M.M. asks from Spokane, WA on September 19, 2009
Need Some Advice, Help, Words of Encouragement...
Here's my dilemma... In February of this year, I had a bombshell dropped on me. After 6 1/2 years of marriage (and 9 years together),my husband admitted that he had a girlfriend and wanted a divorce. Not interested in counceling, not interested in working it out, nothing. All this time, I had no idea anything was wrong... we had the typical issues of a married couple... but I could not see anything that would have led to that.
Our (at that time) 4 year old daughter's world was turned upside down, as she is very attached to her daddy. He moved into a room that he is renting, took all of his clothing and personal effects (aside the big stuff, as he has no room for it). So, here we are, almost 8 months later...
Our, now, 5 year old has cried herself to sleep EVERY night for 8 months... she has repeatedly asked for her daddy to come home because "he belongs here"... she has asked me to leave so that her daddy can/will come home and be with her (OUCH). She has blamed me for his leaving, has taken her anger and frustration out on me, even got to the point at one time, that she tried to take it out on her brother... THAT was not okay. She has been in counseling for the seperation/impending divorce since this began and was doing really well... until her daddy had a stupid moment, tried to come home... PROMISED her that he would be home forever, and then changed his mind and went back to the girlfriend the next day. Now, we are back at square one. She has been sleeping with me, off and on, through this whole thing because she's "afraid that I'm going to leave her like her daddy did."
Help! What else can I do for her? I don't bad-mouth or bash her daddy in front of her. He and I are VERY amicable with each other, as I know it will be better for both children if we can remain friends through this. I validate her feelings when she tells me that she misses him ("I know you do, and that's okay. He misses you also.") I just don't know what else I can do to make this easier for her.
She did her first overnight with him and his girlfriend last night and tonight it was, "I miss my daddy, I want my daddy, I need my daddy. Daddy needs to come home."
I'm at a complete loss
**As a side-note, he is very involved and active in the kids lives. He spends a few hours to a full day with the kids 4 days a week and he does see them every other weekend.**
4 moms found this helpful
So What Happened?™
Ok, so I posted an update post on this already, but here's one that's attached. :)
My daughter is doing MUCH better. We do still have the "I want my daddy", "I need my daddy", issues, but we are getting past those pretty quickly. She is still in counseling, has the hekp if her daycare teacher, kindergarten teacher, karate teacher, and others that love her. She's still angry at times, but she gets over that really quickly now.
We (my ex and I) were able to sit down and establish common houserule and routines to be followed at both homes. He calls her every night to see how her day was and say goodnight, and he does see her (and her brother) as often as he can, as well as partake in any events/activities that he can.
I do tell her the truth, she asked me the other day if I still loved her daddy... I explained to her that I would always love her daddy because we share something extra special together... her and her brother. We just can't live together anymore.
I refuse to be the parent that hides things from my children, as they seem to learn more by the truth (a dumbed down version, of course).
All-in-all, we are all doing much better. He and I are still very amicable, the divorce will be final in just over 45 days, and things are working for the best of everyone. The kids love having two homes, two rooms, two sets of toys. They cherish their time with daddy, since they only seem him every other weekend.
Thanks to everyone!!
C.C. answers from Seattle on September 20, 2009
To make you feel a bit better about the PREFERENCE, very often a child (adults, too) will attach herself to the parent whose love she is most doubtful about. In other words, she is unsure of her father's love, so she goes out of her way to "prove" her own love to him, hoping that will sway him. If he's the one who left the house, she sees the whole situation as his abandoning HER, not you--in fact, she likely blames you for the event, for if you hadn't done whatever you did, her father would not have left.
It's not fair, it's not right, but it's her way of dealing with it. The problem is, she is placing the blame on you and on herself--she has to show him how much she loves him--instead of placing it on him (she's simply too young to do this).
I would definitely keep her in counseling, but you need to talk to her father about his own actions. He needs to be absolutely honest with her. He can't promise to come home forever. You are strong, and though it is horribly painful for you to be going through this, you will manage, for your own sake and for your daughter's. Your daughter is WAY too young to have to cope with the same uncertainty and manipulation. It will damage her future relationships with men.
Don't trash her father in front of her. No good will come of that, either. But tell her the truth. Don't lie for him, for your daughter will believe the lie (because she wants to) and when she finds out it's a lie, she will blame you for lying. Be truthful, and it is far more likely that, with at least one source of truth in her life, she will be okay. She has to have truth somewhere, so that as she grows up she can trust it, can trust you, and learn to trust others.
I feel for you. Take care of yourself as well as her. Make her evenings as warm and happy as they can be. Are you in counseling? Are you okay? Make sure you do what you can to be happy and move on, so you can show your daughter how to do the same. I wish you the best of luck.
