Thursday, February 1, 2018

Roles, Responsibilities and Resentments

I'm faced with a dilemma that I don't feel conflicted on, but I feel like I should be. Maybe you can help me decide.

Anyone who read With Angel's Wings knows that my relationship with my ex-husband (Emily and Hannah's father) was contentious. If you didn't read it, here's a quick synopsis to catch you up to speed: Boy and girl meet in high school. Boy and girl get married way too young and for all the wrong reasons. Boy and girl have a baby girl. Boy and girl hang on the edge of divorce. Boy and girl decide [poorly] to have a second child. Boy and girl have an extremely ill baby daughter. Boy has nothing to do with baby and offers little to no support.[Sample conversation from years past: Girl: We need to decide whether or not to do life-saving open-heart surgery for Hannah. Boy: I'll leave that decision to you. You're the one emotionally involved.] Girl has mental breakdown. Girl leaves boy. Girl attempts to facilitate relationship between boy and his daughters. Boy has very little to do with older child, nothing to do with younger child. Boy gets a girlfriend who is interested in children. Boy starts requesting visitation with older child. Older child routinely comes back from visitations extremely distraught, describing verbal and emotional abuse from boy. Girl reluctantly allows continued visitation, trusting boy's girlfriend to keep abuse at a minimum.

Since the end of the book: Kevin (boy) and Stacy (girlfriend) get married. Stacy and I continued to have a relatively close relationship. Stacy even flies from New Hampshire to Washington for a week-long visit.

Okay. That brings us to the end of the epilogue. Now here's the more recent stuff.

Then Emily reached name only. With her diagnosis of high functioning autism with mild to moderate developmental delay, she cannot live independently. Daniel and I are her legal guardians, so little has changed in our relationship. I told Emily if she ever wanted to fly back east to visit her father and Cindy, I'd do what I could to facilitate the travel. She generally kept the once-per-year, few-days-to-a-week visiting schedule she had kept in her teen years.

Then Kevin unceremoniously kicked Stacy out in favor of whatever girlfriend he was cheating on her with at the time. It was the dead of winter in northern New Hampshire and Stacy had no savings, no job and nowhere to go.

I provided as much emotional support to Stacy as I could. We became closer than ever; I love her like a sister. I couldn't help but notice that, as this was going on, Emily kept a very close relationship with Stacy, too, but she made no request to call, write or visit Kevin.

Since that time (about two years ago), Emily has had multiple visits (multiple per year, even)...with Stacy. She has not once stayed with Kevin since his [latest] divorce. She saw him one time during one of her visits with Stacy (she went to dinner with him), but wanted noting to do with visiting him after that.

Here's the part with the [potential?] dilemma. Kevin has occasionally texted me, telling me Emily isn't answering his texts (I'm unclear if he has tried actually calling her). Just the other day I got one of these texts. He requested I "have Emily" contact him, because she wasn't doing it on her own.

One of his past texts asked me why Emily wasn't responding to him. I didn't feel up to starting WW III, so I shrugged off the question, but here's my thought on the subject: You reap what you sow.

I was very careful over the years to never talk poorly of Kevin in Emily's presence. That was tricky when it was Emily crying, asking why he did the things he did and said the things he said (that were clearly and obviously BAD and HURTFUL). I wanted to give her every opportunity (within the confines of safety from his abuse) for her to develop her own relationship with her father. When she became an adult I didn't want her to ever resent ME for keeping her from her father. Well...she definitely doesn't resent me. And she wants nothing to do with him. That's. Her. Choice.

Here's the rub, though. She is an adult in name only. Emotionally and maturity-wise, she's much more like a 12 to 14-year-old. One could argue that she is NOT mature enough, then, to make the choice for herself. One could argue that it is still my responsibility to facilitate their relationship. I don't think so, but I want to be sure my decision is based on Emily's best interest (and not resentment that I have for my ex-husband who verbally and emotionally abused Emily...while absolutely ignoring Hannah [his other daughter that he has conveniently forgotten s he has for over 22 years now]).

There is also safety to consider. I was reluctantly okay with Emily visiting Kevin when Stacy was there. I shudder at the thought of damage he could do to Emily without Stacy's calming, sane influence. [Conversation from years past: Me: You have very little patience when it comes to Emily's challenges. Kevin nodded emphatically in agreement. Me: Right now that doesn't worry me too much, because I know Stacy has the patience to deal with it. Kevin: She has more patience than me, but she gets pretty f***ing frustrated, too. Me: That's the concern. What are you going to do if Stacy isn't there to help with those frustrations? Kevin: Well, as she grows older , we won't have to worry about it, because she'll grow out of it. Me: What do you mean? You don't 'grow out of' autism!]

Yeah. I can't see myself pushing Emily to reach out to her father. She's delayed, not stupid. If she wanted to return his texts, she could easily do so. If she wanted to call him she could easily do so. If she wanted to visit him, she knows she could ask me (or she could coordinate a visit with him when she's with Cindy). She doesn't want to, though. I can't fault her for that decision. Feel free to share your comments, but as I write this, I'm even more confident that I'm making the right decision by following my daughter's instincts and wishes.