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Contacting estranged father....what should I do??

(38 Posts)
confused247 Fri 22-Jun-12 11:50:29

This is my first post on Mumsnet so I hope I'm doing it right...I don't know if anyone will be able to help me, but I am hoping that just getting it all down on 'paper' might help me to see things more clearly.

My parents divorced when I was very young & soon after (for reasons I have never really been sure of) I lost touch with my father (& all his family). To the very best of my knowledge there was no reason for my mum to have stopped me having contact with him, but I don't think she did anything to encourage the relationship if that makes sense? So despite living in the same town I didn?t ever see him while I was growing up. sad

For as long as I can remember I have wanted to know him but I never had the nerve to get in touch. He was never mentioned at home - it was almost like he never existed at all, and I never felt able to bring it up myself so I just let it go on like that, hoping all the time that he would decide to contact me.

Years passed, I grew up, moved away and met my wonderful husband. We now have two amazing children. He is a fantastic, devoted father and I am so lucky to have him. With his love and encouragement I decided at the end of last year to try to track down my own father at last. I knew he was in his late 60s and I felt that if I didn't do something soon I might never get the chance.

I knew he hadn't left the area where I grew up and it was quite easy to find him (scary really what information you can find on the internet shock). So in February this year I wrote him a letter. All it said was that I was sorry not to have been in touch before but that I hoped he would agree it is better late than never. I said that if he would like for us to get to know one another it would mean the world to me, and then gave my contact details.

I heard nothing back & started to panic in case the letter hadn't got there or the address was wrong. I had a phone number for him but I didn't feel able to call him myself so I asked my husband to call. He asked my father if he had received the letter, which he had and was told that he had been really pleased to hear from me etc etc. I was over the moon and couldn't wait for the phone call/ letter/ email to arrive.

Well that was 4 months ago and I have heard nothing since. I know that this must mean he doesn't want to know me, but I am having such a hard time accepting the fact. In all the years I dreamed about making contact I (foolishly) never once considered the possibility that he just couldn't be bothered.

I also feel that now I have got this far I don't want to just give up. I have so many questions that I would like answers to, and I feel I have a right to know at least the basics about the paternal side of my family. I am thinking of maybe writing again - or phoning if I can muster some courage! - to ask for one meeting, after which I would leave him alone. It is on my mind the whole time and I feel I need 'closure' on the matter before I can move on.

I guess what I want to know if whether that seems reasonable to others? I don't want to harass someone who is quite clearly not interested in hearing from me, but on the other hand I don't feel able to just let things lie. If he is not interested in knowing me then I think I at least deserve to be told that - it is the total silence that I can't deal with. So.... should I phone? Write? Turn up on his doorstep..??? confused

Sorry this is such a long and rambling post -thanks for reading!

ASillyPhaseIAmGoingThrough Fri 22-Jun-12 11:54:02

He has the same issues he had when you were a child. Forget him, enjoy your family.

ChitChatFlyingby Fri 22-Jun-12 12:01:04

It could be a number of reasons, and you won't know unless you talk to him. But you need to be prepared that he could be a lazy git who can't be bothered, or a mean so and so who knows how to charm if he wants to. Or he could be really nervous and have second guessed everything he had tied to write down and has kept putting it off. Anything really, and you need to prepare yourself for the worst at the same time as hoping for the best.

If you want to talk to him, ring him and ask to see him. Visit him in his home town, but on neutral territory, like at a coffee shop. (Coffee better than lunch, you can leave faster if you have to!) If nothing else you might then be given information about your extended family (half siblings, cousins, etc) which might be nice.

squeakytoy Fri 22-Jun-12 12:11:29

He said to your husband that he was pleased to hear from you. So at least he didnt say "do not contact me again, I dont want to know".

Ring again. It is possible he lost your number/letter, he could have been ill, he could be waiting to hear from you again.. but unless you speak to him yourself, you are always going to be wondering.

CogitoErgoSometimes Fri 22-Jun-12 12:16:25

That's the danger with absent relatives. Often they want to stay absent for their own reasons so you just end up feeling rejected all over again. One thing is for sure, it isn't your mother's fault for not 'encouraging' him. I hear what you're saying about 'closure' but I think, even if you meet him, you will not get the answers you're looking for.

confused247 Fri 22-Jun-12 12:29:15

Thanks for the replies.

ASillyPhaseIamGoingThrough - I think the problem is that I don't really know what those issues were/ are. I haven't spoken to many people about this, but the majority of those I have spoken to have given me similar (v sensible) advice and all I can say is that I would forget about it if I could but it's easier said than done. This has been on my mind for 25 + years now and it isn't going to just disappear.

