In the midst of a painful personal decision, I’ve now been hit with another bomb. This one, however, isn’t painful in the slightest. It is, though, big.
I recently received an email from my daughter’s mom. M…my 10-year-old daughter who lives in Ontario and is about to spend two weeks with me when she flies in on Friday…has been repeatedly telling her mom recently that she wants to live with me.
Now I know that it’s an argument tactic on her behalf. She’s been having troubles at school and has been lashing out a bit. She’s also being made to do household chores like cleaning dishes and isn’t happy about that in the slightest. In fact, her mother described her to me as “an emotional train wreck”.
When I read those words in her email, they hurt me. How could my baby girl…my beautiful daughter…be an emotional train wreck at 10 years of age? What in the heck has been going on in Ontario for this to happen?
M has been having a hard time fitting in with others at school. She tries to hard to make friends. She’s seeing a guidance counsellor. She’s rolling her eyes in conversations with her mom and sighing loudly. She’s talking back to her mother (???). All at 10 years old.
So I got this email and panicked a little bit. But I took some time to let it all digest and then responded. My initial reaction would be that maybe she’s not getting enough love and attention at home, or perhaps she just feels that way because she’s got two younger sisters that were fathered by her current step-father…so maybe she feels “alone”, in a way. I didn’t actually say that in the email…at least not outright…but I hinted at it. She seems to be craving attention…craving love…and for whatever reason, feels like she isn’t getting it.
I went through a similar time as a child. My parents loved me…this I totally realize. But at the time, I felt as though I wanted more attention…so I acted up at school, always being the class clown in an effort to become more popular and to get the attention I desperately crave. I see my little brother going the opposite route now…at 15 becoming more of an introvert and turning to gaming and metal music as a way of feeling accepted. But I digress.
In my email I told the ex that I had no problem with M doing chores around the house and that when she comes up to visit, it won’t be a “2-week long free ride” or anything. The last thing I want to do is to encourage the “daddy vs. mommy” feelings that are apparently already there with her. I want to back up mommy and support her decisions so that this situation doesn’t get out of control.
But then I thought about it…and I tried to think of the possible ways to help my daughter. The thing that stood out…the one thing that I wanted more than anything else…was for her to move down here with me full time.
This, kids, was a huge revelation for me.
I feel like I’m ready to have my daughter in my life much more than she is. The distance between us sucks, but every time we spend a day or week together it feels like she was just visiting me the week before instead of the twice-a-year situation that we currently have. I want to show her how I can love her…how I can give her my attention…how I want her to be THE woman in my life until she’s old enough to move out. Wow…I actually want my daughter to live with me full-time.
So a few hours after sending the email, I started to panick. Not at my decision, but maybe at how it would be interpreted. I didn’t want the ex to think that I was going to battle for custody or anything. I didn’t want her to think that I believed her to be a bad mother. I just wanted to re-emphasize that the option is there and that I’m totally willing and able to be the full-time father that I’ve never really been for her.
We talked and she understood where I was coming from. She told me of a conversation that M had with both her and her husband, and the information really caused my stomach to churn. She had asked M to tell her what she likes about herself. At 10 years old, M couldn’t come up with anything. She couldn’t find ONE THING that she actually liked about herself. When the opposite question was asked of her…what didn’t she like about herself…the answer was, “Everything.”
As we talked, the conversation moved to my offer. Then came a reply I really wasn’t anticipating:
“What if she lived with you for the summer? Or even half of the summer?”
I must admit…even though I placed the offer out there, I really didn’t know how I would react if there was a possibility of it actually happening. But now it’s a possibility…a DISTINCT possibility. Not only that, but there is now an offer on the table.
I told her that I would absolutely take her for as long as she needed me to, but that I’d have to look into babysitting options because where my family live 40 minutes away, I couldn’t just drop her off with my mom for the day. I’d have to look into finding places for her to go all day while I worked. At this point, my daughter believes that living with me would be all fun and games…and I’m going to have to make her realize that life isn’t always easy and that I’ve got responsibilities outside of just spending every day with her. Still…my heart is pounding at the thought of her living with me, if even for a few months.
So that’s my current situation. My daughter flies in from Ontario late Thursday night and is staying with me for two weeks. I’m hoping that during this time together I can get to the bottom of what’s really bothering her…and if staying with me over the summer is something she would be able to handle.
I’m extremely excited yet extremely scared at the same time. I feel like I’m ready to be a full-time dad for her…but would I be inheriting problems that I cannot even begin to fix?
Oh wow…life is certain never boring, is it?