My Daughter Made an Excuse Not to See Me

Updated on March 24, 2019
A.B. asks from Great Lakes, IL
18 answers

I took the advice from my last post I understand I have been jealous and insecure and it truly is hard. I asked in advance if I can have them this weekend and my ex said ok, but my eldest daughter still had gymnastics on Saturday, but I asked that if she preferred to spend time with me can she skip it for one day. He calls to tell me that she would prefer to stay for gymnastics or if I want her, he said I can bring her to gymnastics. When I called to talk to her and ask if she would like me to see her at gymnastics, she seemed to be acting weird saying I can come get my other two kids and leave her because the other two would be bored watching and told me her dad and step mom could send a recording to me. I tried to contain my emotions but it was truly hurtful. I tried my hardest to contain my emotions but I feel as if my daughter is slipping away from me. I don’t know what to do other than try and fight for custody back.

What can I do next?

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answers from Springfield on

I'm a little confused by the scenarios you presented. You told her she could skip gymnastics (not surprised she wouldn't like that option), or you could watch her along with her siblings. Were those the only two choices?

Her siblings don't want to watch her do gymnastics. My sons hate going to each other's practices and games. Sometimes they have to go. That's life. But usually they'd rather not.

It's also possible that she doesn't want her siblings to be there. Younger siblings can get bored easily and take a lot of the parent's attention away from the child performing. Maybe she knows her dad sees her more when her siblings aren't there.

I think you need to change your approach to spending time with your kids. Instead of asking if you can have them a certain weekend, ask what weekend works for them. But do more than that. Ask what some of their activities are and can you join them. If your daughter has gymnastics on Saturdays, you could go any Saturday to watch her. It doesn't have to bee the same Saturday that you spend with the other kids. Also, you could do something with the other kids while your daughter is at gymnastics and then pick her up when it's over.

You're going to have to recognize that the kids have activities, which is great! Kids should have activities they are interested in. Your job is to work around those activities, not ask them to skip them.

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

You need to bend over backwards to fit into THEIR life not the other way around. She has gymnastics and she apparently loves it and you are asking her to make a choice. I'm not sure what position you put these kids in when you left but you are going to have to build back their trust and fighting for custody isn't the way to go. I'm sorry to say you won't win that battle.

Did you ever think that your daughter is pissed at you and this is her way of punishing you? You are going to have to get your emotions under control, realize that there is a lot of hurt with your kids and just keep at it. I highly suggest you meet with a counselor and figure a course of action in how to establish a relationship with your children and how to deal with your emotions.

Good luck!

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

oh, what an awful position to put her in. this is an activity which is clearly important to her, and instead of being gracious and accommodating, you basically told her to choose between you and something she loves.

no wonder she was 'acting weird.'

and now you're still all wrapped up in how 'truly hurtful' it was for you.

it's harsh, but i hope you don't get custody. you don't seem to be able to comprehend at all the simple fact that parenting means you don't always come first. you don't often come first. even your desire to get her back is based on how you feel, not what's best for her.

you've got a lot of work to do on yourself before you'll be in any shape to parent competently again. i'm so glad that in this particular scenario the other parent has stepped up.


8 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

I really think you need to work with a therapist to help you establish a healthy relationship with your child.

She's not slipping away.
She's growing up.
Of course her friends and activities are an important part of her life.
She's a pre-teen and middle school and high school and then college will be a major focus for her.
While parents need to be involved, they take more and more of a backseat as kids grow, become more independent and launch into their adult lives.

Getting back into your daughters life is going to take time and effort and patience.
You need to be a presence without making your kid responsible for your emotions.
You walked away 2 years ago and why does she have any reason to believe you aren't going to do that again?
Why should she make an emotional investment in you when you could walk away again?
Trust is earned - and it's going to take some hard work and persistence on your part to earn it back.

I don't know what it is but there's something just off in the way you try to interact with your kid.
You want to demand control by trying for custody - to yank her away from stability that her dad and step mom have established with her.
You want to negotiate with a 12 yr old who has no trust in you.
Of course she doesn't know what to make of you.

The whole gymnastics thing - it's wrong to say "you can skip one day to spend some time with me".
She might really love gymnastics, the team, her coach and her friends need her and you are trying to play tug of war with her likes/obligations vs well she should be wanting to spend time with you.
She has had to build a life where she doesn't need you because you were not available.
For all the hurt you are feeling right now - how did she feel when you left?

