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Father estranged for 20 years. Should I make first move?(17 Posts)
Bit of background:
Mum left dad for another man when I was 5 - just upped sticks and virtually emptied the house while he was working abroad- he knew nothing about it till he came home on leave for Xmas and house was empty with me and her gone to live with this other man (who eventually became SD).
SD quickly showed his true colours as a nasty, bullying control freak who was very jealous of me.
DF kept up contact after the split and I would stay with him perhaps for a week 2-3 times a year (due to him living and working overseas) and after my initial shyness wore off (as I hadn't seen much of him at all during my short life) I enjoyed the visits a lot as he paid a lot more attention to me than I was used to getting at home.
He met another woman when I was about 7 who had a DS my age and at first everything was OK but I didn't really get on with her son.
Sometimes I would stay with her and her son in my DFs house when he wasn't there and occasionally she would do spiteful things like buy her son a pack of sweets and not me and tell him not to give me any, but on the whole it was alright but I think, like SD, she was also jealous of having to share my father with me.
By the time I was around 9 they were engaged, living together and dad stopped living overseas so I would visit once a fortnight.
This is when it turned sour, most of the visit me and SMs son would be told to go off and play all day with no attention from the adults and we didn't get on well at all. DF would spend his time drinking and keeping SM happy, he also became unemployed.
They married when I was 10 and the first visit after the wedding there was a big row during which DF slapped SMs son hard enough to leave finger marks. My behaviour at his house had also become quite bad and I would make excuses not to visit.
When my next visit was due, I spoke to him on the phone and he said I couldn't come that week as he was busy and he would ring me and let me know when I could visit - and never rang again.
I had the odd birthday card from him until I was about 13 then it stopped completely.
DM spoke to him on the phone once and she claimed he said all sorts of nasty things about me.
Now, my gran (DM mother) met him recently and informed him I now had a DD and they spoke a bit about the past and his recollection of events is very different to mine. No message to say he is asking after me or anything.
Gran met him again a few days ago and he asked her to start carrying a photo of my DD to let him see if they bump into each other again.
Now I'm wondering if I should give gran a photo of DD fir him along with contact details for me and perhaps arrange to meet (if he wanted)?
Bear in mind it has been 20 years since I spoke to him.
Or should I let sleeping dogs lie?
In what way is his recolleciton of events different to yours?
He said he didn't think I wanted anything to do with him and that the reason I couldn't visit him is that his new wife had upped sticks and left him with no furniture while he was working abroad and there would be no bed for me.
This may be true but it must have been at least 2 years after I stopped visiting as she used to write the birthday cards and also cheques for maintenance from their joint account.
Would you like him to acknowledge how you felt neglected/frightened/poorly treated by his new wife before you accept to renew contact with him?
No, but I thought he might acknowledge that it was his fault that our relationship ended due to his problems with drinking/new wife/unemployment or whatever instead of saying he didn't think I wanted anything to do with him and using no bed as an excuse. We live in the same town so we could have met up for a day if that was a problem.
For a long time I did blame myself as I probably did make his new relationship more difficult due to my behaviour but now I see that I was a child and he was the adult. Lots of kids are difficult but their parents don't cease contact with them.
It's a lot easier to get people to acknowledge how you felt about something, rather than getting them to accept blame! And even that isn't easy.
You sound uncomfortable about him, so maybe keep your DD and her photo out of it until you are sure about how YOU feel about the man.
Would you like to write him a letter detailing how you experienced his drinking/new wife/unemployment, and subsequent behaviour, and see how he responds? It sounds like he is trying to brush his own behaviour under the carpet, and that you want it out in the open before resuming contact.
I wouldn't write him a letter.
My thinking was that he has had 20 years to make contact with me and has made no real effort. If I gave him my contact details then it would put the ball in his court and he could stop using the excuse that he doesn't think I want anything to do with him.
I've reached a stage I can understand that perhaps it made his life easier to stop seeing me and I assume he regrets it (maybe not!)
He stopped seeing his entire family so it wasn't just me and I did maintain a sporadic relationship with my GM and uncle until they too became difficult (some 10 years later).
I'm not sure what I would want to gain from making contact with him.
