My daughter, the youngest, turned 16 just a couple of days ago. I was very happy about this, for several reasons!
You see, I went to prison about 6 1/2 years ago because an in-law gave false information to a task force to save her ass, and they busted my family and used her as a CI in future cases. It is all documented here somewhere, as I first found this place shortly before that happened, and I left a record of the events. They took my kids and I fought long and hard to get them back, as well as fighting this charge for over a year. Finally, due to the task force not really finding anything to begin with, they resorted to the time-honored police technique of threatening your family in order to get a confession.
To make a long story short, I promised my kids that I was not going away, because I didn't do anything wrong.
I ended up losing, and breaking that promise. Even though it was beyond my control, try telling that to your 6 and 7 year old daughter when they take you away right in front of them.
I'm 50 years old, and I have made and broken a lot of promises in my life. However, this one broke me. I would literally give my life in order to go back and be able to keep that promise to them.
Fast forward several years, and I am getting out of prison now. I have maintained very close ties with my family, including visits, phone calls, letters every day, and so on, so I am not really worried on that account. Except for the fact that my daughters have grown up and spent the last 5 years without me in their lives, but we are going to work on that and I will do anything I have to in order to rebuild those bridges! Things are a bit strange, but that is to be expected, given the circumstances.
Fast forward to now. I have been home for two years. I have gone through a lot (most of which has been faithfully chronicled here at D-F!), but I am almost all the way back now. I have the PTSD under control, the chronic pain issues are dealt with, and the habituation to pain meds is a non-issue as well. Life is good! I have straightened out the course of my life, got things under control, and mended my relationships.
Well, all of them except for those with my daughters. I have tried so very hard to fix this, and I have made exactly zero progress. I have tried sitting down and explaining to them the circumstances of what happened back then and how the prosecutor decided to "make an example out of me". I explained to them how I fought for over a year to stay with them, fought to the very end and even continued that fight from inside the prison. I explained to them that I realized I made them a promise and that I had broken it, and that saying "I didn't have any other choice" did not cut it. I told them that I would do anything in my power to make it right, no matter how long it took, if they would just give me the smallest chance. I told them how very sorry I was and that this one thing, more than anything else, was what bothered me the most, that I was not able to keep my promise and that I left them.
I have worked hard over the past two years to make this right. In parenting language, I run what is called a democratic household. I grew up in an authoritarian household, and I promised myself that my kids would never have to go through that. So, as a result, we talk about things before they happen, I ask for and consider their opinions carefully before I make decisions that might affect them, we make decisions as a family, and I give then as much freedom and responsibility as they show they can handle. What this means is that they are free to organize and schedule their lives without interference from me, as long as they stay within the general framework that we have laid out. I don't do "bedtimes" or "curfews" as they are responsible enough to know what they are expected to do and plan accordingly, and I try to let them experience as much as possible without parental interference while at the same time keeping them safe. I give them freedom, financial independence (to a limited extent!), and the opportunity to develop their own personalities and lifestyles.
I have loved them unconditionally, and, even though I know we still have some lingering problems regarding my absence of several years, we are working through them and making progress. I still get frustrated at times because it is slow, and hard, to regain and rebuild trust, and I would like for just a little understanding, just once for them to say "Dad, it's OK. I love you".
Yesterday, I took the wife, kids, and one of my youngest daughters friends to the movies to see the last "Twilight" film, and then we were going to do some christmas shopping and stop for eats. We did all of that and were heading back home when my wife asked her a question.
Now, the backstory here is that the high school my daughter goes to has a tradition of the sophomore class not going to school the day after Halloween. It is no big deal and has become an accepted practice. This year, Halloween came and went, and I get a call from the school the next day saying that "my child was marked absent for one or more of her classes". Now, we had talked about this earlier in the week, and she had asked to stay home. I asked her what her schedule was like, and she said that she had nothing pending that could not be put off for a day except for one test. I told her to make the test and I would cover for her for the rest of the day, and she said that she would, so I gave it no more thought.
So, I asked her if she went to school that day, and she said that she did. I called the school and talked to the attendance secretary, and she said that my daughter had been marked absent from all of her classes and not just one. I ask my daughter again, and she says that the school must have made a mistake. Strangely enough, this does actually happen from time to time, so it did not immediately set off any alarms.
I chose to believe her, even though two other school people had said she missed school. I even argued with them! I finally went to each one of her teachers and checked with them myself, to get to the bottom of the matter.
She lied to me. Not only did she lie to me, but she continued to lie, even though she was given several opportunities to come clean and tell the truth, with no repercussions or penalties at all. Just fix your mistake and it is over.
Why? There was absolutely NO reason whatsoever to do so. She would not have been in trouble for not going to school, and she knows that. I even told her to finish one small task and she could take the day off with my blessings and I would even cover for her! Now, I understand that when confronted with a wrong which you have committed and then questioned about it, human nature is to immediately deny everything. I'm OK with that. But to repeatedly lie over such a minor issue, especially when given multiple chances to correct it and it is MORE than obvious that everyone already knows you lied, is beyond me. Why?