What you should have done was say "Gymnastics! That's great! I'll be there to cheer you on!", congratulate her afterward, say you are looking forward to her next event and then leave.
Repeat - a lot.
Just be there - but make no demands, no negotiations, no emotional baggage.
Eventually maybe you and she can do an after activity snack together as you get to know one another.
You make it short and gradually build a relationship.
It's going to take months - perhaps years.
Your child is not an accessory to your life.
Adjust the picture in your head of what you want your parent child relationship to look like.
A therapist can help you do that.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I'm glad you took the consistent pieces of advice you got here. I hope you will do it again.

Your children do not know you. They have no routine with you. They have a routine with activities and friends and the family members they live with. Those routines help build security among all kids, but especially kids who were missing their mom and didn't understand why their mom left them. Adults understand that you were trying to better yourself and that you wisely gave your kids to people who would love them - but you cannot explain adult issues to children and you should not try, at least not until you work with a child therapist or family therapist to learn about the different developmental stages in kids' emotional growth and what sort of concepts and language will work with different ages.

The older a child gets, the more the fear of looking weird or having someone pay undue attention to them. A 5 year old won't care who is starting at them during gymnastics, but a 9 year old will, and a 13 year old doesn't much want parents around. Surely you have heard of tweens and teens who don't want to walk with their parents in the mall or sit with them in a restaurant, especially where they will be seen by friends.

Moreover, gymnastics is a break from her younger siblings, and she likes being the one who can just do her thing without adjusting to the wants/needs of little kids. So if you can try to understand that and treat her like a young lady vs. a little kid, you'll do better. And, the gymnastics was paid for and many coaches expect kids to attend and keep advancing their skills with other kids, so skipping a day can leave a kid behind. It was wrong of you to ask her to choose. You're putting more division between you, which is the opposite of what you want.

It might be better to see whichever kids are available, and see other kids at other times. That allows for special activities. Moreover, the one who goes home and raves about the fun with Mom will build up excitement and comfort with those who didn't go. DO NOT ask them to do this - just make the outings warm and relaxed so that they naturally express their pleasure.

I think it was lovely and thoughtful of her to suggest that they take a video and share it with you - that was her way of reaching out, and you didn't see it. You cannot look at her actions as being hurtful - that is putting a child in charge of your emotional health. You do not give a child that job! The reason your daughter is slipping away is not gymnastics. It's not the stepmother. It's largely because you left, and it's partly because she's growing into more independence. You have decades to be important to her. Your pushing it all onto one outing. Take the long view here, Mom, and get some professional help to learn how to get back into parenting in a thoughtful and gradual way. Instead of saying, "She hurt me and acted weird," ask, "What can I do, as the adult here, to make her life easier and want to welcome me back into her life?"

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Can you see how you turned a simple choice into a complicated situation. Your choice was to let your daughter stay home or go with you and you take her to gymnastics or not see her. Seems clear to me. Sounds like you want all or nothing.

Of course she waffled. She had already agreed to go with you. Then you ask her to choose. She already said yes. She was confused. You insisted she once again choose. You felt she was pushing you away. She felt you were pushing her away. You seemed to be turning this simple arrangement into proof that she wants to see you. Perhaps she was thinking you didn't really want me to go. Seems to me that want her to prove that she really wants to go.

She's a child. She hasn't had a relationship with you for years. You're fortunate that she agreed to spend time with you. You want her to make an adult decision when the adults have already decided.

I urge you to get counseling! Right now, you're messing up the kids minds. When you ask children to prove they like you, you are asking them to do the impossible. You abandoned them. Why would they even want to be with you? And you've added to their stress by saying you want them back. Of course she doesn't want to see you. Her Dad encouraged her to spend time with you. You blew it.

You have to start over with your kids. You have to first build trust with them. You can't start over as if the past hasn't happened. You are a stranger. How do you gain the trust of a child? Counseling might help you to understand the situation in which you were a major player?

If your goal is to be reunited with your children, there are several stages to g
Getting there. Sounds like you're at the first step, being with your children as long as it takes to win their trust. This will not be easy and may take a year or more. I suggest you will need to take whatever you can get. Expecting anyone to feel comfortable getting to know you during early visits is unrealistic. I literally mean anyone. Do you expect the woman you met at work and 9invited to lunch to then be your best friend? You cannot change their behaviour because you birthed them. You have to prove yourself to them that you can be trusted with their feelings. To be trusted that you will protect them. That you want to see them because of who they are; not because you gave birth to them.

