Graduation, wedding day, a birth – these should be happy times when parents bask in the glow of happiness and accomplishments of their children. But for me it’s anger I feel; anger, because now our daughter has grown up and all the hard work has been done, you want to come into her life and share the good times when you were never there for the bad.
When we divorced, our daughter was five and you took the decision that you no longer wanted to be part of her life. I know you were hurt when I decided to end it, but you didn’t have to make our daughter feel she was to blame. It wasn’t an easy time for any of us and you got your own back when you refused to pay maintenance. There were times when I couldn’t afford food or heating, and I went without so she could be warm and nourished. I realise your duty to me ended, but your duty to your child remained.
Our daughter missed you so much. I remember when she was eight she wanted to contact you and, without so much as an address or telephone number, we managed to track you down. She pleaded with you to come and see her and you took her out a couple of times. One day, just before the end of school, you turned up at my home and demanded I tell her you wouldn’t be able to see her again. I refused and told you to tell her yourself. I asked you to wait at the house but you couldn’t even do that one little thing.
As I walked up the hill from school, and while she was with her friends, you stopped us on the street corner and told her “I can’t see you again for a while. I just don’t know what to do with you and we have nothing in common. I’ll come and see you again when you’re 12, when we can talk about things better.” You walked away from our daughter again, and both of us walked home in a haze of tears. Twelve came and went without contact from you, no birthday or Christmas cards, no presents – it was as if she didn’t exist.
On her 13th birthday, she asked, “Do you think Daddy remembers it’s my birthday?” How do you respond to that? I was heartbroken.
As she’s grown up, I dealt with her heartbreak, her teenage frustrations and her failures without any help from you, and now we have a beautiful granddaughter there is no one there for me to share it with, no one to say, “Look at what we did!” Because you didn’t do it – I did.
I patched knees, cooked meals, scrimped and scraped for school uniform, shoes and clothes.
Suddenly, now the hard work is done and the rewarding times are here, you want to bask in the reflected glory. You want to give our daughter away at her wedding and give a father-of-the-bride speech. There are no childhood anecdotes you could tell, indeed until recently there were no adult ones either. I simply can’t stomach the hypocrisy and I don’t want to deny our daughter the presence of her father at the wedding, which is why I’m willing to agree to you being there but you will not give her away and you will not give the speech. I don’t know who she will choose for these tasks, but I do know it isn’t going to be you.
Because I have raised our daughter to be a caring and compassionate woman, she has decided she wants you in her life, something you denied her when you withdrew contact all those years ago. And so I am prepared to accept there is a place for you but only on the sidelines. Our daughter may be able to forgive you, but I never can.
This article is originally published on the Guardian