I have a very dysfunctional relationship with my Dad or Charlie as I’ve always called him. My Mum and Dad separated when I was about a year old, no one knows why they separated that will always be between them but from the outside looking in it ended on not the best of terms.
I think the arrangement that was put in place of visiting him every three weeks on a Saturday was set up by my Mum ( I’m not 100 per cent sure) and so this arrangement continued after my Mum’s accident. When my Mum’s accident happened I was looked after by my Aunt and Uncle, they had children of their own so it was lovely to move to somewhere that was a ready made family for me. A stable family environment after the shock of what happened to my Mum was the best thing for a 5 year old.
My Dad did try to seek more visitation and have more access, he wanted me to live with him challenging the visitation set up after Mums accident but the court ruled that it was to remain the same and living with my aunt and uncle was the best option. If I’m brutally honest he was ( and still is) a man that I didn’t really know. I didn’t have the same relationship I had with him as I did with my Aunt and Uncle. I was happy to live with them, I had friends, my cousins were like my siblings which was new to me and exciting. I felt secure and stable and being an only child who had just witnessed her Mum being left with life threatening injuries, secure and stable were the most important things I needed to be feeling.
So during my childhood years every three weeks.. on a Saturday my Uncle who was raising me would drop me off to my Granny’s house. I would be greeted at the door by my Dad’s sister and my Granny with big smiles and hugs and we would do baking activities, crafts. My aunt would take me swimming and to the shops, I’d be treated to something special. My favourite thing to do was to pretend I was presenting my own cooking show and so I would spend hours acting this out for them.
My Dad isn’t apart of those memories when I think back he isn’t in them at all. He would arrive later in the day and the atmosphere just turned awkward and this is me sensing this awkward atmosphere as a child. He wouldn’t make an effort with me or maybe his idea of effort is different to mine but he wasn’t doing the fun activities that my auntie would do with me. Instead he sat down, asked a few questions, the same questions he asked me every three weeks, not really listen to my answers or just randomly laugh at me, talk with silly voices at me or talk over me. Then he would then have a smoke and go out into the garden or to the garage. Although as I’m writing this I do have one memory where he did take me bike riding a few times.
I don’t know if it’s the fact I’m a girl was the reason he didn’t know how to have a relationship with me? He had said to me a few times that he wanted a boy, so that could be why he acted bizarrely. It’s hard to explain and the only way I can explain it is our relationship isn’t a father/ daughter one. It’s more distant uncle that you would only see at family funerals and weddings kind of relationship.I have never been to dinner with him, watched a movie together or anything like that. I asked him one time when his birthday was and he said I didn’t need to know. So as you can imagine a bit of a strange relationship.
When I was about 16 or 17 ( I think it was this age) I had a choice of whether I wanted to visit every three weeks. I no longer had to go by court order the decision was up to me and I did still visit, I went to my aunties house because I enjoyed seeing her and my Granny. I could also leave at whatever time I wanted. Originally I had to stay until 8pm but as I was older I could leave when I wanted. So I would visit for a while stay for lunch but of course being a teenager I had friends and I also wanted to go and hang out with them too.
My relationship with my Dad was still a very strange one and I just accepted that he wouldn’t do Dad things or appear to have much of an interest. His way of parenting was giving me money here and there, either when I seen him or in the post which to me was extremely random I was always unsure as to why he did that. It never fixed our relationship or made us any closer. If anything, as time went on it made me realise that the only way he could parent was firing me some money. It made me feel worthless it was a cop out of parenting on his part, an easy way to make it look as though he cared when in fact his actions weren’t caring.
As I got older he would say “you know where I live” and “you have my number” he too knew where I lived and had my number, he would ring me sometimes but he would talk in silly voices and I couldn’t understand a word he said.
I think a parent should be the one laying down the ground work, it shouldn’t be left to the child to be the person doing all the reaching out no matter what age the child is. As a parent you have the responsibility to make the effort to get to know your children. Make them feel safe, comfortable and loved in your presence, offer care and support, ring them, visit them, listen to them. If you do that starting from when they are young all those things will be reciprocated.
I firmly believe sometimes a child can’t naturally love a parent you have to earn the love and respect of your child in those younger years but especially as they get older. You have to grow with them love and support them through different stages of childhood and adulthood not just give up when they hit a certain age.
I used to think maybe it was because he only seen me every three weeks that was the reason he found it difficult but then I thought.. if it was me and I knew my child visited me on certain dates and at certain times, I sure as hell would make sure that time was filled getting to know them and making every minute of it memorable. Even if it was (like in Dads case) every three weeks.
The past few years my relationship with him is non existent, when I got married I didn’t ask him to walk with me up the aisle, I walked myself. I didn’t have a top table just my bridesmaid and best man sat with us and they were the only ones that did speeches. I don’t know if this was a harsh reality for him but that’s what Daniel and I wanted for our wedding day. Of course he was invited but instead of bucking up his ideas, pulling himself together for one day to see his only daughter get married. He arrived in not the best way and he spent the day randomly shouting silly things at me including during the dinner speeches, he ignored me most of the day and had to leave early. I wasn’t surprised but I was extremely disappointed in him and felt let down by him and embarrassed by his behaviour.
I decided it was best to keep my distance from him for my own happiness. We didn’t hear much from each other and my aunt who I’ve always been close to was caught the middle. I would get the odd random card posted with money and I’d put it towards something for the boys but again it always made me feel uneasy and guilty.
I hadn’t heard from him in about year when he arrived at my house unannounced with my auntie.. and just like the wedding day not in the best way. We asked them to leave as Finley was 2 months old and Adam could see for himself that my Dad had drank a few too many wines before arrival. I’m glad Daniel was with me to support me and finally they left and before he left my Dad said to me ” You are getting no more money from me” to which I replied “I don’t need your money” and with that I knew that his odd flurry of money that he would randomly give me was to keep his own conscience at bay because he knows he hasn’t been there for me. That was that and I got a phone call 8 months later, he apologised chuckled and laughed half way through the apology and we haven’t had contact since. That was 2 years ago now, the relationship that was frayed all these years has snapped at its just at a point that it can’t be mended.
Today it’s my birthday. I had to go to the post office, pick up a signed for letter. Opened it, a card with the message “From Dad” and some money the fell out of it. It’s triggered emotions that I never think about, emotions that have been pushed deep down and switched off from. I am annoyed, frustrated, upset and hurt. Yet again it’s made me feel worthless that he thinks all it takes to fix things is a few paper notes. It makes me feel guilty when I don’t even know why exactly I should feel guilty.
I’m trying to not let it ruin my day. I’ve put that money in a stamped envelope with his address and I’m sending it back because I don’t want his money. There are some things money can’t buy, it can’t be used to fix broken relationships. What I needed from him was for him to be my parent and he can’t do that. This post may come across as extremely selfish but the whole situation is confusing and I need to get my head around it. I’m glad I have this space to write down my thoughts.
Now I’m off out to Pizza Express with Adam for my birthday treat. To enjoy pizza, talk about minecraft and walk together holding hands.