You're excited but they are not. Please get counseling, if not for yourself, for your children. You want them in your life. You have to make being with you fun. Asking your daughter if she wants to go puts her on the spot. Then blaming her for your lack of understanding is outrages.

Later: After thinking about you and your children, I'm aware of how difficult and painful this is for you. You are wanting something that will not happen; regaining custody of your children. The court, at the very least, will require that you have a stable living arrangement of at least one year. The court will require that you have a successful relationship with your X and his wife. You will have to prove that sharing custody is best for the children.

I've had a professional relationship of several years with Family Court. I've seen parents try to gain custody and fail. I suggest you're trying to get your kids back without knowing how to go about making that happen. Or even if it's a possibility. If you haven't talked with a lawyer, I urge you to do it. You need to know the legal requirements so that you can make a plan to do what the law requires. My sense is you're throwing everything in to this situation causing you and your children much pain and anxiety without knowing what you is legally required for or even if it's a possibility.

Moms have said a few basics such as a stable home and regular visits. I want you to find out if there is a way to regain custody. Only a lawyer can tell you that.

How and why the court ordered legal and physical custody to your ex will tell you if you have a chance for custody. If your parental rights were also a part of court order. If they were, there is nothing you can do to get any form of custody. If your rights have been terminated, you are so very lucky that your ex is helping you have visits. He could tell you no and make it stick.

I have personal experience with terminating parental rights. I adopted my daughter after her birth Mother's rights were terminated. Her birth mother was unable to take care of her children. The judge told her birth mother that if she wanted to see the daughter she gave birth to she had to convince me to let her see her. Have your parental rights been terminated? If so, your ex is a really "good guy." You can be a part of your kids lives because your ex allows it. I suggest you make your first goal to be getting to know your kids. And to treat your ex really nice.

If your parental rights have not been terminated, your goal still needs to be that you get along with your ex, his wife and the children. Getting along with everyone is part of the reason that the court would allow you partial custody or more likely order that you can have more time with them.

Another question that needs to be answered were any other agencies involved. If they said you should not have custody. You would need to show that you have changed. I suggest it's highly unlikely you could regain possible part time custody.

I've had professional and personal experience with family court. If your rights have been terminated by the court, you will be told that you have no rights concerning your children. You are lucky your X is encouraging the children to see you.

If your rights haven't been terminated you need to know if there is a possibility you can share custody. The circumstances which caused you to agree to full legal and physical custody will have to no longer exist.

I urge you to talk to an attorney so that you can have a realistic goal. I suggest just having the goal of getting to see your children will help you be less stressed. In your first post you want full custody. There are many steps to reach that goal. Focus on the children and their needs will help you and your children. Get help from a counselor. Your situation is so complicated, anyone would need help.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

You sound really needy. No kid wants to have to please their mother, so that their mother is 'ok' emotionally. Don't put that on your kid. And if you are this needy, 'jealous and insecure' why do you think that having your children with you full time is the best solution for them? You're being a narcissistic mommy I'm afraid. Moms don't expect their children to make them feel better emotionally.

You sound like you'd benefit from some counseling.

I like Gidget's suggestion. Go see your daughter at gymnastics a weekend when you don't have the kids, so you're not dragging the others to watch their sister. Don't stay too long in case your daughter in gymnastics isn't super interested in having you there, and don't be offended. Get over it - it's not all about you.

You say you haven't had any custody in 2 years, but what was the arrangement before that? Was it equal or did dad have more involvement? You don't seem to understand that a child wouldn't want to skip their activity to spend time with a parent. I get that. If it were me, I would take the others out to do something, and then have your gymnastics daughter join you later, after gymnastics. What's the harm in that? Why put her on the spot and be all or nothing?

I don't get it. I wouldn't do that to my child. If she doesn't want you and sibs at gymnastics - she doesn't. Why make a huge deal about it? Don't go looking for drama. This is why I wonder if you are up for this. You seem to be causing situations where you don't need to be.

