is my second child.
She is a lovely, wise child, kind, helping, gifted, intuitive. Sometimes she gets stuck in her own point of view and only sees negative things. I help her out of that when it happens, and it hasn’t happened for a long time. She’s also very quiet. When she gets upset about something, it comes erupting out of her after it’s been stewing inside her for a long time. She isn’t able yet to put her negative feelings into words before they explode.
She hates her weeks at her dad’s. She’s so grateful for any break she can get, so that she can relax. When I pick her up for anything I can feel her warming up, relaxing layer after layer, and finding her natural self again, the one without the thick walls around her. She doesn’t get on because of a myriad of things – things he is not willing to change because “she just has to deal with how things are at his place”. She complains about the smell there (there is a horrible stench on him and in his flat), the food he allows (he doesn’t allow normal bread, for example, not even wholemeal, because he read something…. and if he feels that just salad is enough for him, then it also has to be enough for the kids. I could go on.), she is repelled by his physical self (again – unwashed clothes, the smell associated, apparently his breath also smells bad), the absence of structure and planning in the day frustrates her, she doesn’t understand his “lessons” and gets into trouble about that (he told her she was a lost case), she dislikes the fact that he makes her pick up his mess without doing any of the work himself, the late nights distress her, all the rules (they have to watch a documentary before going to bed – which automatically means that they can’t go to bed before he puts the bloody documentary on, which is usually after midnight). The list goes on.
What she likes there is that her best friend lives close (although her father doesn’t always allow her to visit her friend), and that she has more external activities such as swimming club there than she has here.
Today, I had suggested meeting her after her music theory lesson. It’s quite late in the day, so I thought I would pick her up, take her for a hot chocolate and 15 mins of relaxing before taking her back to her father’s. He would never know the difference. If he did, he has been known for not letting her go to the course, so that I should not “interfere with his upbringing and soften her”. I’m not absolutely sure whether it is right to encourage this kind of thing, but ultimately, I don’t see much harm in it, as I only wanted to give her that little break.
Anyway, just after we had got in the car and were heading off, he rang her, telling her that he would be there in 3 minutes to pick her up (usually, he can never be bothered to pick her up from anywhere, no matter what hour). She was in tears. She was so upset. It broke my heart to see her like that, but I had to leave, she wanted me to, to spare her the trouble of having to deal with him punishing her for this.
I need to get her away from him. I can’t let her be unhappy half of her time. But how? He won’t believe me. He thinks that I am the one building her up against him, that I am the reason she doesn’t love him as a good daughter should. He also thinks that I am being overprotective and if left to myself, would bring up all three kids to be complete softies unfit to fend for themselves as adults. He sees himself as their savior in that respect. He doesn’t see that he might be the one creating problems with his disrespect and bullying behaviour.
I have several options whirring around in my head:
- I want to get her to a psychologist. She needs to know that she’s ok, and I can’t be the only person telling her that. She won’t believe me for ever. She needs another adult helping her, somebody she can trust. I also need an professional assessment of the situation, and them to help me find the best way of dealing with her dad for her.
- She wants to go to school, and I think that would be fantastic. She loves a classroom setting and does well learning in a group. There is even a music focused school in the city we live close to – she would love it. This would also get her away from him for at least half the day, and necessitate early bedtimes and less nonsense, if she does have to keep going to her dad’s. How I am going to get her father to agree and sign the documents, I don’t know. Even less for a music focused school, as he thinks that music should not be taken seriously and wants to force her into STEM – something that she is not made for at all. Nevertheless, I called the school today to inquire about formalities and options.
- Move to Germany, where her father lives (this is my least favourite option, but I have already had a first skim through houses/apartments). This way, the German systems would be responsible for us at his place as well as mine, and I could get social services moving. As it is, the french social services can’t insist on inspecting his place and the whole situation, and the germans won’t because she has her main address in France. Also, I would have more weight in the whole school question, because in Germany, home schooling is not allowed. But that would also mean that all three kids would end up going to school. For the big one, this would be good but so hard. For the little one, I would have to find a really good school that supports his very advanced skills in some areas, but I guess this would be possible.
- Gently let my daughter know that her dad can’t actually make her go to his. He could call the police, as there is this shitty court order in place, but then what – it would have to be an international operation across the border. I can’t see that happening too easily, even less so if the child in question clearly says that she doesn’t want to go and has actual reasons. Only – I can’t be the one to suggest this to her. She will have to find that out herself. I mustn’t in any way encourage her not to go to her dad’s. I will however let her know that in the case that there is some possibility of her staying with me more, I will find a way to make it work. I don’t want her going because she thinks I might lose my job otherwise or something.
I hate having to leave her alone in this. I hate knowing that she is feeling so unhappy without being able to be there and fix her broken soul whenever it needs fixing. I (and she) have to wait until she is back here. When I broke up with my dad, at least I didn’t have to spend time with him. I could avoid him, and was never made to go and visit him. I didn’t exactly have active support – my mother agreed with my reasons, but didn’t want to encourage me by showing support – but at least I had the possibility to make my decision and live it (something I’ve never regretted by the way). I also had the option of going straight to my mum after one of the many arguments and getting hearing that yes, nobody had the right to call me what he called me.
What would I do if it was the other way around? Say my eldest, for example. He and I get on, but we don’t have a very deep bond, because we are so different. Our bond needs active work. If he was constantly unhappy here because of me as a person and because of the situation here, and I could see that he was doing well and happy at his dad’s (providing his dad would ever get the basics straight, which is highly unlikely…), would I let him go?
I think I would. I would want regular reports from his dad on what he’s doing, and how he is doing. I would want to be involved in important questions such as next steps in education etc. I would want to make sure that I still see him on a regular basis, and make sure that I use that time to actively work on that bond. I would probably not give up straight away, and would try to find out with him how we can improve to make it better for him (while still possible for me). But I would set a limit. I would not want my child to be unhappy when he could be growing up just as well (or better) and happy.