My Daughter Hates Me: Lastly – Where does it end? (Part 13 of 13)


Knowing all my lessons, my responsibilities and my obligations the lingering question becomes an issue of when to call. When do I reach out and let her know that not a day goes by that I don’t think of her. Do I call at high school graduation, Christmas, birthdays, holidays, weekdays or Mondays?

There is no right answer. What do I say besides “hi”? Am I a “dad”, “the” dad or simply a sperm donor? Your personal experiences will determine your perspective. However, the cold hard truth is she has a father and it isn’t me. I’m not her father because instead of waging a war I lovingly surrendered my authority. Or maybe that makes ma a loving father. I don’t know the “right” answer.

You may not agree. Of course, you get the benefit of hindsight. You weren’t there. You didn’t have to make the choice. In reality, no one gets up in the morning and plans to screw their life up or the lives of the ones they love. We do what we know.

When Cassie was six months old, Cassie’s maternal grandmother confronted Betty and me. She gave Betty an ultimatum: choose. Essentially, Betty had to choose between a relationship with me or with them. Betty couldn’t have both. She made the reasonable, logical choice of a scared young mother. Of course, I made the choice easy.

I imagine that the lesson Betty passed onto Cassie was the same one she was taught: choose. We can only pass on to our children what we know. This is why loving parents encourage children to get an education, to travel and to take risks. Wise adults know we don’t have all the answers. We know we don’t know.

I called Cassie when she turned eighteen and half.

I chose this day because I didn’t want to create drama for her on a birthday or holiday or at graduation. I imagine socially active, teenage girls have enough drama on a daily basis without some estranged father adding to the chaos of already chaotic events.

It was an awkward, pause filled conversation – I think we were both waiting to see how far the other one would go. I was concerned about saying so much that I would overwhelm her with emotions. Any relationship that develops needs to be on her terms not mine.

We’ve talked twice on the phone in nearly three years. She told me calling her at home caused “problems”, so I didn’t. Mostly we communicated via text messages, email, and MySpace. It wasn’t going great but for nearly a year it was going – which was all I was hoping. I worked hard not to flood her with questions about her life or bury her in information about mine. I sent her the chit chat and general info you’d send to or ask of a new acquaintance. On long trips I’d sit in the hotel or the restaurant and we’d trade 20 or 30 text messages.

I loved every minute of it. Possibly because when you have been starved your whole life you are grateful for a few pieces of manna that fall from the sky. Possibly it was because a text message was more than I expected.

Then the wheels came off the wagon.

First, Cassie unfriended me on MySpace. Then Twitter. Her phone number was changed ending our texting. Then she stopped returning emails. I have my opinion about what happened but making accusations and assigning blame is an exercise in futility.

In truth, I could just as easily be wrong. Perhaps the sins of the Cassie’s parents are being passed onto our child. Perhaps I’m wrong and it was all me.

Tough to gauge what I did wrong when there is no communication. It is sort of like having a cell phone drop a call: was it a lost signal, dying battery or simply a fumbled phone. Regardless, the result is the same and the person is gone.  In the end it doesn’t matter how it happened, I know it is cliché, but it is what it is.

A year after the wheels came off the wagon I still occasionally find myself staring at the ceiling and wondering. I still dream of her. I still find myself waking up at night, tears running down my cheeks. The loneliness and sense of loss never really go away. It is easy to cover it up during the day with distractions but at night, when it is quiet, when I am alone – I miss her.

But I don’t talk about it. The truth is I had a year to connect with her. I had time with Cassie from the age of one to six and then again between eighteen and twenty.  The first time I lost that connection it was my choice. This time it is hers.

I’ve received a large number of comments and emails – most constructive and a few not. What has come to light is that I’m not alone. Being estranged from someone we love – or hate – is far more common then we like to admit. It isn’t an ideal situation but it is reality for many parents, children and siblings.

I shared this series with a friend before I posted any of it. She cried. She hated it. She hated it because the story “lacks closure”.

I agree. It is sad. And unfortunate. And tragic. And heart wrenching. It has all the elements of a Greek tragedy, full of hubris and twisted fates.

I wish I could write some beautiful ending that makes everyone feel good. I wish there was some way to give the closure my friends and family want for me, Betty deserves, and Cassie (I hope) will eventually seek. I wish there was closure simply so I could sleep at night without wondering about our fates.

In the meantime, I practice patient persistence. I don’t judge, I don’t panic, and I don’t fret away my life. My amends to Cassie is to be a better man then yesterday. Sometimes, I am. Sometimes, I’m not. I am more often then I use to be. If, and when, she knocks on my door, I’ll be ready. Should something happen and I’ve passed from the scene I hope my family and friends can tell her the truth without embellishment – “He was a fine man who loved you every day.”

That is the amends I live towards. It is the “best” I can offer today.

9 Comments

  1. what a heartfelt…wow makes me wanna cry. you are a good man and i think deep down she( your daughter) knows it. As a child who doesn’t have the best terms with her father . At least she can say you tried. Stay strong luv

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  2. This is heartbreaking.

    Reading earlier installments in the series I couldn’t decide whether you were doing a good thing or making the situation worse. But now I think you’ve done a great thing. You’ve given it your all and poignantly bared your pain and your hopes. Your story is out there, in perpetuity to be found and read anywhere Cassie might be.

