My Daughter Hates Me: An Epilogue


Does my daughter hate me?

Probably not. Honestly, just because something feels true doesn’t make it so. Sometimes I forget.

I wrote this series six years ago as an outlet for the feelings of loss and pain I was feeling.  Our daughter was 15 at the time. She is 21 now. I’ve learned there are a lot of emotions between love and hate – indifference amongst them. You cannot hate someone if you don’t think of them. A more accurate title for my essay is “My daughter is indifferent,” but that is not nearly an accurate reflection of how I felt when I wrote this essay.

I could never understand how she could forget our time together. I assumed Cass forgot easily. It never occurred to me it was what she was taught.

Recently, I was talking to a friend about this writing project and she pointed out the title of the essay focused on my daughter. After reading it through she suggested it is more about my relationship with her mother. And even then it is a one-sided focus.

A difficulty writers’ face is people read what is written – especially when they read revealing raw details – and assume they know the author.  But they don’t. They know what the author tells them. And even then they only know based on their own prejudices and pains.

As such, I’ve had a few people read my essay, friend me through social media, only to discover I am opinionated and lack subtlety.  I’m not a sensitive new age guy. I have little use for fundamentalists – religious, political or social. I’m not a bleeding heart liberal or a wrapped-in the flag patriot – two sides of the same dogmatic coin. I occasionally rant.

They discover I enjoy burlesque and corny jokes, blues music and Coney dogs, hiking and sunsets, dogs and women. They discover a real person and they get confused because they think they know me because I wrote something that is both true and false. It was true and it no longer is. When you write in pain, the pain appears larger life.

Which brings me here. Some of you might like to hear the rest of the story.

What I heard in practically every single conversation with my daughter’s mother was, “It’s a package deal.”

In other words?

The only way I was going to have a relationship with our daughter was if I committed to having a relationship with her mom. If I didn’t choose that path then she was going to do everything she could to drive a wedge between my daughter and me.

And to their disgrace, my daughter’s mother and family did.

Betty taught my daughter to call me “Sean” and call her step-father “Dad.” Her family consciously bad mouthed my family within earshot of my daughter.  As a result, she learned expressions to repeat to me and my family at the age of four and five. Expressions such as, “You aren’t my real family”, “I don’t belong with you” and (my personal favorite), “You’re family has no traditions.”

At this point, let me get this out…

Hey Betty – just because a man fucks you and you have a child together doesn’t mean it is a package deal. I was more than capable of loving Cass without loving you. I proved it. Having a child is not a romance novel or a Hallmark special.  It is life – hers, yours and mine. And as long as I’m not a sociopath or molester get out-of-the-way and support our child having a relationship with another man who loves her. By getting your hang-ups in the way you limited our daughter from learning to love and be loved. You taught her the spiritual act of loving has limits.

Now for full disclosure. I wanted my daughter to be adopted by a financially stable and more mature couple. But my daughter’s mother was adopted and that was horrifying to her. So she boxed me in. The conversation went like I’ve outlined it below.

A few things before you read it. Be sure to read in a progressively angrier tone with long awkward pauses. Be sure to end it with hysterics and much crying. And I’m pretty sure a slamming door and screeching tires…

Her: What do you want to do?

Me: It’s up to you I don’t want to force my opinion on you.

Her: Well what do you think?

Me: Marriage is not an option.

Her: Fine but it is a package deal. What do you want to do?

Me: We’re 19. No college education. No money. No jobs. Adoption.

Her: I’d never do adoption. I’m adopted and I’d never forgive myself.

(Sidebar: early example of Cass’s mom placing her wants above our daughters needs – I digress)

Me: Okay. Fine. What do you what to do?

Her: I don’t know. What do you think?

Me: I’m not going to marry you. I’ll fuck you but I don’t love you. I think adoption is best.

Her: I’d rather have an abortion then put her up for adoption.

Me: Fine. Have an abortion.

Her: You’re a horrible person and you’ll never see your daughter.

And scene…

Ahh, how art imitates life…

Can you see how in this exchange to emotionally immature people might say things they didn’t mean? Can you see how a man might feel as if a woman is trying to verbally trap him? It is classic Salesmanship 101. Sell the package and then eliminate options till the one selling the idea corners the buyer into a decision they didn’t really want to make. It is why someone goes into a car dealership looking for a sporty red coupe and leaves with a minivan.

Recently, I spent time talking with my first wife, Rachel, who lived through all of this and she reminded me of a few things I had forgotten.

First of all, I was a good father. Actually, I was an excellent father.

I made sure that whenever Cass and I were together it was quality time. We didn’t have a lot of money but the times we spent I was always attentive to what my daughter needed. It was not about “entertainment” but about “engagement”. Rachel reminded me that regardless of how cruel my daughter acted or how my daughter’s mother tried to disrupt my time with Cass I never took it out on my daughter.

Rachel and I picked up my daughter Cass for a weekend. Cass cried for eight straight hours. I had forgotten the event till I was reminded. Not once did I raise my voice or yell or take it out on my daughter (or my supportive wife) but I patiently waited till she was finished. Then I gave her a hug and told her I loved her and I understood it was scary but that I was always going to do right by her.

We went to the Center of Science and Industry on a regular basis. I even got my car towed once because we spent so much time inside the museum I lost track of time. Every moment with her was special. Nothing went to waste. We went to parks and museums and played games. I bought an at home science lab and we played with corn starch and water, balloons and paper planes. We camped in a tent in the house on rainy days and had indoor picnics.

My first wife bought Cass this beautiful crayon and drawing set to take with us so Cass could express herself. I still have it in a box of toys that I have been unwilling to part with…15 years later. Sometimes I hang onto feelings, memories and hopes long after it is time to move on.

