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Feel like I’ve hit a wall on this- how to help DD navigate absent father

17 replies

ScoobyDoo80 · 11/05/2023 19:20

My DD is 12 and her father and I split up when she was 18months. Turns out, unfortunately, he had been sleeping around with a number of women behind my back. We are from a very small town and this came to light at a later date.

We actually split up because he had been such a non-existent parent. We really did have a great relationship before I had DD.

When DD was born I had Pre-Eclampsia and then Eclampsia. My parents were there then but were 250 miles away within months as my dad had cancer and I was literally left holding a very high needs baby all alone (she has ASD/ADHD). Spent 18 months trying to build bridges between farther and baby (and me). She was very much wanted by him but once she arrived he did not want to know- he wouldn’t even hold her.

Before we split up he asked if we could move away to the place where my parents lived (more opportunities for him work-wise). Once we had split I told him that we were still going to go so we could be supported by my parents (retired teachers- father recovered) and that we would always holiday back in the small town (parents have a flat there luckily). I asked if he was ok with it and he said he wasn’t bothered.

I always agreed to drive at east 50% of the way to meet him but he only ever saw DD when i took her back to the small town for holidays (is, every Summer). Despite earning well (over 60k) he went years without paying any maintenance and every time I thought about CSA I decided I didn't want to cause a huge rift as we knew/know all the same people. He told me that he would leave his job and pay bare minimum if I did this anyway.

Fast forward to now: he is on his 5th relationship since me but £150 lands in my account most months (I do have to ask or it doesn’t happen), I unofficially have 100% custody of DD and we generally have a very happy life. We travel and do lots of exciting things and feel very lucky. I work full-time and hopefully give her every opportunity and bit of time with me that I can. He randomly wades in to her life unexpectedly eg demanding that she did not have the Covid vaccination and she then feels very angry.

The biggest issue is that he insists on seeing DD twice each year for the day and he expects her to adore him. He forgets her birthday and has never been involved in Santa or anything like that (of course I have always pretended that gifts are from him but she sees through it all now). She is a very polite young lady and is very kind to him but last year she telephoned him between visits and it all came pouring out. She previously had counselling through school to handle the rejection she feels and she told him all about it. He told her that he was what he was and wouldn’t change for anyone.

She hasn’t seen him since last October and the longer the gap, the more angry with him she feels. She asked me why I didn't put a stop to this when she was younger but I told her that I didn't think that would’ve been right. He becomes cross when she doesn’t respond to the odd text he sends (she isn’t that keen on her phone apart from a few WhatsApp groups with friends) so I admit I have sometimes just sent a quick reply pretending to be DD.

He has two older children in the small town (we get on well with them and their mother) and he sees them regularly. This breaks DD’s heart as he is working elsewhere and now lives closer to us by 50 miles.

If you have read this far- thank you! My question is this:
How do I help preserve her mental health as she approaches the teenage years? He is in her life but not really…

OP posts:
SecretSwirrel · 11/05/2023 19:29

It looks like she’s made her decision and is better off without him. Well done for being the fantastic mum that you are.

ScoobyDoo80 · 11/05/2023 19:33

Thank you for that kind reply SecretSwirrel. X

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Daffodilwoman · 11/05/2023 19:35

I believe it’s better in the long run to rip the plaster off and have done with it, rather than pussyfooting around peeling parts off every now and then and feeling more pain in the long run.
I would stop covering for him altogether. Children do not like being lied to. He doesn’t care and you need to accept that. Also stop allowing him to treat you like dirt.

CarelessSquid07A · 11/05/2023 19:38

There's nothing more you can do. She'll carry it until she's ready to realise its his problem and not her fault.

Make sure she has access therapy and someone neutral to talk to. The siblings being seen more must be awful for her, could she join them sometimes perhaps?

If there's a stable father figure in her life than that can help.

Daffodilwoman · 11/05/2023 19:48

Also as he already had 2 children there is no excuse for him at all. He could have admitted to you that he did not want anymore children instead of going along with it.

Boltonb · 11/05/2023 19:52

Don’t cover for him. Explain to her that some people are selfish and unpleasant, and incapable of being parents. It’s not her fault, it’s his fault.

Tell her that she doesn’t need to see him if she doesn’t want to

ScoobyDoo80 · 11/05/2023 19:56

Thanks for your replies; they really make sense.

