Need Advice Before Bad Stuff Gets Worse

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Etude, Oct 30, 2009.

  1. Etude

    Etude New Member

    There are a lot of parents on here with a lot more experience than I have so I'd like to ask some advice since trouble is abrewin'.

    BACKGROUND: I have a 13 yo daughter. Her father and I have been sep/div'd since she was 11 months old. She's grown up with me except my one year in Iraq. Her father has sometimes gone a year or more without seeing her or talking to her. And she adores him. I've never talked badly about him but I've put distance between us and him. He is a serious drug addict and has never grown up past 19 years old. (We are both close to 50) He sleeps on his parents' couch, his buddies' couch, or finds girlfriends to use-up. He has a spotty work history but is always working on a big job … soon. Anytime he starts to succeed at something, he loses it all (apt, job, car, all of his clothes). And, yes, there is jail time in there too. But it is always 'someone else's fault' that he's in there. He has rarely paid child support (and the court ordered amount is not really a lot), complains about it to whoever will listen, and tells me it's not all about buying things and money. (???Yeah, but it IS about boots and a warm coat in the winter when she was little) His parents are big–time enablers. According to them I am irresponsible, have no idea what I am doing raising a child, and I've done a terrible job at it. And they say so in front of their granddaughter. I've worked hard through the years to give her a good life even though it was VERY sparse until she was about 8 yo. I worked as a legal secretary, made an extra $250 a month from the Army Reserves (thus the trip to Iraq), and went to law school on the GI Bill. I lived in Europe with my daughter for the past four years, and now live in the US in a lovely house in a cute town with a good school district. I've never remarried and rarely dated. I've had only one real boyfriend and l let him and my daughter meet. It was good but we broke up and I haven't had another boyfriend since. I am not a 'poor little rich girl.' I started from nothing and worked hard in order to give my daughter a good life. But I understand that the more I try to keep her from him the more she will want to be with him, idolize him, and pine for him.

    THIS SUMMER: In the past 1.5 years, teenage hormones have kicked in. OK, I understand that. We've been dealing with that. If she doesn't talk to me about things, she's close to her godmother (my dear friend) and talks to her. (Her godmother lives close to my ex and that's how I find out a lot of information regarding arrests or other drama.) Both my daughter and her father announced to me that she was going to live with him permanently because she's always lived with me, it's time to change, and he lives in an excellent school district. I told the both of them it wouldn't last past the summer and always knew she'd be home for the start of school. She spent two months with him except for the first week of the summer when he was arrested and she ended up at his parents' house for the week. Again, the arrest was a mistake or someone else's fault. His parents wanted to know why I thought I had to fly her back home to me so I let her stay with them. However, lots of bad things happened this summer after he got out of jail in a week and took her to live with him and his girlfriend: she tried marijuana (didn't like it), took someone else's antidepressants (felt 'better'), got arrested at the mall for shoplifting while with two other girls (she's mortified), and her father let her run wild with little supervision. The worst of it is that she is picking up his mannerisms: 'cops are bad', distortion of the truth (it was someone else's fault), dismissal of any topic she doesn't want to discuss and walking away, manipulation of me (attempted). She told her godmother that she feels the need to be 'tough' around her father. I spoke with the arresting officer, juvenile probation, and the store from which she stole. I told them to please send any necessary paperwork to my address. Her father never told any of them that she lived with me 1500 miles away from him. The police officer told me that where her father lives is infested with drugs and trouble and it would be best if she never went back there. It never crossed my mind that where he lives is a 'bad' place because I grew up in that area of town and it was never a bad place. It is now.

    HERE'S MY DILEMNA: I need to keep him (and his parents) from influencing her further. I have thought about going back to Europe. I know that I am lucky that I have that option. I am not a wealthy, over-indulgent parent who gives her child everything she wants. I was offered a dream job that paid our moving expenses overseas as well as a good salary. So off we went and I thought it was better to live in a small, cheap row house in Europe and spend money on travelling (cheaply) to European cities in order to give my daughter experiences instead of 'things.' I think part of his parents' problem with me is that I am from the 'wrong side of the tracks' and they are not. Their son never grew-up (in fact all three sons are the same) and I divorced him ("abandoned" him according to them). I have managed to be a good single mother with little help from their son, graduate law school, and provide a good life for their granddaughter. But my daughter has a drug addict father, four alcoholic grandparents (some passed away), five addict aunts/uncles, and several alcoholic great-grandparents (now passed away). She is set up for failure with two strikes against her already. I thank God that I don't have the addictions but I live in fear for her.

