher and the school mentor so that they were aware.

It's helpful to realise and accept that it's ok for them to get upset about this, otherwise it can be very disturbing for us as well and then our feelings of insecuirty are passed down to our kids. So although I acknowledge his sense of loss, I am strong for him and don't over indulge in him, or try and make up for it with treats or anything like that. It's also important not to treat it like a taboo subject, it only gives the feelings of loss more power.

Hope that helps!

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