This weekend reminded me how far I am from healthy relationships with my daughters as well as how much I’ve grown.
Saturday, Zoey, my oldest daughter arrived in DC, on break from business school. We chatted. I asked her to dinner Sunday. She hemmed and hawed. It was clear Zoey didn’t want to join me. She suggested breakfast on Tuesday, to which I readily agreed.
Sunday afternoon I texted my ex, Caroline and said, “What are you all doing tonight? I know Zoey doesn’t want to have dinner. That’s between her and me. I’m just curious what you’re doing.”
I felt isolated. I was sad.
An hour later I get a call from our dear friends, Jack and Andrea, inviting me to the family dinner they were hosting.
Dinner was fine. Uneventful. Lots of people.
Caroline called this morning, to “see how I was doing.” I explained I didn’t want pity invitations, even though I guess I had the previous eventing.
Caroline defended reaching out. She was “just trying to help.”
“You’re not helping. Zoey doesn’t want to see me. By pushing her, you’re creating resentment. Reinforcing I’m a burden.”
“I don’t want you to think I’m trying to get between you and the girls.” Caroline replied.
I gently said, “By pushing them to see me, you actually are getting between us.”
After a pause, Caroline replied, “I think when you feel better about yourself, the girls will feel better about you.”
I said, extremely gently, “I feel great about myself.” And that ended our brief conversation.
This morning, Rebecca, my good Starbucks friend, told me it is easy to get the impression from this blog, that the rift with my daughters is the result of abusive behavior I engaged in during my marriage.
That’s not the case. I was a very good father. For the most part.
Supportive, engaged, interested in my daughters’ worlds as they grew up, I was there for them. When I sank into the abyss of depression, my self-loathing became too overwhelming for me to focus outside my own self.
So now, I am attempting to rebuild my relationship with my daughters. It is complicated by my split with Caroline. Not only do I need to show the girls who I now am, but I have to be sensitive to how upside down all of our lives are as a result of the split.
This morning, when my ex-wife said she was “just trying to help” I didn’t say, “if that’s case would you mind not passively putting the entire blame of the end of our marriage on my shoulders?”
Unfortunately, until Caroline understands that for herself, that’s the message she provides our daughters.
Fortunately, I’m not looking for Caroline to rebuild my relationships. I have the wherewithal and determination to do it myself.
While I find myself mourning what is gone, I am able to embrace what has come. A happier, stronger sense of self.