    My reaction to all of this is to go straight back to Europe and stay there until she graduates high school. But her father will still be around. He manipulates her now ('I feel so sorry for Daddy.' 'Daddy is the greatest.' 'Daddy was a good husband.') So what's going to happen if I don't do something now? What suggestions can you more-experienced parents give me to ward off a possible bad future for my daughter? Her father thinks that a life of drugs, total irresponsibility, jail, public defenders, arrests for shoplifting ('All kids do it,' according to him.) is NORMAL. I know that the more I keep them apart the more she wants him. She was happy to come home from the summer and the experience DID scare her. But now she wants to go back for Christmas. My answer is NO. He will never have the money to take me to court and force me to send her to see him. But he WILL manipulate my daughter so that I am the bad, evil mother keeping them apart. And she will buy it, hook, line, and sinker.

    Sorry this was so long. And thanks to anyone who reads it.
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2009
  2. tiredmommy

    tiredmommy Site Moderator

    What a horrible position to be in! I pretty much lived the same situation as your daughter, except my mother was the druggie. I grew up in the US and mom lived in Canada. My father sat me down and explained that the situation was not safe and he couldn't let me return. He also spoke to me about my mother's mental illness, how it affected her behavior and that she wasn't trying to be neglectful. But he still kept me safe.

    Good luck.
  3. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Here's my take on it.

    First, you don't have to let him have any access at all. Any access you DO give him is a bonus, from his point of view. Same with his parents. And since they disrespect you and undermine you, I would be keeping contact to a supervised minimum. I would allow letters (but vet them, both ways).

    Yes, move back to Europe. Live anywhere, but where he can easily come visit. Any visits - allow them, but YOU supervise. Or her godmother. I wouldn't let her stay over with any of them, they had their chance and blew it.

    Next - she tried pot and didn't like it. Good that she didn't like it, very, very bad that she had the opportunity to try it and that neither dad nor grandparents can see this is a huge red flag. The evidence is definitely in, that exposure to marijuana before 18 (or was it 21?) is much worse for you.

    I saw a recent TV program (I think it was referring to an extension to the above research) which showed brain scans to demonstrate that younger first-time use caused more damage than first-time use after 18.

    The thing is - you were told she would be living in a safe, healthy "nice" area and would be supervised. This didn't happen. So why take any more risks? And if you get told again, "But she'll be safe this time," or "It was all a mistake/misunderstanding/set-up," then make it clear - it doesn't matter if it was coincidence or not. Such coincidences haven't happened under your supervision, and YOU get the final say.

    On the matter of her trying someone else's antidepressants and them making her feel better - I would take that on board. Make a point of listening to her, as long as she is REALLY honest with you and with herself. Get her to a counsellor. The circumstances now plus what she has been though with her father and his parents (and all the problems) now require her to be de-briefing with a professional. Sure she can talk to her godmother. She could also talk to you (should talk to you) but she really should also have a long-term therapist working through this and her self-talk with her. She needs to get back to a more socially appropriate mind-set and away from her father's dysfunctional way of viewing life. It's all very well for him, he has parents still enabling him. So this attitude still works for him in his life. It will not work for your daughter and the sooner she realises this, the better. Why won't it work for her? Your daughter does not have a mother who will enable HER.

    Some of the behaviour problems are probably typical teen. Kids hit teir teens and become a handful, parents need to shift their management strategies to something more effective. But some of it (an unknown quantity) could be hereditary issues related to her father's problems. For example, if there is a mood disorder aspect, she might benefit from her own properly-prescribed course of antidepressants. She needs to learn that you DON'T take stuff prescribed for someone else, and even when it's prescribed for you, you have Occupational Therapist (OT) be honest with the doctor and take your medications as prescribed. But she tried antidepressants and said she felt better. So that needs to be talked about with a health professional, your daughter may have unwittingly stumbled onto something that could help her and help you.

