My Daughter Hates Me: I wish it were a black-and-white world (Part 12 of 13)


It is not a black-and-white world. Sometimes I wish it were.

There are adults who grew up in broken homes and condemn my choices. The truth is they are choosing to paint my reality based on their experiences. I know because people are more than willing to send me an email or tweet and tell me so. They lack the ability – or willingness – to emotionally or spiritually walk in my shoes but, rather, demand I walk in their’s. Perhaps it is because if they open their heart for a moment they would have to take responsibility for their own anger and their own choices. As I’ve said before – it is easier to hate than love.

Others scoff and see my choices as cowardice and self-serving…but in those situations I remind myself how easy it is to sound wise when judging in hindsight. They add what they feel are constructive comments: “It’s your own fault for disobeying God’s will,” or “You pay the price for your sins”. Which is blatantly arrogant and self-righteous  because our daughter was never a punishment – she is a gift. As has been every drop of pain I’ve ever experienced.

Still, others – the ones that matter – thank me. I’ve had fathers, daughters and mothers cry and give me a hug because they understand. They understand how much I love my daughter because I’m willing to sacrifice my “right” for what seems to be in Cassie’s “best” interests based on the circumstances of my relationship with her mother’s family.

As I said, I don’t know what is “right”. I did what seemed “best” in the moment.

By allowing her to be adopted I did the complete opposite of everything my brain was telling me to do. It was the opposite of selfishness and self-centerdeness. It was an attempt to be honest about the realities of our relationship and change the things I could. Adoption has been the least “easy” choice. By allowing her to be adopted I allowed her the freedom to choose when she is ready to see me. By letting her go I took the most loving action I could manage. It doesn’t seem enough, and it may not be, but at the moment it is all I can do. I’m attempting to act on a level different than the one that created the problem. After all my best thinking created my part of the complications.

Today, I see loving sometimes involves sacrificing what is “right” for me so others can have what is “best” for them. In the long-run it always turns out to be “best” for me too. I know Cassie’s mother, Betty, is capable of providing a stable, loving environment. She is capable as long as she doesn’t have to fear me intervening in her “right” because I’m pursuing mine. Nothing I do or say will change how Betty feels about me. Proper amends are not intended to change how people feel but rather are given as compensation for a wrong. For this reason, much – but not all – of the time I choose what is “best,” not “easiest” or “right”.  In the case of my daughter, her mother, my parents, her parents and our friends, my amends are an attempt to sever the Gordian Knot binding all of us to a distant past.

Of course, as I said earlier, the amends are not about changing Cassie’s feelings but perhaps now she will have the freedom to choose. A choice she would have been denied if all I did was focus on my “rights”. What kind of relationship would it be if it is built on emotional blackmail? You don’t need to answer that, it was rhetorical.

Recently, I met the mother of one of my former student. In the course of the conversation I discovered she was great friends with my daughter’s mother, was one of my daughter’s cheerleader coaches for nearly a decade and that Cass grew up two or three doors down. My student’s mother had no idea Cassie was adopted. She had no idea Jim was not my daughter’s father. Which is fantastic for my daughter and heartbreaking for me.

Perhaps there is a chance my daughter will choose to know me for who I am someday and not be bound to incomplete retellings of outdated stories of who I was – if there were any stories. I may simply be the elephant in the living room no one discusses – I’m the shame and the secret. Fifty years ago they would have shipped my daughter’s mother off to visit friends for the summer while she was pregnant – all to avoid the shame on the family. In this case they shipped me off and kept me a secret out of their own shame.

Not a day goes by that I don’t feel her in my heart. I yearn to help her with homework or go for a walk in the woods. I’ve missed all twelve of her first days of school. It wasn’t me that taught her to drive or helped her move into her college dorm. I missed the high school prom, cheer practices and all the anxious nights waiting for her to come home from a date. I’ll miss her college graduation, her wedding and the birth of my grandchildren. There is an endless list of missed opportunities.

However, this list is not what keeps me awake at night – that is not what breaks my heart. I know the list of things I have given up. What breaks my heart, causes sleepless nights and the tears is knowing I will never know what I lost. Knowing the bond can never be remade or recreated. The bond is gone and no amount of wishful thinking or prayer or birthday cards will repair that damage. She has a father and it is not me.

Perhaps she will remember our walks in the woods, The Lion King, the Indian story maze at Battelle Riverfront Park and the paddleboats. My hope is she will remember me and doubt enough of what she hears to discover the truth of who I am. But she may decide never to find out. That is a possible consequence of my choice and I knew it from the beginning. Regardless, I believe everything will work out for the “best”. I don’t have to like something to accept the truth.

Of course, the truth can be painful, which is why most people avoid it. And she may choose to always avoid it. I hope not. Most people don’t really want to know because what they don’t know cannot hurt them. It is always “easiest” to hate. It is always easiest to pretend I don’t exist. It is easiest to ignore me. It is always “easiest” to pretend I am not important and don’t matter. Right now Cassie is pissed – or I imagine she is. I imagine right now she thinks she hates me if she thinks of me at all. I am willing to carry that burden after all I chose it. Of course, she doesn’t really know me and carries only a faded memory someone else has painted over for her.

I heard an old man say, “The truth will set you free but first it will piss you off.” When I understood the truth of my character, I was angry and hated myself. That is what led me to the verge of suicide in a hotel room in Chicago. Then I learned I could change if I was willing to be honest and humble. I matured and realized that my past mistakes could be a strength if I wield it to help instead of hate. If I don’t dwell on it but rather embrace it I can use it to help other men who are struggling through the same barren desert of hopelessness, despair, and fear.