    My hope for you is that she will see it and will understand how much you love her, how much you regret your past mistakes and how much you would like the opportunity to start again.

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  3. I had tears well up…. Such an emotional journey you chose to share! I am so glad that I happened upon your story and I wish you luck in the rest of your journey! Stay Strong! 🙂

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  4. Hmmmm.

    Sean I read your last entry and in my mind it is not about ‘lacking closure’. This journey was real, hard and ugly, yes, BUT if you don’t view this journey from the perspective of ‘lacking closure’ you may be able to see better that there is ‘gold’ in all this drama.

    The ‘gold’ as I see it is… who you have had to become, the obstacles that you thought were not possible actually happened – like speaking with Cassie when she was 18 1/2, you learned and discovered what you were made of, you experienced a horrific loss and still are able to share your journey, you have taught people what didn’t not work for you!! etc. etc.

    You are still on the Sean Kinney path of LIFE which doesn’t stop. Continue to learn who you still want to be, what you want, what you want to do and what you want to experience!!!!! You are a fighter and a lover and a wonderful man with so much to give.The lessons you learned through this whole experience are painful but NOW is your chance to look for ‘gold’.

    Consider the possibility that now is the time in your life you GIVE TO YOU. Be selfish, feed you, feed your soul.

    You are at a crossroads, to stay in this ‘land of loss and lack’ or to consciously choose another path. You know you can honestly look back now and SEE with both eyes YOU TRIED.

    One thing I know is – it ain’t over ’till it’s over.

    My loving heart tells me to tell you to live in the land of possibility and live looking towards the future from here on out.

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful writing with me – you have had an impact on my life and for this I am genuinely thankful. xo

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  5. Sean, there will come a day that she will seek you out once again, it may be when her first child is born, it may be after but it will happen and only she and God will know that day. I know the pain you are in and I have felt what you are feeling, I have lived it as you are living it. Cassie is living it, feeling it and hating it just as you are. I pray she is seeking therapy in-order to deal with her pain, believe me she is in a world of hurt. I admire your courage to face your pain, especially on a pubic forum such as this. {but you know this} Your Journey with your daughter is not over there will come a day that you will look into her eyes, hold her close to you heart and tell her just how much you love her. She will be open to receive your love and share your life.
    Blessing dear friend
    Jessica

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  6. Wow. First of all, it is sooo unfortunate that Betty was forced to make a choice…what is wrong with people, and why can’t things be worked out. That’s just plain wrong.

    Second of all, please don’t believe that you are to blame for the unmyspacing, phone number change, etc. Again, it could be another person who made that decision and possibly gave an ultimatum to your daughter.

    It’s okay that there is no happy ending here. Actually, the story isn’t over. You have to believe that. Keep thinking positive thoughts that she is doing okay, and enjoy your life. Everyday.

    I will be waiting to hear how things go for you moving forward. And the 2nd serious of 13 parts….

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  7. I just had 3 years of discontentment melt away. Why? Post-divorce I gave up a better career and happier (to me) living circumstances (metro/city) to stay in Small Town, USA so my boys could be near their father. Boys need their dad, right? I still hate where I live and my ex is still the single most irresponsible person I know… but his boys love him. Reading your story has made me realize how right of a decision I made that day. Thank you.

    Oh… and I have faith your daughter will come to you in her own time. As long as you have let her know you are here… she will come.

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  8. Sean – Sorry I’m late to this… Many other comments have done a better job than I will to remind you of what’s important here, but I wanted to share my own story with you. My parents separated when I was very young, and I didn’t hear from my biodad (as I call him) for nearly 20 years. My sister had reached out via Social Services because she wanted to know about family medical history, and once SS contacted him, we decided to start down the awkward, uncomfortable path that was trying to have a relationship after 20 years – and all of our childhoods – had already passed. It was weird. It still is. My sister and I often joke that he is so clingy and high-maintenance that if he were a boyfriend, he wouldn’t have lasted two weeks with us – we’d have dumped him. But we know where his heart is, and the only time he starts pushing it is when he starts trying to advise us on our lives. We’re willing to have him in our lives as a friend, but the time for being a dad is long, long gone. 15 years after we got back in touch, we are now in the process of arranging to meet with his parents, who seem to deeply regret their own mistakes and their lack of involvement in our lives growing up. I have never even met them. My sister knew them briefly before the split, but they were horrible and mean to her back then. Now, my grandmother – the only one I have left among all of my parents/step-parents – gets tears in her stoic German eyes when my name comes up, or when she reflects too long on what’s passed between all of us.

    You did everything you could to make this better. And as other have stated, there *will* come a time when she wants to reach out to you again. I obviously don’t know what happend for her to change her mind this time around, but I really believe time will change her perspective. It always does. This isn’t the end of this story, and your plan on amends seems like the best and only way to proceed. Keep working on being a better man each day, and when the time comes that she seeks you out – or you manage to connect again – she will see it.

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  9. Sean, this had me in tears. I am going thru similar with my 16 yo daughter. I understand how night can be harsh. I wanted a happy ending on this, because I want one for myself as well. But sometimes there are no happy endings, like you said, take life the way it is, not the way we want it to be. Thanks so much for sharing your story, there are many fathers out there with strained relationships with their children.

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