    A lot of drug users take it up because they are trying to self-medicate for something undiagnosed and undefined in them. I've known people with chronic severe pain who use alcohol to dull the pain. In the same way, people who are tense and anxious may turn to marijuana to cope. In some parts of the world it is actually prescribed medically. But to take ANY medications when NOT prescribed, is very risky. It's not only self-medicating, it's self-diagnosing.

    Example - I take very strong painkillers. I've been on them for years and sometimes when I encounter a doctor who doesn't know me, they get a bit concerned when I tell them what I take. However, it is all prescribed under the careful supervision of a pain management specialist, so there's really no analgesia abuse going on. BUT - if difficult child 3 hurts his leg and needs a pain killer, there is absolutely no way he should say to himself, "My leg hurts a lot, I'll just take one of Mum's pain pills."
    If he did this, it would be an instant overdose.

    Example 2 - husband sometimes takes two sleeping pills to get to sleep. If he takes any less, they don't work at all. The doctor prescribes these pills to him and knows how often the prescription has to be re-filled.
    I also very occasionally take the same pills. But ONE of those pills will knock me out for two days. So if I take them, I break them into four pieces, and even then I will only take it if I'm really desperate AND know I don't have to do anything strenuous (or anything involving driving or operating machinery) the next day.

    She needs to be seen by a doctor to consider the possibility of mood disorder requiring medications; she needs a referral to a therapist to help her deal eith all the emotional conflict stirred up by her father's damaging family contact. And I think you need to head back to Europe. Or anywhere well away from her father. She'll be a legal adult in five years time. Hopefully by then she'll also have grown up enough to be able to see her father in better perspective.

    There's nothing wrong with her having a relationship with her father, as long as she can be safe through the process. That's the operative word - SAFE.

  4. Etude

    Etude New Member

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for your posts.

    tiredmommy -- I do try to talk to her without being judgmental about her father. And I will continue to try. However, when she asks me something (like "Why did you and Daddy break up?") I try to be truthful but she shuts down and tells me "I can't listen anymore. I am going to cry." My truthful is a gentle truthful and not a full-on,tell-it-like-it-is truthful. I will continue to try, gently, and maybe years from now she will hear what I am saying.

    Marg -- I will get her to a counselor. I worried about the AD thing because I didn't know if she felt "better" because it is what she really needs, or if she was "high" from them, or if it mellowed her out from the arrest drama. Her godmother took her to her house after the arrest and didn't let her go back to her father's. Her godmother said her behavior was terrible and it was the first time in 13 yrs she couldn't wait for my daughter to leave.

    I've tried to be a good mom and let her have a relationship with all these people in spite of all their addictions/dysfunction because they are family. However, they have never given me any credit for raising her on my own. When they disrespect me and put me down, all I have ever wanted to say is "Have any of you people ever looked in a mirror?"

    It is time I start being a b**** because this is my daughter's future that is at stake. Maybe I just needed to hear your support. Thank you for that. In my heart I know I have worked hard and taken responsibility for her life.

    You know, sometimes when I tell people (like the courts) what has transpired over the last 13 years, I know from the looks on their faces that they think I am exaggerating or just making it up. I was humiliated in court by the judge once over child support (the one and only time I went or will go back) when I told him that I understand money is tight, but the father always has money for his next pack of cigarettes but his daughter needs a winter coat. (Actually, he always has money for drugs but I didn't say that.) The judge smiled -- make that smirked -- through the whole thing in a courtroom full of male defendants. I was the only plaintiff present and the only female in the full courtroom. When I tried to speak, he allowed my ex to interrupt me, laugh at me, and make fun of me through the whole thing. His only comment was "Well, you two are going to have to work this out yourselves." ???? If we could work it out, we wouldn't have been standing there. My only satisfaction is that eventually they did put him in jail for six months for non-payment. That was years ago. I needed the money then and didn't get it. I don't need it now but he isn't smart enough to go to court and ask for a reduction. He needs to be a victim, so I let him be one.