ChitChatFlyingby & squeakytoy...I know you are both right - I will have to be brave & make that call. We are actually going to be in the town where he lives in July visiting family (on the other side) so it had crossed my mind that I should see if he would meet me while I am there. Coffee somewhere neutral is a good idea.

confused247 Fri 22-Jun-12 12:39:11

CogitoErgoSometimes - Thanks. I never meant to imply that it was in any way my mum's fault. She is amazing & I certainly don't blame her for any of this. He was(is) an adult it was (is) absolutely his own responsibility to maintain the relationship with his daughter after the failure of his marriage. I should have made that clear.

I hear what you say about feeling rejected all over again. Definitely things to think about. confused

CogitoErgoSometimes Fri 22-Jun-12 12:52:48

I've personally known two men that dealt with family break-up by totally forgetting/ignoring their previous family and I've heard of several more who have done the same thing. There is probably an official Syndrome name for it because it seems to be very common behaviour pattern. None of the ones I knew were the evil or malicious type. Mostly they seemed rather selfish and sad. Selfish because they happily went on to create new families. Sad because they had a self-pitying shoulder-shrug 'what can you do' attitude about the old one.

The thing to ask yourself is what you want from this man and what answer would you be happy with. It's clear you're not expecting him to clasp you to his bosom. If you simply want him to acknowledge you exist then a visit would do that. If you want him to explain why he has ignored you all this time will you be happy with something vague like 'I don't know' or 'you were better off with your mum'?

ASillyPhaseIAmGoingThrough Fri 22-Jun-12 12:53:46

He and you may never know what his issues are sadly.

confused247 Fri 22-Jun-12 13:14:22

CogitoErgoSometimes, it's interesting that you have come across this before because I have always felt "wierd" in that although I know loads of families where the parents have separated, I don't know of any who don't have contact unless there is a valid reason for that (violence, abuse, one parent being deliberately obstructive). I mean, who just can't be bothered with their own child?? It makes no sense.

I do know that he didn't remarry or have any further children (at least not ones that live with him) so there is no chance that it is his "new" wife/ child not wanting him to pursue things with me.

As to what I want from him...sometimes I think all I want is to show him that I turned out alright, despite him. For him to know that he was the one who missed out by not knowing me, and not the other way round.

But now that I've put that down in writing it sounds childish.hmm

RockinD Fri 22-Jun-12 13:18:39

This happened to a friend of mine, now in her mid 40s, who hadn't seen her father since she was child, simply because of the attitude of her mother.

She found her father, photos were exchanged, they had a long conversation on the phone and then...nothing.

She contacted his wife who said that he just felt that after all that time, he couldn't do it.

Very sad, but in some ways understandable. How do you establish a relationship with a child when you have missed most of their life?


alana39 Fri 22-Jun-12 13:40:36

I think it is entirely reasonable to want to do all these things. I have no personal experience but DH was in the same position with his father, but due to a difficult relationship with his mother he took steps to contact him, without telling anyone else in the family, when he was a teenager.

In some ways he has continued to be disappointed with his father. The fact that he didn't seem to be interested in him for several years (let alone decades) has cast a shadow on their relationship and DH still thinks he is very easily forgotten by his father.

My take on it as a relative outsider is that his father is just not very good at relating to anyone rather than it being about him, but I think it's fair to say that 30 years after getting back in touch with his dad he is no nearer to any "closure" on his feelings.

I don't know if that's really of any help or interest to you - I suppose what I'm trying to say is that you just shouldn't expect too much. However, it may well help just to have tried to form a relationship of some kind and therefore is worth another shot.

ASillyPhaseIAmGoingThrough Fri 22-Jun-12 13:43:43

Some people think and behave in ways that most do not, so it is a struggle to understand.

Some parents abandon children and don't look back.

I think you will be a happier person if you leave him to his odd parental ways of behaving, your family sound regular, you don't want to.bring in unknown people with poor empathy and behaviour history, that may harm you all.

CogitoErgoSometimes Fri 22-Jun-12 13:50:53

"who just can't be bothered with their own child?? It makes no sense."

It makes no sense to you or me because we would walk over hot coals rather than be parted from our children but the men I knew had various rationales. One was a divorced man who simply felt the children would be better off without him. Another was a widower (the 'children' were fairly grown-up) and couldn't cope with anyone's problems but his own.

confused247 Fri 22-Jun-12 14:40:20

Thanks RokinD, it's interesting to hear of someone else who has been in a similar situation & sad to hear that it didn't work out as she would I'm sure have hoped. Do you know how she feels about it now? Did she feel better for having tried, or wish she had let sleeping dogs lie?

Similarly, alana39, thanks for sharing your DH's experiences. It is really helpful to hear about anyone who has been through something similar.

ASillyPHaseIamGoingThrough - at this stage bringing him "in" to my family is not a consideration. I only want to meet him myself, I have no intention of introducing him to my children unless I can be sure that he won't disappear off the radar again.

