My Daughter Hates Me: Perception becomes reality (Part 10 of 13)


Don’t misunderstand – I’m not defending my choices – most of them are beyond defending. However, there is a difference between being defensive and being honest. The former is a result of pride the latter humility. Knowing what I know today I would do most of it differently. But I didn’t know and cannot change the past. Spending time dwelling on my lapses in judgment is morbid reflection. Wishing it were different is simply misplaced regret. Both lead down a path that ends in self-pity and indecision. It leads back to the hopelessness I felt sitting on the edge of the bed in Chicago contemplating the reasons to pull the trigger.

So what can I do?

I can choose to start focusing on doing the “best” instead of finding the “easiest”. I can start focusing more on my “responsibilities” and less on my “rights”. I can choose to conform to the rules instead of hiring a lawyer to help make the rules conform to my desires. I can start meeting life on life’s terms instead of mine. I begin by taking responsibility for my choices and let Betty live with hers.

I stopped fighting with Betty over visitation times, dates and plans. Even when I was technically “right”. Arguing made it worse for Cassie. I worked to meet my current and past support obligations without complaining about the unfairness of it all. It eased the amount of overt and covert criticism Cassie hears.

Eventually, I paid it all off and met my other obligations.

When situations forced me to interact with Betty and her husband, I tried to listen. I would say, “You could be right,” or nothing at all, when they were being critical. Sometimes the criticisms had merit. Sometimes the criticisms were simply fear-mongering. I adjusted to the truth and ignored the hyperbole, exaggerations and overstatements. I learned not every question needs an answer and not every comment needs a response.

I made a conscious effort to focus on Betty’s good qualities. She is a good mother. She loves our daughter. She is doing what she believes is “best”. I might make the same choices if I were in her shoes. Betty is the one who has had to make the most sacrifices for Cassandra. Women always do. In reality, she has made a good home for our daughter.

Most importantly, I realized all of my unkind, unnecessary, unhelpful behaviors were a result of living in fear. Fear I wouldn’t get my share. Fear I wouldn’t get what was “right”. Fear I’d be alone. Fear I was unlovable. Fear motivated me to act on unloving, unkind, selfish and self-centered feelings.

I saw that if I were terrified someone might come and take away something I knew was mine I might stack the deck as I had on many occasions. I saw that creative resumes, padded expense accounts, expensive gifts, and high paid lawyers are attempts to stack the deck. All are attempts to get my due. To get what is “right” for me. The actions all led to me getting what I want – a better job, extra money, sex, custody, etc. – instead of what I deserve or need.

I’m guessing now about fear – because I have no special knowledge or insight into the emotional, mental or spiritual workings of others. However, since I accept Cooley’s assertion that my “motives are the same as other people’s,” I will assume Betty and I both want to ensure our future with our daughter. Our motives were the same but we made different choices. As a result, we both made statements that would have been “best” unstated. We both took actions that would have been “best” untaken. The thought of a sheriff showing up at the door caused me some sleepless nights.

Perhaps, although I don’t know, they may have caused Betty some too.

And this is where perception becomes reality. My perception is Betty stacked the deck by exaggerating to Cassandra the reasons to hate me. Of course, by making the “easiest” choices I made stacking the deck simple. I foolishly handed over the Aces through my selfishness. Because of the venomous relationship between my daughter’s mom and myself the unfortunate legacy for my daughter is she has learned to hate, or at the very least that love is conditional. Which is probably worse.

Although, I know it is a lesson Betty chose to teach, it is hard for me to blame her. Truthfully, my choices made it easy…

14 Comments

  1. What a wonderful post, and how eloquently written. I am also divorced with children and I could really relate to this struggle – the struggle to balance my needs for revenge, and for my rights and for my happiness with those of my daughters. In many ways, I still don’t know what’s right. Though I only talk about her father in good terms in front of her. I learned in a “Kids in the Middle” class ordered by the court something very helpful, which was try and think of your child at 25 years old. What will they think of you? So that’s what I’m trying to do. Best wishes in all of this. It’s unbelievably hard, but I can tell you are on the right track.

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    1. It is hard. Children are designed to observe and learn. Even unspoken resentment teaches so we tend not to talk about it. As parents I think sometimes we kid our selves into believing we are protecting our children by not being honest when they ask “Is there something wrong?” and we answer with a bluff. They are so connected to us they feel our pain even when we think we are hiding it. They see and know one thing and hear a BS explanation for another. It is frustrating. I want them to learn how to properly express themselves emotionally but I demonstrate the complete opposite by hiding it. This parenting crap is hard.

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  2. Thank you for sharing your life with us. I’m so glad that the trigger was not pulled. Yes, we all do what we believe is best. One day Cassie will come around. Continue to plant the seeds of hope and one day you will reap the harvest of a changed heart. I struggle with this dilemma myself. My ex is operating in fear and now time is making his presence seem even farther away. I’m sure he doesn’t know where to start or even what to do. The child support is so far reaching that he’s given up. How easy is it to blame the other parent for our actions? I have so much respect for you for taking responsibility for YOUR actions (or lack thereof) and accepting the situation for what it is. This too shall pass.