    Let me get back on target here: thank you again for your advice. I will follow up on counselling. Thank you, Marg, for letting me know I am NOT enabling her. Sometimes I think I just need a reality check: yes, her father really isn't keeping her safe.

    Bless you all,
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2009
  5. JJJ

    JJJ Active Member

    If there is no court order preventing it, I'd be back in Europe immediately. She is at the beginning of her teen years, boys are about to become way more interesting to dad. The added benefit of Europe is that being there during high school, she will bond with her friends there, may choose to attend college there, meet a guy, get married -- and remain far from her father's influence.

    Once in Europe, have a Socratic conversation with her about her father, she will likely get the point.

    (Note that if he goes to court, it may be impossible to move.)
  6. tiredmommy

    tiredmommy Site Moderator

    JJJ makes an excellent point about taking her out of the US. Also, I think the next time you discuss your former marriage you should have one of two responses:

    1. "That's between me and your father."
    2. "The marriage ended so I could protect you from your father's unhealthy behaviors."

    In other words you should tell her the blunt truth or keep her out of it.
  7. Etude

    Etude New Member

    JJJ-- thank you. There is no court order in place regarding custody. When I did take her to Europe four years ago, I had to get a notarized letter from her father giving me permission to take her to Europe. (NOTE TO OTHER PARENTS: Going through European immigration, they really do ask to see the letter, ask where her father is, and question the child nicely. Since my daughter and I have different last names because I took back my maiden name, the US passport office will put a previous "married" name as "ALSO KNOWN AS" on the last page of the passport. I did not have a certified copy of the divorce decree so they would not put my hypenated maiden-married name on the first page.)

    Her father was in jail at that time and it was a big production by the jail authorities to get a three sentence letter to him via mail, get it notarized while in jail, and get it back to me. He said he would sign the letter if I brought her to see him. I had a big decision to make regarding that: not to see her father in jail or not take a huge gift God was handing us. I took her to see him and I do give him credit for explaining to her that he broke the law, he got caught, and now he is being punished; that this is what happens when you know right from wrong and choose to do wrong. AND, he didn't play the victim for her.

    He will not pay for a lawyer to fight me but he would call the police and cause international drama. That's OK. America is a huge country and luckily he still wouldn't pay for a plane ticket to come see his daughter. That costs money.

    Thank you again,
  8. Etude

    Etude New Member

    tiredmommy -- that is an EXCELLENT response to her questions. She always defends him (in extremis) and he always tells me I'm crazy with regard to how I remember the past vs. how he remembers it. But protection is the perfect response because it is the TRUTH.

    Thank you.
  9. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    I think it is critical that she learn she is HIGHLY susceptible to addiction and cannot expect to do drugs recreationally and just walk from them easily. She needs to view her father as a man with an addiction, in my humble opinion. Of course, you can't MAKE her see him this way, but you can explain it and take her to alateen a couple of times to teach her.

    Definitely, she does not need to be staying with him- minimal visits at most.
  10. Etude

    Etude New Member

    klmno-- thank you. I always knew I would have to explain how/why she has a higher potential to be sucked into addiction. I guess now is the time to start 'splainin'.

    Thank you again,
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2009
  11. KTMom91

    KTMom91 Well-Known Member

    Etude, welcome. Your story sounds all too familiar. I understand completely. The deadbeat dad, his enabling parents who continue to support him well into his 50's, the lack of contact and communication with his only child...oh, yeah, I could have written it. I've been referring to Miss KT's father as Useless Boy.

    As the others have said, keep your daughter safe.
  12. Etude

    Etude New Member

    KTMom91-- thank you. Sometimes it feels lonely; like I am the only out there with an ex likes this, even though I know that isn't true. I know things could be worse so I remain grateful for what I have. I am glad I could post here and ask advice. For that, I am very, very grateful.

  13. ThreeShadows

    ThreeShadows Quid me anxia?

    Dear Etude, as someone who was an expat I have a different take on things.

