June 30, 2008,
S.H. asks from Virginia Beach, VA on June 20, 2008
My Ex Can't Seem to Find the Time to Spend with Our Daughter
I am currently seperated from my husband. My daughter and I live about four hours away from him and because of the price of gas we find it hard to go up and visit. And he too says over and over that he has a hard time finding the time or the money to visit. I was alright with that. Not happy about it in any way but I understood. Well, me, my mom and my daughter go up there for Father's Day to get her toys and to let Daddy and the little girl spend some time together. I'm sifting thru my mail and stuff to see if I there's anything important that I need to take and I come across a travel itinerary that's under my ex's name. It was for a month and a half ago and he never said anything about it. At first I didn't get upset just a little mad that he didn't let anybody know he was doing this (something could have happened to him and we would have been the last to know). But then I'm wondering how he found the time and money to do this. When I asked him why he went he said he went to go see a friend. Now I'm thinking: He's got time and money for this friend but not for his daughter. And this isn't the first time. A couple months ago he drove up to Ohio for a car show. So once again he had time a money for that. And then the one and only time he's come to visit was because there happened to be a car show on the way here so he figured he might as well come on down. Not word for word but those were his words. One other time (but while we were still together) he took one of his rare days off from work to go to another car show and was gone all day. He left before Kerah got up in the morning and didn't get home til it was almost her bedtime. Now we've talked about this because my father was never around and I didn't have a father figure til I was 13. I don't want the same thing to happen to my little girl. I was hoping to have a "friendly" divorce because we didn't seperate because we hate each other or can't stand each other, we just grew in different directions. I want to sit down and write him a letter but all I want to say are mean hurtful things. If anybody could just give me an idea of what to say to get my point across without sounding like a screaming banshee. Thank you for your time.
So What Happened?™
Thank you everyone for your help and sharing your own stories. Most everyone said to at least write a letter for myself and I've been working on that. If I can manage to get it all out in that I'll go from there and see if I should confront him. Because, like a lot of you said, it's not going to change anything. And because of this I've gone ahead and finally contacted a lawyer as a start. Thank you for those of you that are supportive. And just so it's known, cause there seems to be some confusion. He was 28 going on 29 when we had our daughter. So he was not a "young father". When we had her he seemed to retrograde though and I just kept moving forward. Just wanted to put that out there and clear up that we weren't babies having babies.
M.L. answers from Washington DC on June 21, 2008
Some men are creeps like that, and you just have to tell the kid that Daddy made another choice.
My X called our son the week before his 4th bday to wish him HB and let him know he couldn't come to be with him, he couldn't afford it (from Hong Kong to DC). In the same phone call, he said he was flying to Vietnam next week to pick up his girlfriend, then flying them to New Zealand (his home country) to get married. DS4 picked that up, hung up, cried to me and asked how daddy could afford to get married in NZ but not come for his bday. I was stumped, but decided to say that everyone makes choices. Sometimes they're wrong, sometimes they're right; sometimes someone thinks that they're wrong--it's a matter of outlook. So we did extra-special stuff for his bday that we wouldn't have done if X had been here.
DS is 13 now, and X STILL finds reasons not to visit, though he's in Vancouver, Canada, now. Still a jerk, still flying the world, but can't visit his own son on the other side of the continent. He was here for two weeks in November last year, doing PhD work at a local university, staying in uni housing. He saw DS12 for about five hours, stalling until he heard from Ohio friends whether they could visit them in Ohio. By the time he heard NO, then he wanted to get together with DS, but by then he had only a few hours until he had to back at the uni. And the uni wouldn't allow overnight visitors, so staying with X was out of the question. He did manage to rent a car and see DS's stage combat performance, but not after complaining to DS about how expensive it was to rent a car in DC.