I would like to give him the chance to see DD probably because I feel a bit sorry for him and also I fear that I would regret not making contact if he died.
It sounds as if he's airbrushed parts of the past and it might be difficult for him to revisit that period of his life.
As IMAMPN has suggested, you're best advised to keep your dd out of it until you know whether you feel comfortable with him.
I suggest you write a short note simply saying that you're glad he's well, give your contact details, and say that you'd be happy to hear from him.
I think your father will not be able to be a father to you until he sits down with a professional and looks back at his own behaviour as an adult. He sounds hurt that your Mum left as she did, and then it all happened again with his second wife. He lost his job as well, he may have warped reality a bit to himself and others to accept that he did to you, what two of his wives and his employers did to him. Until he can accept that, he is not going to be any benefit to your life.
I totally get why you would give him your details and leave it to him (I have a prodigal father myself). But here is just something else to consider. If you do that, you hand over control completely and you will be waiting and wondering if and when he is going to contact you. You may be OK with that - I don't know. Think about it though, because it can be very uncomfortable being the one waiting around.
I do think you need him to understand your experience from your point of view but that might not happen. People are very, very resistant to seeing themselves in a bad light.
Think about whether YOU need the contact or not.
Thanks for all the replies.
I suppose part of me still blames myself for there being no contact for so long as other family members used to tell me 'you should speak to him, he's your dad' as if I was in the wrong, despite the fact that he was the one who stopped contact, changed his phone number etc so even if I did want to contact him(which I didn't) I wouldn't have known how (no Internet in those days!).
I also fear bumping into him in the street as I am not good with confrontation. I've seen him on a few occasions when he hasn't seen me, but on one occasion (about 10 years ago) we made eye contact and I looked away.
However, on another 2 occasions he blanked me.
Even GM, who used to tell me to contact him said (after meeting him the first time) that I shouldn't bother because I wasn't missing anything(?) so I wonder if he said other things she didn't tell me as the first time she met him she didn't tell me, she told DH (who told me).
After DH had been told of their conversation he changed his tune as well, he always thought I should get back in contact but then said there was no point.
I don't expect I will ever know the full story.
Sorry this is so long but it has helped writing it down and thanks again for your guidance.
Perhaps it is better to leave it up to DF to admit his mistakes and accept some blame before trying to talk to him.
His behaviour when he blanked you in the street tells you all you need to know. I wonder how many times he saw you and you didn't see him as well. I don't think from your description that you have any confrontations to worry about for the future, he sounds like he has failed you so badly.
I think your GM and DH are well out of order if they are keeping secrets from you about your father, not on at all.
I really don't think DH would keep a secret about DF from me. GM might to spare my feelings if it was something bad, like how she didn't tell me about the first meeting until months later and made it sound more recent-then again, I was heavily PG at the time and maybe she thought it would upset me.
During GM conversation, DF made a snide comment about how he knew I was married to 'some irishman' (DH isn't Irish, but so what if he was?) and I think that's why DH changed his mind about him.
I can understand DF being curious to see what his grandchild looks like but I do think he has a bit of a cheek asking GM to carry a photo. If he cared that much he'd try to make contact right?
Yes he has a cheek, if he wants to see any of you, he can make contact.
How did your Father find out that you were married, do you live very near one another and know similar people, with the bumping in to one another and him knowing this information?
We live in the same town but I don't think we know any of the same people.
It's surprising there hasn't been more bumping into each other TBH.
My wedding photo was in the local paper and he told GM he had seen it online so I assume that's how he found out. I didn't realise it was online and when I looked, it had nearly 100 views.
He also knew where I worked and I haven't a clue how he found that out.
It sounds like he has googled you, and mybe that is how he found your wedding photo's, can you find yourself on google through work?
Are you happy?
It sounds like you got a raw deal from both of your parents and you do not owe anything to anyone.
Whatever the differences in your recollections, you were the child, he was the adult. He chose not to send birthday and christmas cards. He chose not to pursue contact.
If you think you want to see him please consider getting some support from people who are experienced in dealing with estranged parents before making any promises. So much time has passed and this will raise a lot of of feelings from the past.
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