“I want Dadddddddddy,” my four-year-old daughter screamed, sounding in real emotional distress. The sound pierced my ears straight through to my heart. She was crying because I said that we couldn’t have hot chips for dinner. My immediate reaction was not to feel sorry for her that she wanted her Daddy whom she loves, but rather I was angry.
The ‘Daddy’ she was referring to was the one that physically and emotionally abused me for years until I finally gathered up the courage to leave, escorted by police for my safety after he wrote my car off, with me inside it, whilst holding our daughter. He is a real gem.
I have had shared custody of our daughter for the last three years. I do not believe in taking away my daughter’s bond with her father, I’m not like that. Besides, it was me he wasn’t great with, not our daughter. I would never say a bad word about him to her as I grew up with my mother writing off my father to me and that never did me any good.
Strangely, a few months ago, my daughter’s father willingly gave me full custody as he said it was ‘the best’ for my daughter, very out of character for a control freak. Meanwhile, he has since admitted that it was because his current girlfriend gave him the decision between our daughter and herself as she wasn’t getting enough time with him in the evenings.
There was so much behind my frustration to my little princess crying out for her daddy. I wanted to say to her, “well Daddy didn’t love me the way that I thought was a good example for you to grow up with,” or “daddy loves someone else and is living happily ever after on the other side of town now,” or “guess what babe, all those Disney stories I read to you are rubbish and you shouldn’t rely on a man to save you, you need to pave your own life and if you are lucky you can be strong enough to understand and recognise real love, and that way when you choose to let it in you will have your happily ever after.”
It was 5.30pm, I had just picked her up from kindy and had been having a huge week with work, was stressed out with finances as always whilst trying to provide a nice home for myself and my daughter, my relationship with my partner was ending and I was just plain old exhausted from life. This cry out for daddy was not the first occasion, this happened at least twice a day. And was not easy to swallow.
We drove home to face the nighttime juggle that is to have a young child and not have any support, as she cried for her daddy it made me grit my teeth and honestly want to punch my steering wheel. I have taught myself something over the last few years of sleep deprived life, to just breathe and not react until I came up with some kind of responsible reply.
I put myself in her position and made myself experience her emotions. She was used to seeing her Daddy every single day. Then for reasons unbeknown to her, she didn’t. Why? Why couldn’t she see her Daddy if she wanted to? But he is fun, he loves her, he takes her bike riding, he takes her to the park. So why isn’t mummy letting me see him? Screw you Mum, I’m not brushing my teeth … “I want daddddddy!”
The truth is, it’s not mummy not letting her see her daddy. When the decision was being made I was so happy, and still am. But no one told me about the reality that they may cry out for the other parent when you are making them do the things they don’t want to do. I was not prepared for those moments of emotional distress that we would both experience. In my head, initially, when she would cry out for her Daddy I would get irritated because to me, she was just saying it because I was making her do something she didn’t want to do, and it used to hurt me. But after putting myself in her shoes I understand and now don’t feel that way if she ever cries for him.
Instead of getting frustrated that she is crying out for the person that I am so frustrated with, I turn it around and empathize with her, and love her more than she will ever know. Instead of getting frustrated and snapping, I let in the feelings of frustration in one breath, and exhale them out again. Then speak to my daughter with empathy and compassion and shower her with my love, although sometimes, through gritted teeth.
Anonymous is a Mamamia reader.