Monday, April 5, 2010

How do you explain it to a five year old?

Today's blog is personal. I know I usually talk politics, humor and a random variety of different subjects. I don't often talk about my personal life outside of the occasional mention. Today was not a good start to the week. I will admit, I am depressed, emotional, stressed...over all not in a good state of mind. A little background...

About seven to eight years ago my first marriage was in the pits, we were separated and getting divorced. I made a lot of decisions that were not exactly the best. At the top of that list was the decision to meet a girl coming to the States on a visit. The idea I had at the time was to meet her and fuck her. Part as a revenge fuck to get back at my wife and part because I had been raised that if you commit adultery you can't ever preach or pastor again and I was, in a way, tendering my resignation to God. I know, sounds stupid, but when you are angry and hurt you do a lot of stupid things.

The result of that week's romp under the sheets was the most amazing miracle to ever enter my life. My daughter Bethanie has been the catalyst in my life that made me grow up, and I would never trade her for absolutely anything in my life. I have often said she is the axis on which my world spins. Of all the mistakes I have made in my life, and so many times I have felt like I have just simply failed at life, she makes my life worthwhile.

It is no surprise that a relationship that started so wrong did not end right. A lot of things happened that should not have happened. There was infidelity, irresponsibility and a total lack of interest and true love on both our parts. I am not going to use my bully pulpit to point out her flaws...because I made more than my share of mistakes that helped tear down that marriage. I remember on the day we went to the Justice of the Peace to get married, I told her then, in very clear terms, I didn't love her. That never changed. I married her for the baby, looking back now it was not the wisest decision I ever made, but it is what it is.

About three years ago, she and I were living in separate rooms and barely talking to each other. We were both very unhappy. She decided she wanted to go back to Australia. She had several reasons, some I can't fault her for. She was having some medical problems that as it turns out seem to have been mostly stress related and our farce of a marriage could not have been helping things. She had left three children over there and was missing them as well. I try to write this without sounding judgmental, but I admit I am fairly close to the situation and bear with me.

So she decided she wanted to go back to Australia. I told her I would not help her and if she wanted to she would have to find a way to pay for it. I also told her that if she left, she left alone. I refused to sign anything for passport, visa or anything for international travel. If she left, she left alone and my daughter stayed her. You may disagree with that decision, and that is your prerogative. I had a choice to make and I made it. I chose to dedicate my life to my daughter and to take on the responsibility of raising her. It has not been easy, but it has been very rewarding.

Bethanie turned three in April and her mom left in June. Her trip was paid for by her family in Australia. I have often wondered what possibly COULD have been the right decision for her and I don't envy the choices she was forced to make. She had three children in Australia and one here. How do you possibly choose? That doesn't mean I go easy on her. She had a choice to make...and she made it. Choices carry consequences. My life is riddled with bad choices that had severe consequences. You learn, as an adult, to stand and face those consequences. Her subsequent behavior is where I began getting upset with her.

After she left, I got a telephone (VOIP)through Lingo with free calls to Australia. The idea was she would email me and I would call her. For the first month or two the calls came every week. I felt her emailing me would at least be some sort of point of responsibility. It is not my responsibility to force a relationship. If she wanted it, the LEAST she could do was email me. I was even paying for the phone, for crying out loud! As time passed the emails became less frequent, and as a result the phone calls did. I eventually canceled the phone since the only reason I had it was to talk to her and since she had stopped emailing me I didn't see the point of keeping it.

At this point it came down to one line emails every few months. Just a quick "How is Bethanie?" I attempted to share as much as I could till I got a scathing email about my pushing the whole "Daddy's girl" thing? What do you expect? Little girls typically are "Daddy's girls" and more so when Daddy is all they have. From that point on I began responding with just the basics, why elaborate? The emails were coming once every two to three months. At one point I went six months without hearing from her. I thought something had happened to her...I will plead the fifth on my personal emotional response to that thought.

The effect of this on Bethanie was devastating. When the phone calls began to become infrequent I would have problems with her crying in the middle of the night. I would have her waking up with nightmares. Calling out for her mom in the middle of the night. She refused to sleep in her own bed and pretty much claimed my (then) king size bed as her own and I was allowed a small slice of the edge...and she usually slept right up almost on top of me, craving that physical contact. If I had to go to work she would cry, refusing to let me go out of her sight. When I was home she had to be right by me. Obviously she was having some abandonment issues. And it seemed just as I was getting better, her mom would call, and it would start all over again. When she went to school, all the little kids had a mommy, and she wanted to know where hers was. We would be in Wal-Mart and she would just point at random women and call them mommy. As much as little girls are Daddy's girls, they need a mommy too. My mom began helping me with her and she has come to see Granny as her mommy figure.

