I have known for years that the day would come when my daughters would desire to confront their father, who officially abandoned them when they were nine and three years old. [The divorce was final when they were five and one years old; his contact with them over the next fours years was sporadic.]
When my youngest was 13, she decided that she wanted to see her father. She did/does not have any memories of activities with him or a relationship with him. But she knew that most of her friends had fathers and she knew the concept of “father” and desired her own. A previous restraining order against him made me feel is was unwise for me to take her myself, so a trusted family friend took my youngest daughter to his home. He did not know who she was, despite the fact that I sent him photos of both of the girls every year. He was intoxicated and he made very inappropriate comments such as “I can’t remember all my children; I have children all over the place.” She quickly realized that this man did not fit her idea of what a father should be and she disappointedly returned home. It was difficult to help her pick up the pieces, but soon there after she found an excellent male role model who has been a “father-figure” to her on-going. He is an elderly gentleman - a neighbor who has raised four daughters of his own and is helping to raise his grandchildren. He is very polite, respectful of women and has father-daughter talks with my youngest, including telling her to be careful of the boys and encouraging her to put her education first. She calls him her “daddy” and I am thankful that he is in part of her life. I do not know if she will attempt to see her biological father again later in life; whatever she decides, she knows she has my support.
My oldest daughter has many memories of times with her biological father and she has many questions regarding why he abandoned her. She is now 22 years old and she still has a part of her that is that abandoned little girl who wants to know, “Why did you leave me?” “Didn’t you love me?” “What did I do wrong?” “Is there something wrong with me that made you leave?” She knows that it is not her fault; but those questions rise up in her mind anyway. She confessed to me a year or so ago that she periodically drives by the house where we suspected he lived, just to see if she ever saw him. On one of those drives this past Saturday, he was in the front yard. Her little girl self was crying out for answers, so she stopped. After establishing that he was her father and that she as his daughter, his new wife of five years invited her into the house. She was there for almost an hour, talking about “do you remember when?” The new wife gave her a photo of their wedding; her father called an uncle to come see her; and she never asked any questions because I had taught her “not to ask people questions that might embarrass them in front of others.” [She’s so good; I am afraid that I would have been angry enough to ask them anyway!]
How did I feel about all of this? Truthfully, at first I was both worried and scared. I was worried that my daughter was vulnerable and gullible when it comes to her father. She may be vulnerable and she may get hurt by his words and actions, but she is not gullible anymore. In a conversation afterwards, her thoughts and words convinced me that he cannot pull the wool over her eyes. I was scared because I know this man all too well and I was scared he would lie to her in an attempt to cause problem between my daughter and I. This, too, was unfounded. He can say anything he wants, nothing and no one will come between my daughter and I. This is a very good feeling.
I don’t know if she will see him again. At this point, she is happy she knows what she missed – nothing. If those questions bubble up within her again, she may find a need to ask. Whatever she decides, she knows that I will remain beside her through thick or thin.
For those of you whose children are young or with whom the issues of abandonment may be fresh, I understand how you feel. I remember the days when I was ready to do bodily harm because my daughters had been hurt. I remember the need to protect. It is still with me; however, as your children grow, there becomes more from which you cannot protect them, but rather must teach them to protect themselves. The day they step out and attempt this, you will hold your breath. The exhale that follows when they successfully tread the field and come across it only slightly worse for wear and proud that they stood on their own is awesome. There is life – and hope – after abandonment. And parenting never ends.