    The move to Europe will not make your child's longing for her father disappear. He is a magical being made even more intriguing by his very absence. I'm assuming she fantasizes about him the way my three adopted children fantasize about their bio parents being better, kinder, more loving than we who are in the trenches with them.

    I have grown up with my feet in two different continents. I find it hard to relate to those who have been raised in one culture, with similar values and experiences. I have never had to say the Pledge of Allegiance in school. I don't really know where I fit in. My two halves do not make a whole.

    Do you have a strong support system in Europe? The lure of drugs and alcohol are strong there.

    I really wish there were such a thing as The Geographical Solution. I wish you and your beloved child the very best. I am finding that thirteen is an awful age!
  14. Big Bad Kitty

    Big Bad Kitty lolcat

    Hi Etude.

    Are you sure your X is not MY X? I have an 8YO daughter who worships the ground her father walks on. He is currently doing time for burglary. It is so hard to be the one who does everything for my child and ALL she wants is her daddy.

    I also have a 21YO daughter whose father was no better. He left as soon as I told him I was pregnant. When she turned 8, I found him, met him, talked with him, and arranged for the two of them to meet. After spending time with her for 6 months, he told me he was too busy to be her dad and she never saw him again.

    She spent a few years blaming me and still idolizing her father. In retrospect I believe what she was idolizing was the idea of having a father present. In both my daughters cases, it was easier and much safer to be angry with me, because they knew in their heart of hearts that nothing they could do or say would make me stop loving them. It is unsafe for them, in their minds, to be angry with dad because they are afraid that if they do, dad will leave.

    In my older daughter's case, she grew up and saw her father for who he really was. It took many years and lots of tears. I could not protect her from him, and as much as it hurt me to see my baby hurt, I had to let it happen and just be there for her. I never bad mouthed her father, but the time came when I didn't have to...she knew it.

    In my younger daughter's case, it is a bit different. He has been a part of her life for her entire life but has always disappointed her. Always late to pick her up, never paying child support, and never really there for her even when they were spending time together. Now he is in jail, and she is in a psychiatric hospital. All she wants is him, and it kills me a little more every day, as I am the one running to therapy sessions and making sure they are medicating her properly and making sure she has her teddy bear and so on, and ALL she says to me is how much she misses her daddy.

    I don't know what my take is on you moving. I don't know if I could be in your shoes and not make that move. Your daughter will possibly resent you if you do make the move, and it will be very easy for her to blame you for not being able to be with her dad.

    I think the best thing is, no matter where you decide to go, to make sure the visits with dad are supervised. She is very young and very impressionable as you well know.Of course she feels like she needs to be tough around dad. She is safe with you, and she knows it. She can be herself. She is afraid of losing her dad so she feels the need to put on a front and act in a way that she thinks he will like.

    Sigh. Big hugs to you, you are not alone. One day she will grow up to admire your strength, I promise.
  15. busywend

    busywend Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I would not even send her there for a visit. Do you know he can keep her? He is her parent afterall. It may not last through court - but there is no way to force her to leave once she is there. Especially if she claims to want to be there again.

    No way would I let her go at Xmas. Tell him he can come to see her. You know that won't happen.

    She needs counseling to deal with the fact that mommy and daddy are not together and never will be. She may have only been 11 months old when you split, but it is having a lasting effect on her.
  16. totoro

    totoro Mom? What's a GFG?

    I don't know about the laws? But doesn't the fact that that she used drugs under his care make it easier for you to demand supervised visits? And his past?

    I agree with the others as well.
    My father was/is an addict, he was in prison when I was born for heroin. He used drugs around me and put my brother and I in very unsafe situations.
    When my Mother and Step-Dad pushed for him to leave and give up all rights, I was ******.
    He did disappear though, the drugs and partying were more important than the kids.
    I spent years building up some fantasy about what kind of person he was.
    My Mom was pretty honest about him though. She was no angel either.
    It took many years for me to get to know him and realize just how horrible he is. He is very good at drawing people in and manipulating people, playing the it is everyone else's problem card.

    I hated my Mom, I hated everyone, I think like BBK said, for what I think a kid wishes they had.

    How could Dad be that horrible? I am his Daughter...

    Good luck you are doing a great job.