Some people are a waste of good organs and air. Try, try, try not to let it bug you. Vent to friends like crazy. Tell DS that daddy made other plans. She will draw her own conclusions. DS13 now thinks his dad's a greedy, self-centered man. No points for guessing the two top reasons I left him! ;-)
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K.R. answers from Richmond on June 21, 2008
Dearest S. ~
Write the letter, but not with anger. Anger is the emotion that stems from other emotions. You feel HURT and WORRY - hurt for your daughter's feelings and worry about her relationship with her father and how that might affect her. Also try to point out to your ex that he is missing out on his daughter's growing up and you worry about him regreting that someday. Perhaps he already feels some guilt, but just hasn't been able to motivate himself to do anything about it. Hopefully he will take your letter as the sincere attempt to help not only your daughter, but him as well. Then you must live with what is. He will either turn around or not. We just simply can't control everything or everyone in our life. But regardless of what he does, always try to portray him in a positive light to your daughter (even if you have to fudge the truth a bit sometimes). Children NEED to feel loved and cared about by both parents. It affects their self esteem if they have a negative image of their parent, as they always internalize it as something being wrong with THEMSELVES. Eventually she will see the truth for what it is and will be older and more able to cope with it. But it is your job to PROTECT her from these negative feelings so early in life.
I wish you the very best. I know that one of the hardest things for a mother is the fear that her child is being hurt - physically OR emotionally. Do the best you can and do try to make sure she has good, positive and loving male role models in her life. ~ K.
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R.W. answers from Norfolk on June 21, 2008
I could have written that myself. My oldest (who is now 13) barely has a relationship with her Dad and he only lives 5 mins away. When we first split up (she was 2)he would take her for a night here and there...he wouldn't even have her 24 hours before he would bring her home. I used to ask what his holiday plans were, since we were supposed to rotate holidays, and he always had something to do so I finally stopped asking. I thought many times over the years that I should "force" him to take her for the weekend (we didn't set up any formal visitation as far as every other weekend or that kind of thing.....didn't think it was necessary) but then I decided that if he wasn't interested in bonding with his own child I wasn't going to send my child to visit with someone who obviously didn't want her there so....
So here we are almost 12 years later....she rarely sees him, he occassionally calls. It is sad and pisses me off but he will be the one who misses out in the end. I am now remarried to a wonderful man who has been in my daughter's life since she can remember, since she was 5, and she loves him dearly and vice versa. He treats her NO different than he treats our daughter together.
My exMIL is so angry with her own son that he doesn't spend time with his child that his whole family has talked to him about it with no effects so it will come back to bite him later.
So my advice is to just calmly tell him how you feel and to tell him to think about the future and what will happen when he doesn't even "know" his own child. Maybe THAT will give him a jolt.
Good luck!! It is hard but it does get better.
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D.L. answers from Washington DC on June 21, 2008
I'm sorry to hear about what you and your daugther are going through. My advice to you would be to write the letter. Get all of that nasty and mean stuff down on paper to purge yourself. Once you have finished, come back in a few hours or a day or two and write another letter. By writing the first one , you ge to express yourself without editing how you feel. Don't mail it just get it all out. This exercise will probably help you calm down enough to write the second letter tactfully but still with honesty.
It sounds like he is really enjoying not being a "parent". Your daugther is not there everyday to cramp his style anymore and he is enjoying his new found freedom. I honestly don;t know when he will turn around or even if he wants to. Just try to be the best mother that you can be and don't push yourself to make an over the top effort if he is not willing to reciprocate.
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S.T. answers from Washington DC on June 21, 2008
i'm so sorry about your situation. your ex is not realizing how much he's depriving himself let alone kerah.
i applaud you for understanding how your own very natural anger will get in the way of making him truly get your point of view. writing is often a far better venue for having this sort of conversation, especially on such an emotionally charged subject, as you can take time to think and word things exactly as you want without grief and fury taking over.
first of all sit down and write a completely uncensored letter. tell him everything you think, baldly and with no holds barred. let him have it.
don't send that one. keep it, or ritually burn it, or whatever. but WRITE it. do it for you.
once you've got that out of your system, write a more measured one. don't worry the first time through making it perfect, but do try to present your thoughts in a way that you think might penetrate his wall of self-involvement without antagonizing him. then give it to a friend (one who isn't so close that she'll be furious on your behalf and want you to flay him) and have her edit it. do this several times until it's striking just the right note.