6 moms found this helpful
P.M. answers from Portland on September 20, 2009
Ah, M., my heart is breaking for your little girl, who has lost her dad not once, but twice. And for the shocking loss of your marriage. I'm so glad your daughter is in counseling.
You don't say how often she gets visitation with daddy. Or whether you've talked over with him how best to handle the heartbreak he's causing (this sounds to me like an ongoing disaster).
If HE would be willing to have a session with her counselor, he might get some helpful advice on how to handle the separation in a way that's less hurtful to her, what to say or NOT to say, or other practical suggestions. I hope he realizes the effect his previous mistakes have had on his daughter, and is smart/sensitive enough not to repeat those errors.
When you validate her feelings, I would avoid saying that her daddy misses her too. This is just gut instinct, but I am relying on my own experience of being abandoned by a very beloved stepdad when I was eight. I, too, cried myself to sleep for months. If my mom had told me that he missed me, I would have been confounded even more. ("Well, then why doesn't he come back? Does this mean my mother might leave, too, even if she says she would miss me?")
It seems to me that it's up to your ex to tell his daughter how he feels about her, not you. The complexities of human emotion are complicated enough without you interpreting his feelings, needs, or motives. You can't possibly get it right. If you delicately extricate yourself from their relationship, they might have a somewhat better chance of finding a common understanding.
This is in no way a criticism of you. I, too, would want to tell my child anything that I thought would possibly comfort her. But looking in from the outside, I would downplay the empathy for daddy. (And I hope "VERY amicable" isn't also giving your daughter false hope.)
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J.C. answers from Seattle on September 20, 2009
Oh, heavens this is so painful even to read. ( I'm sorry - your husband -- about to be 'ex' is a shmuck. You wont' say that to your babies - so I'll say it to you- he is awful. Dumping this information on you 3 --- leaving with no effort to help you or either of your 2 children--- he's a shmuck. And then promising to be back 'forever' and leaving in less 24 hours??? Shmuck. Sorry- will stop screaming at him now. But know that this is NOT ordinary ehaviour --- NOT. I would encourage you to branch out a tiny bit in your verbal responses-- ( if the counselors involved agree-- I assume you are getting support - you MUST have it) ---. So when she says ''' I want him back - right now- I'm mad at you for not getting him back'' say ''' I'm mad too -- I'm mad that our house is so different--- it's not your fault - you didn't make this happen- and it' s not my fault-- I wanted him to come back- and I was glad when he did. This is not our fault. '''''
You won't go on to the logical conclusison and say '''this is Daddy's fault'' -- that's not necessary - but she is TOTALLY entitled to be livid - and so are you-- just don't let her makeyou the scapegoat--- youdidn't do this.
J.- aka- Old Mom
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T.D. answers from Dallas on September 20, 2009
One thing that helped me to concentrate on my children's feelings at the time of my sudden and hurtful divorce was to swiftly deal with my own pain by realizing (and by that I mean accepting) that I definitely did not need a man who did not need, want or care for me. Dealing with my own lass and humiliation allowed me to see my children
s pain better and lend them proper appropriate support without taking their childish insight too seriously (my daughter would get very withdrawn and clam up or say rude things) Try to allow yourself healing so that your natural responses are appropriate, fact is you seem to be doing exactly the right thing and in time your daughter will come to accept the new arrangement. But, I had to mae that crucial decision to not let that man play with our hearts by swinging in and out the door. Oh and Peg M. had wonderful ideas. Hope you find inspiration for your dilemma.
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A.C. answers from Seattle on September 20, 2009
First of all let me say that I am so sorry for you and your kids. I know every situation is different.I have been in a very similar one myself 5 years ago.
Let me assure you that you are doing everything right, not bashing her dad,getting her counseling, validating her feelings ect. Unfortunately there is no "answer", there is no magical thing that will make her hurt go away. It is the hardest thing that I have ever gone through in my life, not the divorce but the affect that it had on my kids, they did the similar thing...
You are the "rock" so she will take it out on you because you are "safe" and aren't leaving., I know this sucks! My son was very mad at me for quite awhile even though it was his dad that left (same situation as you). All I can say is hang in there and get counseling for yourself as well. Eventually it will calm down, it is 5 years later and now my kids are well adjusted and doing well in school ect. It may not be the way you pictured things but you CAN do it!!!
If you ever want to talk feel free to email me at ____@____.com, I am more than happy to help you keep your chin up!!
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J.W. answers from Seattle on September 20, 2009
I feel so sorry for your little girl. She's 4 yrs old and just doesn't have the experiences or the intellect to be able to rationalize what is happening to her world. Heck, you're an adult and this makes no sense to you either, so it's very difficult. Working with a counselor is a great step and it will take some time and aging on her part to become accustom to this new living arrangement of daddy's. Sleeping with you provides her the comfort and reassurances that you're not leaving, and this is something she needs.