I tried pointing this out to her mom and of course, as has always been the case with her, it was MY fault, not hers. Because, of course, it is MY responsibility to be sure she has a relationship with her own offspring. She once rebuked me for "talking bad" about her to Bethanie...but the fact is...I have NEVER talked bad about her to Bethanie. The truth is...I never talk to her about her mom at all. It was a subject we just stopped talking about about six to eight months after she left. This morning I took an old family picture and pointed at every individual and she named them: Daddy, BJ, Becky, Herself... But when I pointed at her mom she answered, I don't know. She really doesn't know. Which is sad.

Now keep in mind, in three years she has not taken any active interest in Bethanie. Has not sent one dime of support. Has not bought one gift. One time I mentioned to her that the State of Georgia was looking for information on her for child support and her response was (and I am copying and pasting her reply), "even if your american law says l have to pay australian law doesnt recognise it." (typos included)

So about two months ago she said she would like to start talking to Bethanie again. At this point it has been three years and Bethanie doesn't even know who she is. I understand I have no legal standing to keep her from talking to Bethanie, so I lad down some ground rules. She had to be consistent and she had to call during certain hours because of school and bedtime. And she would have to call on her dime. No more of me facilitating her abandonment. She responded that she would follow them and needed me to give her a number and address. I was in no hurry to respond and got another email this morning yelling at me for not replying, accusing me of lying to her to try to run her off and as usual blaming me for her failures. I was angry, hurt and very emotional...which is why I am writing this I guess.

Why did I take so long in responding to her? Simply put, how do I explain this to a five year old? How do I do so with out talking bad about a woman that hasn't give two shits for three years? How do I handle the confusion, the pain and the anger that could result? And what do I do if the nightmares, the crying in the middle of the night and the bad dreams start all over again? Am I over thinking this?

I am angry. I am emotional. I don't want to expose my daughter to more pain and confusion. I can't even begin to describe the emotional turmoil I am in today. My buddy John had to talk me down from my original response to was NOT pretty. I know this is about Bethanie and not about me...but the Papa Bear in me is concerned about yes my emotions are mine, but it is about My daughter, about this precious treasure that is not merely a part of my life...she IS my life.

So forgive me for a blog totally unrelated to anything important to the world around us...but for what it is is about the most important thing in my world...

And thanks for putting up with my rambling....And any helpful advice would be appreciated.


Jetsa said...

Have you tried explaining this as you did in this post to her?If she does really want to resume a relationship with her daughter she HAS to understand. I'm going to refrain from judgement bc everyone deserves a chance and maybe she has changed and really wants to get closer to her daughter. But that doesn't change the fact that you are and should continue to be the main parental figure in her life. I'm sorry I have no advice, but I hope everything works out for you and Bethanie. I'd hate for her mom to break her heart again, now that she is older and can understand better.

Laurie said...

It may be helpful for you to begin to explain the situation by talking about the different kinds of mommies children have, like...some mommies live with their kids, some only see their kids on the weekends and some mommies live very far away from their kids and then work into where her mother is in terms of geography. This will help ease into the discussion of why she has been absent--even if the geography isn't the problem, your daughter doesn't need to know that.

I would also hold off on telling her anything until you are certain her mom is not going to flake out again. And you may want to look into some personal protections just in case she has other motives such as a custody dispute--it does not sound like it but I have learned to never trust an X and never trust them to do the right thing.

And most importantly, and just based on this blog alone you are already doing this, she needs reassurance of stability in you. Sometimes something as simple as an "always" stuffed animal can work wonders--"here is a very special *whatever her favorite animal is stuffed animal* for you to keep. This animal is so special because it has a tiny part of me and you in it so we will always be together even when..."

I hope this helps some. What a mess. I'm sorry you both have to go through this.

Opinionated Gifts said...

Good for you for venting, buddy.

Having a child from an ex pretty makes for a lifelong commitment of one form or another.

It's a tough row to hoe. Tough row to hoe. Glad I could help today.

Bethanie's got a good dad. She's gonna be ok.

Evil Twin's Wife said...

You've gotten a lot of good advice here so far. I know you will approach it in the right way for you and for your daughter.

Notes from a Broad said...

I would talk to a professional before you talk to your little girl.
And are you protected legally from the mother coming back and trying to take her away?
In this case, with this woman's seeming record of having children then abandoning them, you want to be sure that there is no way she can pop up one day and start more problems for you.
I am glad your mom is there for you and your little girl.
And I agree with Laurie, talk to a lawyer or family counselor and be sure of all your rights and how to best protect yourself and the little one.
Best of luck to you and Bethanie..

Will Shealy said...

I say it again - jettison her, she's poison.


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