The strange thing is that it was me that didn’t want children. He worked on me until I gave in, which he fully admits. Obviously, I can now say that DD is by far the best thing to happen to me!

My friends are always perplexed as when they see him he makes a big performance of telling them how he cant change the past but he regrets everything and is going to be better. He simply gets worse!

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laplaland · 20/05/2023 06:51

I'm in a similar situation myself and I can honestly say now that it's for the best that my DD does not see her 'Dad'. We've been going back and forth for 5 years now. It's all or nothing for me now. I think it'll be more damaging for my DD if she just randomly sees him now. He's never paid CMS, didn't acknowledge her Birthday or Christmas, wouldn't allow us to attend her Grandma's funeral (his Mum's) and has been so abusive towards me for years. Any contact I get from him is either an abusive email calling me all sorts of names under the sun or a voicemail reiterating the same. He has been blocked for years on my phone due to the abuse. I've never wanted my DD to be without her 'Dad' but there comes a point where you have to tell yourself that you're not putting up with this BS anymore! We are trying to move on now. I hope you two can do too 😊 He sounds like he's the most selfish person and only cares a lot himself. You'd do anything for your kids and any normal Dad would do absolutely ANYTHING in their power to see their children. Xx

pensionconfusion · 20/05/2023 07:26

I'm in a similar position with mine after years of me encouraging her to see her dad she has now decided not to. It's her choice and I support her. He says he misses her etc but doesn't act like it on the occasions they have met up. She rarely replies to his texts although he doesn't send many.

I try my best with my daughter to give her the best life I can and it's a shame that her dad is not in it.

It's his loss.

Puppers · 20/05/2023 07:42

Your poor DD. What an absolute piece of shit her father is.

I think you need to just stop trying to mess around making things seem like something they’re not. Writing his name on gifts. Sending texts pretending to be DD. Let the situation be what it is, and just focus all your efforts on supporting DD to come to terms with that reality.

She sounds like a smart and emotionally tuned in kid. She has figured out for herself what kind of man her father is. I think the important thing is not to encourage her to ignore her own internal warning system in any way - she needs you to be honest with her now. I’m not saying you have to fill her head with poison to hurt her, but certainly no glossing over of what sort of person he is or coming up with excuses for him or covering up his shit behaviour. All that would achieve is to undermine her own (correct) judgement of him.

Parental rejection is excruciatingly painful. It’s the kind of trauma that can follow someone through their whole life. It often surfaces in a very dramatic way when the abandoned children have their own kids. It’s extremely important that DD has whatever professional support you can muster for her. She is old enough to make decisions for herself. Clearly having her father dip in and out of her life on a whim is not having a positive impact; quite the opposite. Allow her to make the decision to cut him off if that’s what she chooses, and support her in that. Seek legal advice first but I can’t imagine that a court would enforce any kind of contact in these circumstances given her age and his behaviour over her entire lifetime.

ohwhatalark · 20/05/2023 10:44

I'm in a similar situation with my ex husband father of my 7 year old daughter. Contact is infrequent and sporadic. He doesn't pay maintenance, remember her birthday or Christmas. Fortunately he lives abroad so that's the excuse for the sporadic contact (the real reason is that he struggles with his mental health).
I have made the mistake of pretending a gift was from him when she asked what her daddy had sent her on her birthday morning and I did not want to disappoint her. I've resolved not to do that again.
I have made the decision it is better for my daughter to spend what time she can with her father and be able to form her own opinion and have a realistic view of who he is, rather than stopping contact and her idealising a fantasy version of him.
Fortunately her paternal grandparents show an interest and visit her. She has the role models of her paternal grandfather who is very kind to her, and my brother in law who lives locally and spends time with her, and my brother also. That's all I can do , but a decision not to see him I think is best made by your daughter herself - at 10 she is old enough to decide for herself.

ScoobyDoo80 · 20/05/2023 20:09

Many thanks for your thoughtful replies everybody. I am just so sorry that there seem to be so many others in very similar positions.

I have always worried about the message I’m giving her (not to trust her own judgement) by skewing the situation in a bid to make it less painful. Previously, I worried about her becoming alienated from her older half-siblings-they have no other male role models and think his “every other week” makes him a great father. My Dd has my father and feels she knows how a parent should be.