Another mom wondered if this was a legit situation. I question that too. If it is, then I think you need some counseling. You seem very all or nothing, and quite intense in your emotions. Cut your daughter some slack, as we suggested with the stepmother earlier. Not everyone is out to hurt your feelings. Don't do the victim thing. It's so not helpful. It's very childish and you're the mother.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

You're lucky your ex-husband is allowing you back into the lives of the children you gave up.
You need to stop making this about YOU. You left. They didn't. YOU did.
It isn't about YOUR feelings. It's about the kids feelings. You need to start from scratch.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Reading on

And so you said to her, "Sweetheart, I love you so much that I just want you to be comfortable, so if that's really what you want, I will respect that. But do know, I'd really love to come and watch your practice. Would you like to get ice cream afterwards with me?"



Why don't you just try talking to her? Just a suggestion. If you follow the advice to "do it anyway," she's going to resent you. I would. Treat her like someone whose opinions matter, because they do. It's not all about you.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

You need to establish trust. You don't have that with her. In her eyes you abandoned her. Accept that and acknowledge it.

You need to show up and BE there. You MUST respect her wishes and her opinions. You MUST ask her if she wants you to be there. do NOT use the other kids as an excuse. You need to know what SHE WANTS. If she says she'd like you to be there. Fine. BE THERE. NO EXCUSES. If she says NO. Respect her wishes and don't go.

You need to realize this is NOT ABOUT YOU. You can't just jump back into their lives and say "I'm HERE be with me". It doesn't work that way.

You need to show an interest in their lives and BE THERE when you say and make no excuses. NO LIES. You need to respect any boundaries she puts up as well. YOU LEFT. Not the other way around. YOU CHOSE to give them up. YOU made the decision and now because you're jealous and insecure you want back in. Sorry. You LEGALLY gave them up. Now you want back in. Honestly - ask yourself what you expect from them. If I were your child? I wouldn't trust you. YOU LEFT ME. YOU CHOSE other things over me. On that same token, you gave your kids a loving father and step-mother. Now they have stability and love. Let them have it. You can add to it. but don't take it away. Don't mess it up again.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

She's just a kid and she is uncomfortable. I can totally relate. My dad didn't see my brother and I for a while and then when he did again I was really uncomfortable around him. What I would do is take baby steps here with your goal being to bond with her again. It is going to take planning and effort on your part. I don't remember how old your daughter is. You can start by taking her and her best friend(s) to do something fun (the zoo, a trampoline place, a video arcade place, a laser tag place, etc). Just listen to them, pay for snacks/treats, smile and ask a question now and then. Then do something like that a couple more times. Your daughter needs to get used to you.Then take just your daughter to the movies or something. Give her praise about something or other. But be very low key. No pressure! Make it fun. That is what I would do to start off. I found the best way to bond with a kid is to get really into whatever it is they are into. So if they love to play a certain video game sit with them for an hour and ask all about it. I have spent hours playing video games with my son, looking at memes with him, watching him animate or edit videos and listening to his music with him. I am truly impressed with his skills. I ask questions. He feels really close to me and now talks to me about everything. (I forget how old your daughter adjust my advice to whatever she likes)

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on


I'm glad you took to heart what people said to you here.

Please. Give your daughter the space she needs. You need to build a relationship with her. She needs to trust you. Keep in mind, while this may sound harsh, in her eyes you abandoned them. You left. You chose to stay away. It doesn't matter WHY you did it. It doesn't matter to her the WHY for it - what matters is YOU DID IT. She sees that as abandonment. Like she wasn't enough for you to fight for. She is young. She doesn't know nor understand the reasoning of an adult.

Now you need to build the trust and relationship back. You need to be there for her. It's NOT ABOUT YOU. It's about the kids.

You don't get a say. You don't get to dictate what happens. You are VERY LUCKY your ex-husband is allowing you to see the kids after you gave up everything - so you need to realize just how lucky you are that he's not being a prick and telling you to stay away.