Wanting her daddy to be a part of her life is natural, the problems are between you and Daddy and she shouldn't be pulled into that. You can explain that there are days that she gets to spend at Daddy's and maybe having a calendar where she gets to X off the days until she has a weekend with him will help reassure her that she gets to see him again, that he will have time for her. Daddy needs to have a room for her, with a bed and some things, like a doll, some pj's, etc. So she has a place in his home and his heart. Provide her a picture of him in her room. But reinerate that Daddy has a new home and she has a place there just as she has her room, her place at your home and most definitely in your heart. You can draw a picture, create a puzzle that has her piece in your heart and when she's not home, your heart isn't complete or full, there's a piece missing until she comes home, then it's full again, she has has a spot. Same with her Daddy's heart and her place there.
Hopefully, this new girlfriend is a permanent fixture, changing partners complicates the matter, considerably, especially if she's living there.
Be prepared for 'Disneyland Daddy', that every weekend spent with him will be a treat, where he tries to soothe his guilt by over indulging her with trips to various play places, movies or the toy store. My brother went through that with his son, who was 14 when his wife left him. I was so upset with him, because every weekend he had him, they went somewhere special, bought him something he wanted... there was never a time when they sat down to a regular dinner or just watched tv, did homework. My nephew loved it, played the guilt card to the max. My nephew at 18 yrs of age is extremely jealous of any time that my brother spends with any one else. For the first 2 years he did not date or go out with anyone. So there are downsides for both parents when child is the center of your lives, not knowing how to share you or you sharing them with each other. Don't get caught in that trap. Have a talk with your soon to be ex and discuss the excesses that he's sure to lavish because of his guilt and what the long term costs will be to him and more importantly to your daughter.
It's going to be rough for a while. If Daddy want to reconcile, moving back home isn't the way to begin that reconciliation if it's not a certainity. Daddy needs some counseling with your daughter and you, even family counseling for fractured families is a good thing.
Sending gobs of hope, good thoughts, peace, and prayers for your family.
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M.G. answers from New York on September 20, 2009
I am so sorry that your daughter are hurting. I can't imagine what you went through 8 months ago. You are a wonderful mother and person for realizing that bad-mouthing HER father is not healthy for her and for giving him credit for being in her life. It takes a strong women to do that after everything.
It is completely normal for her to want her Daddy there. It has to be so hard to hear her call for him when you just got her back after her overnight. I can only imagine how scary, strange and different it feels for her.
You are doing everything right! There is nothing that is going to make this RIGHT for her right now other than time.
Being amicable, validating her feelings is everything. She is so young and everything she knew for 5 years changed.
My thoughts and prayers are with you. Ask him to please call her at bedtime and say goodnight to her, read books that are on her level that discuss separate households such as Good-bye Daddy by Bridgitte Weininger, Mama and Daddy Bears divorce I can't remember the author, Two Homes by Claire Masural.
You are an amazing mom for wanting to help her adjust the best way possible. Good luck and I will keep you in my thoughts.
1 mom found this helpful
S.S. answers from Seattle on September 21, 2009
your post is painful to read, I am sorry what happened to you and your kids.
I can't speak about divorce, but I had a somewhat similar situation. When our daugher was 5, our neighbor, who was like her beloved Grandpa and whom she spent time with every day, died. She took it incredibly hard. Uncontrollable crying every day, saying she saw Paul (the neighbor) and he was talking to her, just couldn't cope, worried excessively about all kinds of unrelated issues, etc. Basically, she suffered the loss and a loss of control over her life.
We also took her to a counsellor, and one of the things he recommended is that we change the way we talk to her. I am a big believer in not lying to your kids, so I was always giving her my honest assessment of situations. For example, she'd ask "if we fly with the plane on vacation, could we crash?" and I'd say "there is a really small chance that we could, but plane travel is super safe, it almost never happens". Then she'd go on the "worrying binge" again... The counsellor told us for her type of personality and at this stressful point in her life, to just be reassuring "no, we won't crash. It's perfectly safe".
Why am I telling you all this? I guess 2 points: First, have you talked to her counsellor how you can help her, maybe by changing your behavior and how you communicate with her? I am by no means trying to say you are contributing to this problem, it is completely the Dad's fault, but maybe you can modify something and help her?
Second, my daughter took over a year to get over our neighbor's death (she still has his picture in her room, and she's now 14!). And in a way a death may be "easier" since the wound is not reopened like it is every time your daughter sees her Dad. Hang in there. It will take time.
Best of luck, hang in there!
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