Fast forward to the present. We are in the car and on our way home when my wife brings up the subject and asks her why she felt the need to lie to us when it was not necessary in any way. All she would have to do is say that she was sorry and that it would not happen again! Instead, she makes a big dramatic scene and goes on and on about how we should just drop it and that it was not a big deal, and how WE are the ones with the problem! Well, in a way she is right-I have a problem with my kid lying to me and then rubbing my face in it! So anyway, she gets mad and defensive, and starts getting mouthy. All this time, I am driving and keeping my mouth shut, because mom is handling this, but I am starting t get a little frustrated because she just absolutely refuses to accept responsibility for her actions, instead saying "We" this and "We" that, until I finally asked her what in the hell was up with this "We" stuff-she was arguing with her mom and I had not said a word!
Now, up until this point, the conversation had not become accusational at all and was being conducted in a mostly friendly manner and nobody was being mean or anything. It got to a point in which the talk was about keeping people informed about what you were doing and that there was no need to lie about it, and then my wife started pushing her a bit to find out why she had thought she needed to lie to us, and she immediately became extremely defensive and mouthy.
Well, what ended up happening is that my daughter called ME a douche-bag and said that she didn't talk to me and acted the way she does towards me because I was mean to her all of the time.
You could have heard a pin drop in that car after she said that. Her mother asked her what she was talking about, because I have bent over backwards on a daily basis to give her everything she ever wanted, and to give some examples of what she was talking abut or how I was mean to her, but the conversation pretty much ended at that point.
I felt like someone just ripped out my heart and stomped it into the dirt. I have tried to make things right-every minute of every day-for the past two years. I even thought that we were making progress, I offer to help her with anything she wants (school, athletics, etc.), I give her anything she wants, and I do everything I can to make her life easy and better.....she is my daughter and I love her more than life itself!
To find out in that moment that the last two years have been a joke and that nothing I have done has made a difference to her, that all of my efforts have been for nothing....or worse-less than nothing!
To find out that, to her, I am nothing. I have this.....void where my heart used to be, and I don't know what to do. All of the love, all of the affection, all of the care that I have shown her was thrown back in my face like spit.
My daughter has decided that I am a burden and that I have no place in her life. I am mean to her, and a douche-bag on top of it! Furthermore, she has also decided that conversation is a waste of time and will not tell me what I have done that makes her feel this way. She refuses to even try to let me be a part of her life, in any measure at all.
I have no words for this. Disappointment, crushed, heart-broken.....none of then even come close to describing how I feel.
What have I done wrong? What have I done that makes her hate me like this? Why won't she even try to communicate with me anymore?
I woke up this morning, and the disappointment and heart-ache was gone. It has been replaced by.....anger? Disappointment? I am not sure exactly what it is that I am feeling, but a certain coldness has crept into my opinion and my feelings for my daughter now.
This is bad. Very bad! But how should I act towards her? How should I feel? Should I act as if nothing has happened, that it is just business as usual? Should I push the issue and make her open up, and stay at it until things are resolved?
Should I treat her the same way that she has treated me?
Normally, that would be a no-brainer. But this is my daughter, and that makes things different. Doesn't it? Does the fact that you share a blood relation with a person factor into the equation when disrespect and dislike has been made so obvious? Perhaps I should accord her the same treatment I would to those whom I dislike but still have to interact with-a very cold and distant, short and to-the-point politeness. In the midst of my anger, I told her that she has no idea of all of the things that I do for her, but that she was going to find out.
I have started to withdraw my presence from her life, and we will see just how much of a douche-bag I really am. Maybe (probably!) I am being childish, but I think that it is the best method for getting my point across. Accordingly, I cut off her internet and took her computer, cut off her phone, and cut off her bank account. Due to the fact that she lies and cannot be trusted, her activities have been drastically scaled back as well. She goes to school, sports activities, and that is it. I do not speak to her or interact with her unless it is absolutely necessary, and then it is for the shortest amount of time possible. I told her that because I was such a bother, she could take care of her pending court case and all of the over-due community service that she has failed to finish on her own, and that I would try my best to stay as far out of her life as was possible until she turned 18, at which point she would be required to leave the house. There will be no more rides to or from school or transportation to friends houses, no more driving lessons, no more NOTHING!
My daughters opinion of me has always been the most important thing in the world to me, and to find out her true feelings was painful. But I think that the worst part was that she has felt this way for a long time now, and I never knew. She never told me and would never talk to me when I tried to find common ground.
I am crushed. Heart-broke. I don't know what to do next, but whatever it ends up being, I do not welcome it. I suspect that it will get even worse before it gets better.....IF it even can get better! What now?