The truth set me free…and it hurt…but I wouldn’t want to live any other way.

My hope is someday the truth sets her free too – not to find me but to find herself.

9 Comments

  1. Wow, now this one goes deep and gets to the heart of the matter. The most unselfish act a parent can do in my opinion…knowing when to let go when it comes to your child–you had a choice to let go, and you did-you gave a sense of power away which is VERY difficult for most people. Admirable. Certainly says a lot about your character. Very well written Sean, this touched my heart.

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    1. Hi Jen. Isn’t it interesting how people react to the art of sharing – the vulnerability, the openness? Your photography touches my heart as well so I understand. Thank you.

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  2. For you, the “sacrifice” was right…don’t let anyone tell you different, or try to tell you that it was a sin or anything else. It’s part of who you are.

    Each time I read another one of your posts, I am stunned by how your story so parallels that of my brother. Someday, I will share your blog with him. I live 3500 miles away from him and since this is such a highly personal subject, I don’t want to send him the link. I’d like to be there with him, and catch up on how he feels about how things are.

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    1. Hi Ger. I hope it helps him reach some understanding. As discarded dads and redundant fathers we often judge ourselves much more harshly then is appropriate. We are often either so angry at others for the unfairness we hurt the people who love us or so shamed we hurt ourselves. Maybe this will help. After you talk with him if he wants to talk let me know. I’d be happy to share my phone number and talk with him. Be well, Sean.

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  3. Hi Sean, I found my way here! Without a bot! 😀

    I loved the second half of this post and not so much the first. It struck me as rambl-ey, defensive and yes, a bit complaining about other’s actions and behaviors. There would be nothing to complain about or have ‘irk’ you if they didn’t hit upon something. If they said you are a purple man. You would not feel anything, you might wonder, but you’d soon forget it because you know as your truth that you are not a purple man. If someone said (or wrote or tweeted) something and you felt defensive due to it or it bothered you or made you question yourself, it is only because they said something that is a belief that you hold about yourself or a self doubt or an insecurity. You might hold, “am I being appropriate?” as an example. Anything that hinted you were not would hang around to bother you.

    The second half was a lovely heartfelt exploration of your life actions, past and present, and relationship with Cassie. It was honest and it was moving. Though I perceived there was deeper you could have gone, I sensed you withheld. 🙂

    I believe and feel Cassie will seek you out, she remembers you. I also believe that she does not bring you up at home in order to avoid hearing the barrage of negative remarks. Things will work out as they are supposed to. You are doing a wonderful job expanding, growing and becoming more as a human being. Keep doing that! And visualize the reunion in great detail. There is great power in doing this. Every night before bed and your mind is drifting off, play the scene of your reunion with Cassie through, it will put you to sleep with a smile and be doing magical things with the energies of the Universe. 😀

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  4. Okay, so now I have read 10 , 11 and 12 out of 13. You are a wonderful writer and I hope this writing is very self-healing for you. Expressing yourself and sharing it with the world is very courageous.

    As I read I get a feeling of heaviness from you – like you have been carrying around the weight of the world for a long time now. Wondering when and if things will ever change. Too much of this my dear man will keep you stuck.

    You write a lot about ‘best, right, etc’. of others. I want to challenge you to FORGET just for a bit about others and FOCUS ON YOU. Really and truly search your soul now for what is now BEST FOR YOU.

    I feel in my heart you need to be in touch with Cassie if even a letter or email to her Mom stating what is really going on in your heart and how you don’t want waves BUT you do want your daughter to know she is loved from a far and always has been, that you miss her and you are so open to having a coffee and you want to be part of her life.

    Sean I hear the emptiness as you write you won’t be at her wedding nor know your grandchildren. That breaks my heart just hearing you use those words. Is this really the way is has to be come hell or high water there is no way to change this?????

    I am genuine when I say take care of YOU. What is best for Sean Kinney now???????

    Be well and know you are being thought of and you are being held – you may just not be able to feel it. Kind of like the Jumping Mouse.

    Love and Joy,
    Michelle

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  5. Sean,

    I agree with Michelle that it does not have to be either you are a huge part of her life or never see her again. Life has given us a hundred different options, which in this case you must explore, or forget.

    You are carrying the world on your shoulders right now, and that is exactly why you must start to live your life anew or connect with you daughter on some level. If she is an adult then you no longer need to talk to her mom about speaking with her, so maybe that is the best option right now. Talk to her, and let her decide how her dad will play a role in her life. It will not be easy, but it is her life to decide if she will accept you, and yours to take action.

    Andy

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  6. Wow, Your story brought tears to my eyes, Partly because I feel you pain, partly because felt my own pain reading your story. Where you made the conscious to put your daughter up for adoption. My ex-husband stole my daughter from me when she was three, but that is something else entirely. There is nothing that anyone can tell you to make you feel better that my friend will come from with-in you and from your daughter when she comes to you, and she will come to you. Be ready, be open, it will not be an easy trip but it will happen and when it does there will be a bunch of emotions you will have to deal with both from Cassie and from you. No one can prepare you for the gamut of emotions that will flow from both of you. Only you can do that, centralize your thoughts on how you want the outcome to unfold. Do it all the time! It will happen the way you want it to happen, let go of the negativity that surround your thoughts regarding your daughter and the past. It is a total roller coster ride when it happens. My heart goes out to you.
    Blessings
    Jessica

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  7. Bravo, Sean. Not just for a brilliant and poignant post, but for your depth and strength of character. It takes much insight and foresight to do what was best for your daughter. Wishing you warm vibes always. :0)

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