I was very excited to pick up my daughter last Friday night for her first weekend home after leaving for university. She took the ferry from Vancouver back to Victoria for the Thanksgiving long weekend. Her roommate was supposed to come with her. We had a lot of plans to show her roommate around Victoria for the first time but she had the stomach flu and wasn’t able to travel.
My daughter and I stayed up past 3:00 a.m. talking. She was very emotional coming home. She cried when she saw her pets. She knows that my dog died when I was at university living away from home and her roommate just received the same sad news. It is one of my daughter’s biggest fears. She asked me to please make sure I call her to come home and say goodbye if any of our pets needed to be put down.
She also cried about her past mistakes. She says she has no regrets but I know her wounds run very deep and she has scars that will remain constant reminders. She says she doesn’t feel the need to experiment with anything now and she thinks she will choose boyfriends more wisely. I told her that I didn’t understand her choices to remain with people who were harming her on many levels or to make decisions with so little care for the well-being of her own body.
She said, “Mom, I clearly had daddy issues.”
I told her that I understood how terribly hurt she was by her dad’s behaviour but she only ended up hurting herself more. Why did she choose to punish herself? I feel so remorseful over things she went through and don’t know if there was anything that I could have said or done differently to prevent it all. I certainly tried. I tried to get her in counseling, tried to involve her dad for help and support, was at her school regularly and on the phone with her home room advisor, counselors and even arranged a meeting with all of her teachers and dad to try to get her back focused on school. Living with her dad only allowed her to get into more trouble. She liked being there because there was no parental involvement. She said it was like having her own place; she could do whatever she wanted whenever she wanted.
She thinks she came out of it all okay. She thinks she has a better relationship with her dad and with me. I don’t think she is okay. I think it is a child’s justification. I still see some concerning behaviour. I don’t see her relationship with either parent as “better”. The relationships are just more “real”. The parent/child lines blurred and disappeared. We all displayed and exposed human nature at it’s most real, flawed, frightening, vulnerable, ugly, wounded, hurt, sad, selfish, scared and out of control. I wasn’t able to protect my daughter from anything. I couldn’t even protect myself from the decisions of my husband. She lost every bit of security she knew when her parents were no longer a solid, unified front and her family foundation crumbled.
Then she started to cry for her sister. She said that she is so afraid her sister is going to do what she did. She said she loves her sister so much and tells everyone how much she respects her. She doesn’t want anything negative to happen to her. She mourned for her sister’s relationship with her dad. She sobbed, “Mom, you did not deserve to have happen what dad did to you. Dad is such an asshole and you are so much better off without him.” Then she hugged her dog and said, “You hate Janice, don’t you, Bingo. You hate her, too.” Then she went on to cry, “But I am not sad for you, mom, and I am not sad for me. I am sad for (sister’s name).” And she just cried.
She said that her sister hates her dad. I told her that wasn’t true. She said that her sister is Team Robyn and lets Janice and her dad know it to their face. I told her that her sister protects her dad to me, too. However, I told my daughter that her dad has also let her sister down time and time again (which she nodded and said she knew) and that it is not her responsibility to fight for her dad and sister’s relationship. I let her know that I had done that repeatedly to no avail and had to just let it go. It hurts me equally to see her dad ignore her and choose other people and things over our child but all I can do now is let her dad know he can see her whenever he wants and I am there when he choses not to see her.
Thanksgiving weekend was “his” weekend. And yet, he played hockey Friday night instead of picking our youngest daughter up from dance and having dinner with her or getting our older daughter from the ferry. He had his own plans all day on Saturday. He saw the girls for 4 hours on Sunday and then didn’t see them at all on the Monday holiday. And that was “his” weekend.
I told my daughter that she could only be responsible for her relationship with her dad and her relationship with her sister. As an example I shared with her that I knew how she helped her sister when her dad did not. I told her how much her sister appreciated her staying with her during their kayaking excursion when their dad took them back to Ontario in the summer. My younger daughter had never been kayaking before and yet her dad put her in a single kayak on a very choppy day on Lake Huron. Dave and Janice went in a double kayak together. My younger daughter told me she was crying, kept getting pushed back into shore, was last and very far behind everyone else. She told me it was her sister that stayed with her the most and that her dad kept yelling at her what she was supposed to be doing instead of actually doing anything to help her or be with her. Her cousin, who also went out with them, told her afterwards that she sucked. It was the worst experience. Her dad had no consideration at all for her needs or her safety and he was not in the least bit loving, patient, concerned or helpful. I told my older daughter that she can’t be there to protect her sister all the time but I was so grateful that she was there that day to help her.
Thanksgiving weekend made me so thankful for both of my children. On Saturday, we went out for breakfast and the waitress commented that we were having way too much fun for one table. We did a bit of shopping, watched a movie, ate together, played a board game together and all 3 of us stayed up until 1:30 a.m. We made breakfast on Sunday and lounged around all in the same room just hanging out talking and watching t.v. We made cookies, looked at old photographs and laughed so much. Sunday night they went out with their dad but got dropped off at my girlfriend’s house, where I went for dinner. On Monday, again we spent the entire day together. We wanted to go to a new corn maze that a local farm just had designed this year but it was raining and windy. I took my younger daughter to her tap solo practice and then we made brunch, relaxed all day and spent the evening with another family for Thanksgiving dinner. I drove my daughter to the ferry Tuesday morning and she thanked me repeatedly for the weekend we shared.
My daughter is doing very well at university. She has met many new friends, loves her roommate, loves her classes, has gone out with my nieces who live in Vancouver a couple of times, is trying new activities, loves her campus and school but most of all I think she loved coming home.