This is NOT about YOU. this is NOT about YOUR feelings. Your daughter slipped away from you when you left her and gave up all legal rights. I don't know WHY you did that. Going into the military doesn't mean you had to give up legal rights, you could have just given over custody. But you gave it all up. You want this to be about YOU and YOUR feelings. Stop. Right now. STOP. Get off your pity pot. You are the birth mom and that's it. You need to make this about THEM - not about YOU. If you are still making it about YOU? You're NOT ready to be a part of their lives. This is about THEM.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Anchorage on

She wanted you to WANT to see her, often when asked something like that it seems like the other person is hoping for a no, that if they truly wanted to come they would ask if they could come, not if the other person wants them to. You say you are hurt but you are the adult, you are the one who needs to give extra right now and needs to overlook any anger etc that the children might feel after so many changes.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

It's great that your ex and kids' step-mother are supporting your efforts to reconnect with the kids, and I can only imagine how challenging this process is for you. I get how much you want to have an affectionate, easy relationship with your kids. The two year gap when you were gone, however, has got to have had a huge effect, especially for the oldest one. It is great that you are not giving up and that you are trying to connect. As everyone said, you are now seeing that it will take LOTS of time to gain back their trust and to become a normal part of the kids' lives. You need to keep realizing that 'fighting for custody' now is not in their best interest, or even YOUR best interest. You've got to become stable first, both in your life and in your emotions. For example, your 11 year old wants and needs to do her gymnastics practice without her younger siblings disrupting things, and the fact you felt that as 'an excuse not to see you' shows that your thoughts and feelings are really muddled. Can you spend some time with a counselor, social worker, or religious advisor to help you walk through this process and figure out each step in the process of rebuilding your relationship with the kids? It will be so helpful if you can have someone helping you think through the bumps and steps clearly. Wishing you all the best with this process.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

I don't know how old your daughter is, but it could be a normal developmental phase (there are days my daughter doesn't want to hang out and see a movie and would rather stay at her grandma's doing nothing, because she is tired or has her period, or prefers to hang with her friends than mom so I come in second, which again, is normal for a teen), or there could be some sort of resentment, due to the fact you gave up custody of her and she feels like she cannot trust you or feels a sense of abandonment. Whenever my daughter wants space, I give it to her. I know she loves me, she tells me all the time, holds my hand in public (unless her friends are around, again, a normal teen thing), but I have my days too where I want to be home chilling and not getting dolled up to go out.

Why didn't you offer to become involved in her gymnastics hobby? That's what I would do. Offer to drive her, get some of the kids after class and grab a fro-yo, or catch a movie on the weekend with her friends. You could have offered to take the other 2 kids and then come back at the end of class to take her out to dinner, for example. Don't tell her to skip, it sets a bad precedent that she can get out of things she is committed to, like a sports, hobby, or even school, because mom at one point implied it was okay. She might also be feeling like you want her to make sacrifices for you, when you did not do the same for her, at that point in your life, because she may not understand the circumstances that led you to make that choice of giving up custody.

Don't pressure her or expect her to suddenly trust you and want to be with you 24-7. Be patient. Like others mentioned, therapy might help you both in understanding each other and helping to move on from the hurt and establish and build on a relationship. She may be approaching this relationship with skepticism, and you'll just have to be patient until she sees you're staying put and wanting to be in her life, before she feels comfortable enough to trust you again. It's a process.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I'm glad you are taking the comments here seriously, but please stop thinking of fighting for custody as an option. As long as you have that in your mind, it will be hard for you to focus on the kids.

The best thing you can do is follow their leads. In this situation, you could watch the recording of your daughter's gymnastics, and then let her know how much you enjoyed it. Continue to look for small opportunities to connect with her, but on her terms. Don't share with her how hurt you are when she pulls away, just share with her your pride in things she is doing, and your pleasure in her.

Remember, she has reasons to be cautious about you. You have not been someone she can count on, and although you may have had good reasons for that, she is too young to appreciate those reasons. Just work on building trust. Be present, be patient. If you can, apologize for missing out on things she was doing. Let her know you made the best decision you could at the time, but you could understand if she might be angry at you. Accept whatever she tells you, even if it's hurtful to you. Let her know you are sorry but happy to have the opportunity to move forward now. Remind her that your choices had to do with you, and not anything she did wrong.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Send her a card and let her be for a little while. Eventually she will come around.



answers from San Diego on

Take her to gymnastics and watch her do her thing. Be that proud Ma’am on the bleachers! She is testing you. Gymnastics can’t be that long. Sit and be supportive and do something else afterwards all together.

Just think that the Stepmother has been wasting her time and energy being chauffeuring your kids to activities for your ex.

Now you need to show up like the Queen you are. Now it’s your time to take credit for your talent child.

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