THEN send it.
the very slowness and the fact that it takes lots of steps for you to acknowledge and honor your true feelings AND to sift through your thoughts and logically, rationally present them will be very therapeutic for you. and beyond the good it will do you, the fact that you're not simply lashing out at him (much as he deserves it) will mean that there's a really good chance that he will read it with an open mind and comprehend what you're saying. this has a better shot of achieving your true goal....getting him to spend more time with kerah willingly and joyfully.....than punishing him for being an @$$.
K.B. answers from Washington DC on June 23, 2008
This bothers me because my husband's ex moved 2.5 hours south. We had to give up Friday night visits for a while, because by the time he got there it would be past her bedtime. But he still went down every other weekend to see her-in snow storms, crazy traffic, there were nights where he sat in beltway traffic for hours. He had to rearrange his work schedule. we chose our house and our vehicles based on this. We did it because she's a wonderful little girl, and it was important to both of us. We never even considered skipping visits.
I've heard people say that you find the time and money for the things that are really important to you. I don't know if I always agree with that, but when it comes to a parent and child, I do. I think you have every right to be upset.
But I also know that you can't change him. The things you want for your daughter are great. But you can't make your ex-husband (or even if you were still together) give them to her. Maybe he doesn't know how to be a father, maybe it's harder for him because she's so young. The reasons don't matter as much as the reality you're facing. As a very wise friend told me, "Sometimes a parent can't be what you want them to be." True of exes and our own parents too! You have the opportunity to find another strong male figure (uncle, relative, family friend, coach, teacher, the father of one of her friends) and make sure they fill that need. Also, she may not react the same way you did. Everyone handles a distant parent differently.
I would still encourage the father to visit, call, or spend time in other ways (webcam on sale?). But you can't make him. You can help your daughter not get her hopes up too high (like presents on birthdays). As she gets older she'll see his choices.
Rather than a letter, I would call him (wait until you're calm). Instead of accusing, ask questions. Tell him you've been thinking about the separation/divorce and you'd like to know how he sees his role with his daughter. How often does he think he'll be able to see her? Does he want more contact or less? Try to stay calm if he explains that he doesn't want to see her very often. As hard as it is to swallow, he can be any kind of father he wants to be. Try to listen for what he wants and is willing to do to get there. It sounds like you're trying to schedule time in advance and that's good. If you plan now for the winter holidays, that gives him a chance to save up for a visit, if he wants to. If it really is a money thing and you're able to be flexible, try to see if you can both come up with a new solution - meet at hotel half way? You drive up, he drives back?
Let us know how it goes.
S.K. answers from Washington DC on June 21, 2008
(Funny, Oprah had a show about divorcing parents and the affect on the children yesterday...)
Suz T hit the nail on the head! There’s just a couple things I’d like to add.
You might want to get professional advice on what to tell your daughter, kids are not stupid, even if he’s not going other places and truly is having trouble money-wise getting to see her, she will still resent him for not seeing her. I’m assuming he doesn’t call her either?
No matter what you do or say, or how diplomatically you say it, he’s not likely to change. I’m friends with another mother whose ex wants nothing to do with the child. I’ve seen how she acts out. Might be partly the father’s fault. He doesn’t see her at all, and doesn’t treat his other kids from a previous relationship well either. It may be time to focus on your girl and her emotional needs.
Write the nasty letter – on PAPER – and don’t send it. That could come back to bite you legally! Then (I’m putting my vote in) write as unemotional a letter as you can. I doubt it will do any good, actually! But you’ll be able to say you tried. Pretend you’re a social worker or a counselor or something with nothing personal to do with it and write it from that angle with all the facts. Write it, sit on it for a week, then re-write it. Mybe have a lawyer look over it before you send it.
Suggest that you should have sole custody citing the times he could have seen her and didn’t, especially if he turns out to be a dead-beat dad. Take what evidence you have of him being able to go to car shows and such to court, maybe that will wake him up, if not, just be as good a mother as you know how, let her know YOU love her and will be there for her.
Good luck, and again, I really urge you to see you your daughter’s emotional needs!
L.N. answers from Washington DC on June 21, 2008
you can't force someone to do the right thing. he's mature enough to know what he needs to do. it is not up to you to try foster his relationship with his daughter. what you need to do is get your divorce straightened out, child support and such since you're going to school and being a single mom. that's what i would do. putting stuff in letter won't do anyone any good. good luck