I am a single mother to a wonderful 16 year old young woman. Her father left when she was 7 and though she sees him sporadically, he hasn’t been in her life on a very regular basis. We live on the West Coast, he lives on the East Coast.
Her father and his new wife want to take her on a 3 week trip to Italy this summer. His new wife has a daughter about her age and they seem to think they are going to have some happy family vacation. I think my daughter wants to go on this trip simply because she has never been to Europe and it sounds exciting, not to spend time with her dad.
I do not want her to go because I don’t trust my ex-husband to take good care of her. After all, he has never had to be a real parent. I don’t know his wife at all and I am not crazy about sending my only child off with an irresponsible dad and a woman who could be a total flake. How do I get my daughter to see this trip is not a good idea? Or am I crazy or a bad mom?
-Protective in Portland
Dear Protective in Portland:
You don’t sound crazy – just totally unreasonable and really awful besides.
My agent tells me I have to be nicer to people so let me start with some praise: you are a great mom. You raised your daughter while working full-time to provide her a good home in a good neighborhood. She has a 3.9 GPA and is a star soccer player – she may even get a scholarship to college.
And now for a harsh dose of AskDesCamp truth: you’re also a bad mom. I’m sorry, please don’t hate me and stop giving me clicks. I tell you this so you can see the harm you have done to your daughter thus far and in hopes you will change.
Readers, what I found out from Protective is that she and her ex-husband used to live together on the East Coast. He had an affair (but not with the woman he is married to now) and left the family. Boo! Bad guy!
Protective was awarded full custody and dad got a measly 25% parenting time. Immediately after the divorce was final Protective decided she wanted to move back to her hometown of Portland because she reunited with a married college ex-boyfriend over Facebook. Fucking Facebook – breaking up families since 2004.
As it turns out, the guy Protective moved to Portland for was not interested in leaving his family. Shocker.
Protective didn’t have a job in Portland at that time and her family was either dead or had moved to the desert.
Long story short: her ex-husband fought the move but lost because family courts are awful and notoriously sexist in favor of women. The litigation cost just over $100,000 and he had to pay all of it because she was unemployed and thus awarded attorney fees.
That’s right: he paid $100,000 to lose his daughter.
(“That doesn’t sound fair!” says our friend the ostrich)
Dad always paid his child support plus extra and came to Portland as often as he could to visit his daughter but obviously the distance impeded an ideal relationship with her. Now that his daughter is older and more independent, Dad is trying to forge a stronger bond with her. Good dad! I like him better now than when he was sticking it to his 23-year-old assistant (true).
Protective, I am not going to beat you down any further because what is done is most certainly done – you cannot change the past and my awesome insults will be wasted on railing about events of yesteryear. However, you must change your evil ways now.
Your daughter sounds like a responsible and lovely young woman who can be trusted on a vacation with her father and stepmother. More important, she deserves and needs to have her father in her life, especially at this tender age.
Your daughter is so lucky that after all you did to alienate her from her dad, he is still trying to strengthen and maintain that connection with his only child. Shame on you for getting in the way of such a profound and life-shaping relationship.
It’s cases like yours that illustrate with such clarity the broken family law system. A child is ripped away from her loving father on the mother’s say-so and with no compelling reason. You knew he could not move to Portland because he runs his family construction business in New Jersey.
By the way, you are lucky you aren’t in the foundation of the new World Trade Center right now.
Here’s my advice:
1. Call your ex-husband and thank him for inviting your daughter to Italy. If you can find it in your heart to read this blog and understand what you did wrong, I suggest you apologize to him. You need to mend this relationship because you have graduations, weddings and grand-babies in your future and it would be best for your daughter if you all get along. Of course, your daughter may have been so bruised by your divorce that she chooses never to partner and procreate. Good for the environment but sad for her.
Ask your ex for all the details and offer to help pay for the trip – this is a fantastic opportunity for your daughter and you should share in the costs.
Reach out to the step-mother in an effort to get to know her. When we texted yesterday you seemed to have some real animosity towards this woman and I don’t understand why. She had nothing to do with your divorce and has never posed a problem since she married your ex 5 years ago. It speaks volumes that you call her his “new wife.” She’s not new – not by a long-shot – she’s just “his wife.”
2. Tell your daughter of course she can go to Italy! Be enthusiastic about the trip, help her shop and pack, and always be positive when speaking about this adventure. By the way, get yer girl on birth control if she isn’t already. Italians are extremely charming.
Most important, talk to your daughter about how you can help her strengthen her relationship with her father and what she needs from you to do this. You owe this to her.
I think you never got past the shock of the betrayal by your ex-husband. I think you never processed those feelings and mourned the marital death so you could begin again in a healthy way.
THAT explains why you tore your daughter away from her dad. THAT explains why you moved across the country to engage in a relationship that mirrored the one which destroyed your marriage.
I am not trying to lose business here, but I don’t have all the tools you need to get on with your life. That’s like trying to build a house with only a hammer and a screwdriver – you are that messed up and I am that incompetent. I know several great therapists in Portland who specialize in divorce and I will forward you those names by email.
I’m sorry I was tough on you but parental alienation is a horrible practice that destroys lives. I truly hope you have heard me today and you encourage your daughter’s relationship with her father and his family from this point on.