CogitoErgoSometimes - I think you are spot on. I find it even harder to understand his actions/ behaviour now that I have children of my own but should keep reminding myself that people are not all the same.

Thanks everyone for your input - it has been genuinely helpful getting all of this down & hearing other people's views on it.

ElsieMc Fri 22-Jun-12 15:02:46

My DH supported me to get in touch with the mother who gave me up for adoption. He did all the work and discovered I had a half brother and sister, one born only a year after me. She kept them both.

Contact was made and I was told to ring a phone number of my mother's "sister". She told me that she did not want contact with me, one of the reasons being that it would upset her two other children who were now in their late thirties and early forties. Her "sister" said she was annoyed about how I had pursued the matter and why did I not employ a private detective which I found bizarre. I responded that I felt very sad that she had two children who would be so judgemental of her - and that was that. It was made quite clear that she did not want me to make any attempt at contact again. I have accepted this.

I can see however that once you have got this far you do not want to stop and want some answers. It is hard to explain to someone else how this feels. I managed to back off - after feeling I wanted to go to her house to look at her to see where I came from.

I wrote a letter to my half brother, not identifying who I was, but telling him we may be related and asking him to contact me but he never replied.

I don't want to upset you, but often there has been too much water under the bridge and people simply, and selfishly, don't want their comfortable lives upset. It is hard to be rejected again, but you have a lovely husband and children.

longjane Fri 22-Jun-12 19:59:13

well have you done your family tree

they might be other family member that will talk to you uncle aunties or even ex aunties and uncle ( I know stuff about my ex family and if any one came asking i would tell what i know)

does he have anymore children ?

anyone looking re adoption it always best to though special people

Abitwobblynow Sat 23-Jun-12 00:19:14

Now you know why he and your Mum divorced.

When a person tells you who they are, believe them.

He is emotionally removed, cut off and lazy. Take care, and don't expect too much because you will get hurt.

Your family now is your lovely supportive husband and your DC - how lucky you are to have him! If you look at him and know he would never walk away from his children, you can really know you are blessed.

MaloryMad Sat 23-Jun-12 00:41:36

Hi confused. Slightly different situation but I didn't actually meet my biological father until I was 30. He was happy for us to go out for lunch a couple of times but that was all he wanted...he had another family and for whatever reasons he didn't really want to acknowledge me publicly as his daughter, even though he told me he knew that I was definitely his child. I'd had expectations prior to meeting and after our first meeting and they were shattered and I was badly hurt by his rejection....I never got to know any more details about his family or my grandparents, aunts etc. I heard in a very round about way that he'd died about 5 years ago and now feel like I don't know who 50 percent of me is..if that makes sense, and never will.
So why I told you all that, don't have expectations and put your focus on the family you have now... Good luck smile

longjane Sat 23-Jun-12 10:42:50

can I also suggest you read some father forums like dads uk to see that alot of dad fight but also some walk away and they will find when they are 18 and when they the kids are so mixed up it is the BM fault and I want a quiet life

and then there are step mum board not on here but other sites just google
they are women out there who are happy to live with men who have walked away from their kids
and then moan and play dirty when the kids reappear

sadly it more common that you would think
Who want to live a man who walked away from his children ?

take care of yourself and your family they are the one that matter parents had their chance.

ChitChatFlyingby Sun 24-Jun-12 19:10:08

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ChitChatFlyingby Mon 25-Jun-12 09:52:02

Erm, no idea what happened there. Sorry!!!

BigTeuchLittleTeuch Mon 25-Jun-12 10:01:32

Is tehre another member of the family on your Dad's side that you could make contact with? I have had no contact with my Dad for 15 years, following intermittent contact as a child/teenager. I have made attempts to renew our relationship but it is just too awkward for him I reckon, plus he is lazy and selfish. It's hard to face an adult and explain your behaviour to them as a child, IYKWIM.

However, I have contact with my paternal grandparents (letters, cards, etc) and with my Aunt and cousins via facebook & the odd card, letter.

It's not much, but it helps me feel connected. Plus I know it's about him and not a rejection of me.

confused247 Mon 25-Jun-12 17:28:31

Thanks everyone for your comments & especially to those who have shared their own experiences, I really do appreciate it.

I know that there is some other family - one aunt and possibly a few cousins, but both my paternal grandparents have passed away. I know that he is not remarried and did not have any more children.

I have decided that I am going to phone and ask if he would like to meet me. If he says no I will be sad but at least I can get on with my life knowing I have tried my best, and if he says yes then I will try to keep expectations in check - particularly in light of the experiences other posters on here have shared. Interesting to note that in none of the cases was the estranged parent keen to build or maintain a lasting relationship.

MaloryMad Mon 25-Jun-12 18:30:00

Good luck confused. Let us know how you get on.

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