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Q: I have a 7-year-old beautiful daughter. Her father and I are divorced and have lived apart since my daughter was 2-1/2-yrs of age. We presently have a visitation agreement; the father sees his daughter every other weekend commencing Fri. at 6 p.m. to Sun. at 6 p.m. Since the agreement came into place, I have worked with the father if he could not make certain visitations by letting him pick her up for a couple of hours during the week, or in the event he was an hour late picking her up or dropping her off. Maybe this was my first mistake, but I am not a controlling or unreasonable person and realize things do come up to change the visitation.
Now,it was my turn to ask him to change visitation due to the fact that my daughter wanted to stay at home for her little brother's two year birthday. I explained to her that I would speak with her dad about picking her up on Saturday after the party instead of Friday night at 6 p.m. I thought this would not be a problem since I have worked with him in the past on visitation. To my surprise he said ,"No way I'll call the police if I can't have her on my weekend." Well, my daughter said," I don't want to go with dad on Friday. I'll go with him on Saturday after the party." There was no way I could sway her, and I did not have the heart to drag her out to her father thereby having her a miss her brother's birthday party. The police came, understood that my daughter would not go on that Friday, and stated that if the little girl did not want to go, then she did not want to go. I told my daughter she could go with her dad if she wanted or stay for the party. I could have made the birthday on a weekend he did not have visitation, but alot of the family members and friends were busy all other previous or prior weekends . This particular birthday landed on that Saturday my daughter was supposed to be with him.
My ex-husband is still the same old controlling guy he was when I was married to him. Now he still tries to control me along with his daughter. I am presently re-married and have other children from this marriage. In my mind, I think under the circumstances her father could have understood and obliged her to stay and enjoy the party and reassure her he would pick her up after the party on Saturday . He did not even come back at all to pick her up that weekend .He told her in a phone conversation, after she asked him why he didn't pick her up after the party on Saturday . He said he had some things to do.
This man also calls my daughter during the week just to ask her how his business will do -- as if she is some kind of fortune teller. She tells him ,"I don't know Dad; I'm too young." I always just wanted my child to worry about her little things, not the grown up things in life. She is just seven, why does this man need reassurance from a 7-year-old??? He makes her tell him that she loves him by saying at the end of the conversation " What do you say to daddy?" This to me is a forced loved. My daughter never needs my or her step-dad to coax her into saying "I love you" to us; it comes from her heart when she wants to say it to us. We always tell her we love her, but we never expect her to say it if she does not want to, but she usually does, none-the-less.
How do I cope with this man and all the things he does to try to control me and my daughter?
A: The example you gave about your ex and the birthday party shows him to be a desperate, controlling man who long ago lost sight of his daughter's needs. I think you have been enabling him by your constantly making allowances for his irresponsible behavior regarding your daughter. I am sure your intentions were well-meaning, trying to make sure your daughter sees your ex regularly even if it means your bailing him out, over and over.
This man is not going to change so you have to change. Don't let him use your goodness to shirk his responsibilities. Either his daughter is a top priority in his life or she isn't. If he continually shirks his duties or plays these games ask the court for a review of his visitation rights and get a social worker involved in the case to advocate for you and your daughter. I'm always in favor of children of divorce maintaining the most healthy, supported relationships they can with both parents but in your case this man will do your daughter more harm than good in the short and long term future.
As to his using her as a fortune teller and his asking her for her love on the phone, you can attempt to reason with him without being accusatory but I doubt any good will come from it. Always let your daughter know she can come and talk to you if there's anything daddy says or does that she doesn't understand or that makes her feel uncomfortable. You don't have to paint him as a bad man to let her know she can come to you regarding his actions and words. We can only really change ourselves; you can make some changes that will help you and your daughter. Good luck.
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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.