[This letter has been condensed. BFM]
I have an 11 year old daughter. Her father left when she was 1...I am from a family with two parents and was at a total loss as to how to go about this divorce thing, however, I knew for sure that I wanted my daughter to have her father in her life. In the past 10 years I have really bent over backwards to accommodate him, even giving him the keys to my home so he could be with her on certain days.
....He has always paid me child support. However, he says, this money means that I have to do EVERYTHING for her, this is what he pays me for! He won't bring her to and from his place every time he has her, I do it every other week etc.
Through all this, he will openly make fun of me, where I'm from (EU), my cooking, my child rearing skills to his friends in front of my daughter....Barbara, I think you get the picture here. It is a rotten place to be as a mother and I try my best to not put my child in the middle, however, recently she has seen me kick her father out of my home for being totally rude and very disrespectful to me. I explained to my daughter that no one is allowed to treat me like this, not my mother, not her and not her father. She was angry with me for a while then she understood.
She and I have a good relationship, however, she is hitting 11 and the hormones are kicking in. The other day she told me that she thinks her dad is much smarter than me and that his conversations with her are so interesting, much more that mine. I only talk about her and her life and school and what she wants and does etc, where as, her dad talks to her all about his life and his issues and that is much more interesting.
How do I handle this?
From: Nora, Cambridge, MA
You're absolutely right, the hormones are kicking in, and when that happens, it affects the growing brain as well as the changing body. Mostly, it fuels the preteen to separate from both parents and, especially, for girls to distance themselves from mom. In your case, you've got a double whammy because you are not only the mom, but also the primary, responsible parent. It's not that she doesn't love you or respect you or want you to be part of her life. What she wants is not to be taken for granted. What she wants is to feel that you respect her. So pretend this is what she said to you:
"Mom, I'm not a little kid anymore. I'm someone who has thoughts and opinions about all kinds of things, and I wish you'd treat me accordingly."
Forget about the awful conversation the two of you had -- there will be more of them, I promise! -- and for goodness sake, put aside all issues you have about her father. He may be symbolic for you, but what's going on between you and your daughter would happen regardless of him. This is about how preteen daughters push their mom away in order to forge a new relationship based on their cognitive and emotional growth.
When the time is right, tell her something like this:
"You know, I've noticed that you're really getting a lot more mature, especially in the way you think. Sometimes I forget that you're not just my little girl. I'm sorry for when that happens." Then move on, keeping this in mind as you go forward, don't make assumptions about or for her the way you've been able to do all her life. Ask first.
PS. That link above? Not to be pushy but: If you've got a daughter, you want to read it.
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