Unfortunately, DD’s half sister (teen) has turned on her this year and makes fun of us saying that we are “posh” and holding her little finger up when she drinks. We just live in a very different part of the world but my DD, like me, is used to adapting to both places. We haven’t turned our back on our roots but I personally like all the opportunities DD has where we live; not that I say that to anyone back there.

DD’s father is living with his 5th partner since we split and each one gives him new ideas- he seems to morph into whatever they are. Last year, he suddenly accused me of parental alienation which as alarming. I explained to him that it wasn’t that at all, it was the fact that his daughter was 11 and noticed how little he was involved in her life. I was always the one actually buffering what was happening- still am.

I worry that DD will seek to recreate this feeling of rejection in the future because that’s what often happens isn’t it? It is somehow familiar and the norm for her. Will try to help her as much as I can. All the best everyone. X

OP posts:
ohwhatalark · 20/05/2023 23:20

@ScoobyDoo80 - what you said about hoping your daughter doesn't seek to recreate this familiar situation in the future really resonated with me - it's such a fear as a mother to a daughter with an unavailable father.

I have no idea what is for the best - I've assumed that stopping any contact is worse than sporadic and inconsistent contact and hoping my daughter realises for herself ..but I'm constantly making excuses-

Lonecatwithkitten · 21/05/2023 07:46

As others have said stop covering for him and stop trying to attenuate their relationship by adding texts she will see them and be hurt that you do that.
Take home to the CMS he owes you a lot more then £150 per month. The rift is there let him explode and remind him this is the legal minimum contribution to rearing his daughter.
Support her in becoming her own person, with my daughter I listened to her and said I could understand why she felt like that. Mine stopped seeing her Dad for 18 months at 12 years old and then created her own relationship with him that she felt comfortable with. It is definitely and arms length one with her ensuring the relationship is on her terms.
Allowing her to manage the relationship has been much better for her mental health, though I have facilitate counselling when she has needed it.
I have encouraged her to be a strong independent women who is confident in her own morals and ethics.

ScatsThat · 25/05/2023 13:45

To preserve her mental health, give her some agency. Your ex will react differently if he is ignored to if he gets a response - stop pretending to be her on the phone! Stop pretending to be him at Christmas!

Let them have their relationship, whatever that may look like, without you. If she wants to see him, support her, if she doesn't, support her.

Mooshamoo · 01/06/2023 17:02

Ask your DD what she wants to do.

Its her decision, not yours.

ScoobyDoo80 · 03/06/2023 17:08

Thanks for your comments. Again, I’m so sorry that people can relate.

Thing with my ex is that if he does not receive regular texts from DD he goes absolutely mad at me (think ringing all hours/shouting/ message after message) and causes me weeks of wakefulness and stress. He accused me of parental alienation last year (previous gf decided that was the case). I have honestly offered every single way of getting the two of them together and I’ve kept a record of everything very carefully. He hasn’t seen DD since Halloween and it is now June. He will see her when I take her back to our town during the Summer for two weeks I’d imagine. Usually he will see her for the day, maybe an additional morning as well, but last year he told her he’d gone back to where he is now working and he was actually in town- she was upset when she realised he had lied. He had taken her brother and sister (who she is on good terms with) out for dinner.

DD finds his text messages very frustrating as they always just say, “U ok?”,after months of not hearing from him, and his replies to her news always consist of “nice” or “lush” with no further comment. That’s where my pseudo texts came in originally; I just wanted to keep the peace. I have given up on that now and it actually turned out that DD wasn’t bothered that I did so as she also felt it was better to keep things steady. She knows I’ll just take the fallout now as you’re all right I think- I have to let them manage this.

When she does ring him (maybe twice per year) he rushes her off the phone within 2 mins and she ends up deflated so she’s given up on that. When she was very little we had an agreement that they would FaceTime every Sunday evening at 7 and he rarely turned up so I’d be calling and calling him with a squirmy toddler at the ready. He accused me of not being available at the agreed time.

DD is pretty successful in a particular area of her life and I sent him an update on what she had been doing the other day as she asked me to. He was full of what a fantastic mother I was etc etc. I couldn’t help but reply saying that actually I didn't need to hear that from him; all I’ve ever wanted was for DD to have her Dad in her life and for me to therefore be supported in parenting her. He did not reply so I didn’t follow up.

Will let her follow her own path with this but it cuts her deep and it hurts me very, very much to see that.

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