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    1. Hi Tina,
      There is a tipping point on past due child support where many of the people responsible for the financial obligations finally give up. At times it seems utterly and totally fruitless. I think it is at that moment that so many non-custodial parents just give up on themselves and on their relationships. Essentially, what is the point. In reality, courts and laws are designed to punish not mediate. If the person responsible for paying child-support becomes ill or loses a job it doesn’t take long for the amounts due to become financially ruinous. I look forward to talking to you Friday.
      Cheers,
      Sean

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  3. In anger we say so many things
    that when the wave flows away
    we wish we did not say!
    catching ourselves before
    the words fall from our mouth
    and replace the with
    one from our heart
    What was yesterday is gone
    can never be changed
    but today, yes today
    is a whole new ballgame
    Show your child your wonders
    share with her joy
    interact without reacting
    to the things you can not change
    She, may not see it now
    but she will not hate you tomorrow
    she will eventually see
    the changes you made
    the choices you made
    because of your love for her.

    Seeing into the future
    and acting on it Today

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  4. I just read all of the 10 posts. I also see that you welcome comments, so here is mine:
    The truth is: you messed up when you had sex with a women you did not plan having a family with. Then you messed up when you did not realize that child was worth doing your best to work on keeping the marriage alive and working out differences as responsible adult(s). Of course, if takes two to work on that, so all you could do is all you can do.
    Once a child is born, it’s not any more about you or a mother, but working on a well-being of a child together.

    So, if your daughter hates you, like you noted, it is actually projected hate of a mother. You want to stop that? You have to start LOVING and focus on LOVE instead of hate. She still IS your daughter regarding of your second marriage or her mother having someone else now.
    Of course, not the child is in between even more people and influences, so, how much do you care?

    I understand you are writing your posts to be helpful. So is this comment.

    Finally, as a Christian and ex-hater (I hated my parents from hating me etc, but this story is not about me – the response is from my experience) I can honestly and sincerely say that without God and Jesus Christ people can hardly ever know true love for another human beings (including children), as they are full of pride and self-worth.

    So, the BEST possible solution? Truly ask God for forgiveness of everything you’ve done (not only regarding your family), accept it through Jesus Christ the Savior, and then learn to apply true Love that comes from God to people you have contact with. That aside, without a mother doing the same thing, your only way to make more improvement regarding her and your daughter is to do a VERY good job at being an example of a loving person, by your words and actions.

    Whatever you posted here needs to be discussed with your daughter and her mother, together. At this point it is also up to THEM how much they will understand or care. Again, without God, it is really hard for people to get over their prideful selves and actually be opened to hearing and understanding of someone opening up to them.

    Jesus Christ was all about forgiveness, so there are lot of forgiving that needs to be done, and lot of plans and attempts to continue father/mother/daughter relationship strictly in “love one another” attitude.

    For starters, “My daughter Hates me” would be better off being “I love my daughter”.

    Thank you.

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    1. Hi Ex-Hater,
      Interesting response. I certainly agree with what you are saying in principle. I’ll be curious about your thoughts when I finish posting this series. Thanks for making the time to write.
      Sean

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  5. I admire your honesty and could not agree more about your take on rights and responsibilities. Life can hand you a pile of lemons and while it may not always be possible to make lemonade, you do your best. You can do no more.
    Good luck.
    Nx

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    1. Hi Nettie,
      Thanks. I’m amazed when I think back on how little I actually knew about love, life, myself and people that I survived at all. Between then and now 95% of everything I thought, believed and felt has changed. The longer I live the less I know. Thank you for reading.
      Sean

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  6. Hi Sean,
    I read your post – not sure yet what the first 9 are about but quite a lot of emotion is coming up for me.

    My daughter, now 18, has experienced much of what you write about. NOW at 18 she searches for the loving/caring and compassionate parent who listens with no judgment and loves unconditionally even when they can hardly bear to listen to what they are hearing.- so I guess in the end I didn’t win but I won. Actually I haven’t won I have created a beautiful girl who knows what love is and where she loved unconditionally.
    Sean I hear the love in you for you daughter. It is your ‘right’ to love her. Go crazy with it! 🙂

    Michelle

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    1. Michelle,
      Thanks. It is amazing at how many people think love of self, family, children, parents, spouses and even country, enemies, God (or gods) and strangers is limited. The whole idea that love “looks” a certain way underestimates what it means to love. My daughter may never speak to me. That is a very real possibility (I’ll talk more about that over then next 3 weeks) but all of my best choices have resulted in what is best for her, regardless of how others interrupt it. At every later step I did everything I could to make the best and most loving choices. What other people think of me – bad or good – is none of my business. However, it is always nice to know I’m not alone.
      Cheers.
      Sean

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