In this conversation with Rachel I realized a truth I had forgotten – Cass and I had an excellent relationship but all too often Cass was afraid to love me. When we took Cass home she turned to me and said not to tell her mom we had fun because her mom would, “get mad.”

Do I sound angry? Yes.  Am I angry with Cass? No – she’s still a child (although she probably doesn’t think so but I’m 42 and as any 42 year old will tell you – 21 is still a child). I’m angry because there is nothing I can do to show her or tell her or remind her. When she was six the most loving thing I could do was let her go. It angers me that now that she is 21 the answer is still the same.

Recently, Cass and I reconnected through Facebook. I have no idea what happens, where it goes or what to say. She is long past the point where she needs me. I think she is just being kind.

Save the idealistic encouragement – it is the truth. I know it. She knows it.

What neither of us knows is what to do about it. What can we be now? What does that look like? Where does it go?

I have no idea but I’m not going anywhere and I’ve learned to practice persistent patience.

Although she will never call me, “dad” – I know that I am her father. More of a parent then she ever had because I was willing to love her unconditionally without her needs being subservient to my wants and my insecurities. I was willing to man-up, admit the truth and change the things I could so that she wasn’t punished for loving me. An adult has a choice but Cass never did – my daughter’s mom and her family made sure if it.

8 Comments

  1. Bravo Sean! Thank you for being so real, so down to earth. Not everything in life is pretty, and your heartfelt and brutal honesty tells us so. I am glad to read that you do have a connection with your daughter now, even if it’s virtual. I know you’ll figure out what the next steps are. Wishing you all the best.

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  2. What a sad story. What an immature and evil mother your daughter had (has).
    When I was divorced one of the hardest things I did was never let my children hear me utter a bad word about their father and to maintain a united front with him as parents. It was difficult but I loved my kids more than I loved my own bitterness. They too are all adults now and when they ask me questions about what happened between their father and me I still just say we were very young and we just grew apart.
    I know many woman who have taken their bitterness out on their children and it always really hurts the kid.
    Your daughter is an adult now and you should just tell her your truth (which it seems you are doing) and let her digest the truth.
    Hopefully you can have a meaningful grown up relationship with her.

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  3. Nice to hear you’re in contact with her through Facebook. Hopefully she will reach out to you in a positive way!

    ****Be sure to read in a progressively angrier tone with long awkward pauses.****

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  4. Sean… this is a beautiful epilogue. Very powerful, revealing and moving. And hopeful.

    One thing keeps jumping out to me.. you are angry. What you don’t realize is that you aren’t angry with Betty or her family…. you are angry with yourself. (don’t argue that, just consider it).

    Your relationship with Cass will build and blossom into a WHOLE NEW level of relating – one more amazing than you can imagine … but only after YOU forgive YOURSELF.

    Ever been around someone who can’t forgive themselves (thinking that is another they can’t forgive)? It is uncomfortable, the energy is thick and difficult. It is not a welcoming vibration.

    We are vibrational beings and Cass feels this vibration, she may not know what it is or why it is, she just feels a level of discomfort. Your not forgiving of yourself is what is making it awkward. Sure she doesn’t *need* you in the way a young child would, she is a young adult now – yes, she is a young adult and not a child. But she can connect and love and appreciate you in new beautiful ways. I have much hope for this relationship.

    You don’t, because you haven’t forgiven yourself so you are vibrationally pushing away the potentially beautiful experience of getting to re-know your daughter. You think Cass is “being generous” by connecting with you via Facebook. Look again – you might be surprised … but forgive and love yourself before you look.

    It’s time you forgave yourself and healed your relationship with you… and when you successfully do, you will see a door to a beautiful and rewarding relationship with Cass will open.

    With Love…..

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  5. I randomly came acrtoss you this morning. I understand what you are going through to a small extent and from one parent to another, as I have found, my daughter was intelligent enough to see past the drama and find that those she called family were not around for her but were very seflish people and never deserving of a child’s love and utter adoration. The one glimmering hope we have is that our daughters will have a life changing moment where they all come to realize these things that are so very apparent to you and I.

    The best thing to do is to continue to practice persistent patience as quiet silent watching from afar is far and more realistic than trying to force gravity to stop acting like gravity.

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  6. Thanks for your story Sean. I’ve had a similar experience with my ex husband who by devious means got custody of our daughter when we divorced.
    Over the years he has manipulated her mind, it never ends. I hear his words coming out of her mouth. He has allied himself to her so closely, that even now as an adult, she seems incapable of forming her own opinions about me. When she was younger, she and I had a wonderful relationship, but since the age of 12 she seems to have held me in contempt. She doesn’t remember the good times we shared. She’s 22 now and she tells me that she doesn’t want a “mother – daughter relationship” with me. What the hell does that mean? Can biology be changed?
    I suppose what I am saying is this, it doesn’t often get better, miracles don’t happen. What you can do is remember that there are evil, cruel people around (spouses, not children) and that your position is not all your fault.

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  7. You sound like my dad. I chose to leave my mom and live with him when I was 13, but every story is a little different. Cass’s mother and mine don’t sound so dissimilar, but the situation was.

    I don’t doubt you were a good dad.

    This probably isn’t helping much…just…society talks about deadbeat dads so much or kids who never know their dads and I have such a soft spot for dads. There’s more at work than a lot of people understand.

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    1. Thanks Peaches…

      Yes there is and I long ago came to terms with the reality that some people’s sins are easier hidden than others. My dramas are almost always public so by writing about them I’ve chosen to own them instead of being owned by them. We are only as sick as our secrets.

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