    Oh, by the way, there is no way in heck I will ever let my Daughter's see my Father again. They met him once and then went to visit him another time.
    Never again. I will be honest with them when they are mature enough to understand.
  17. Etude

    Etude New Member


    Thank you for your thoughts because these are things I need to consider. Where I work overseas there are LOTS of Americans. Also, my daughter has spent enough time in US schools to know she is American. She takes pride in the fact that she blends in so well in European culture no one would know she is American. She has no American/foreign accent when she speaks. BUT everyone knows she is American and other parents have told me if they did not know for a fact that she is American, they would never figure her for a foreigner. So she is secure in her identity. And she does miss her friends there. Fortunately, the drugs and alcohol are not so thick where we lived. It is basically in the "country" and a long way from any city. Yes, I know drugs and alcohol are everywhere but it is more difficult for her to get into trouble in a very small town where EVERYONE knows her. I think any cultural problems she might have will be mitigated by the fact that she has friends and is accepted by her friends' parents. But you are right. These are things I have to think about because they could make the situation worse.

    Thank you for your thoughts and for taking the time to answer me.

  18. Etude

    Etude New Member


    Thank you for your response. You are right that she needs counselling and I am working on that. I worry that she doesn't understand her own feelings -- she defends all that happened while she was with her father and yet I can see that she was scared by it all. She's crossed a line courtesy of her father and she can't uncross it. The court gave her ten hours community service as punishment and I want to make sure those hours count. Their only criteria is that the 10 hours are for a non-profit org but I don't want it to be at the local abandoned pet shelter. She needs to see the consequences of drug use, unprovoked/unreasonable defiance against authority, or living as a "victim" because the bad things that happen to oneself are always due to someone else's actions.

    She does live in a fantasy world about how great life would be with Dad. And her grandparents feed that fantasy knowing he is a junkie. They also are guilty of absolving themselves of any responsibility for how all of their children turned out.

    Fortunately, my daughter does see the difference between how we live and how her father lives although she does not want to admit it. At least she SEES the difference.

    I would tell him that he can visit her here. However, he is a junkie and he is known for stealing from the houses of people who have helped him (but God forbid, never his parents' house). I don't live in a lavish manor but it is (much) better than where he lives. I don't need things missing from the house because there really is no recourse. It is always too small for the police to be overly concerned about and/or his stories are always minimally plausible. When it has happened to those others who helped him, he insists that the house was broken into, the car was stolen while he wasn't there, he never saw (fill in the blank) and he doesn't know what they are talking about...."they're crazy", "they have problems"... he can't wait to get away from them because they make him look bad. These are NOT fellow junkies. They're people who felt bad and took him in.

    So, counselling for her and lots of distance for him.

    Thank you for taking your time out to respond to my request.

  19. Etude

    Etude New Member

    Fortunately, we live in different states about 1500 miles apart. He will never have the money to engage a lawyer to fight me and domestic relations court will not help him because (1) he only pays child support when they come to arrest him for non-payment and then it is only the minimum to stop the arrest ($200-$500 after a year in arrearages; same story every year), and (2) he is a convicted felon still paying off fines.

    Oh, and by the way, I just found out his girlfried is going to jail for a DWI and he may not be able to stay at her place anymore.

    I think I am doing OK here with her. If I get her into counselling, a third-party stranger (the counselor) may be able to help her understand her feelings and the situation.

    Thank you for responding.

  20. Etude

    Etude New Member


    You are right, it's easier to be angry with me because Fantasy Dad is so much better than me. But she knows something doesn't add up because I can see it in her eyes when she talks about him, as if she is trying to convince herself that he does love her. She isn't old enough yet to understand he loves himself more than anyone else and will hurt anyone in order to keep living the way he pleases. Fantasy Dad sent her off to the mall with two trailer park (literally) 12 year olds and no money while he slept on the couch. A total recipe for something bad to happen. And it did. I can't protect her from her fantasies but I can protect her from him.

    She wouldn't resent moving back to Europe because she has now asked to go back. (I explained that it's not as simple as getting back on a plane but that I would work towards it.)

    Thank you for the hug and here is one for you too!