Be the Adult and Do the Building

My daughter Kate and I are still struggling to communicate after the Big Blowout Drama event in early August. The wall of silence has come down, but I am still overwhelmed with a myriad of emotions. I suspect Kate is as well.

We used to talk to each other a couple of times a week, more often during difficult weeks. We are both busy in our lives; certainly Kate is more so being a working mom of two young children. I know people who insist on talking to their children every single day. I am not that kind of mom. The only rule I live by is simple: talk to me.

My four daughters were raised in a household where no subject was off limits (a result of having grown up in a home in which many subjects were off limits, including knowing my mom had been diagnosed with cancer and would die). I worked hard to let my daughters know that “home” was the safest place to ask a question and learn. Visitors were sometimes thrown off guard sitting at our supper table, enjoying a great meal, and suddenly thrown into a discussion of sex, politics, or religion. I often thought my kids brought up politically-incorrect issues intentionally. Let’s see how far we can push Mom.

And so the continued quiet stream of communication with Kate gnaws at me. I feel I have been tossed out of her life. If I am unaware of her challenges and struggles, how can I offer support, even emotionally? Without updates on her growing and daily-changing children, how am I to witness the lives of my grandchildren?

My husband rarely talks to his two daughters, a fact that bothers me much more than him. Obligatory calls come through on holidays and his birthday, but only a handful of other times throughout the year. I know more about their lives than he does, simply because I’m connected to them on Facebook. There really isn’t any reason that I am aware of, or my husband either, as to why they don’t talk more often. They just don’t. I have no proof, but I suspect his daughters talk regularly with their mother.

Why doesn’t Kate want to talk with me? I’ve given that a lot of thought. The part of my heart that still hurts after the sting of all that she said and did on that dreadful night believes she is consumed with guilt and shame and doesn’t know how to get past that. She hasn’t apologized for her behavior, and since she hasn’t now I doubt she ever will. Does she know how badly she hurt me? Yes. Kate is not stupid. Does she care? Come on, of course she does. So why does she prolong this communication gap and choose to be quiet?

I’ve asked two of my other daughters if they know why this silence continues. Brianna is uncomfortable with me asking, so I’m not asking anymore. Rose is a little more willing to discuss it, although she readily admits Kate isn’t communicating with her either. Rose’s advice to me is to keep reaching out. I told Rose it seems to me that Kate wants me to do all the work right now, but I don’t feel like doing all the work. I’m tired of this drama. I still hurt and am still trying to heal. Questions beg to be asked: Does Kate still hurt? Is Kate still angry? What the hell is this all about anyway?

Rose’s advice to keep trying with Kate reminded me of another time in our lives, right after the girls’ dad moved out of our house. He had (has) an anger management problem and I had asked him to get help for it and he refused. I told him he could no longer stay in the house with the girls and me if he wouldn’t get help. So he left. And he was angry, dangerously so. The girls didn’t want to talk to him or be with him. They wanted their dad to be “normal.” They wanted their lives to be normal. (Oh, how I can relate to that today!)

Over time, their dad settled down and wanted to spend time with the girls. They had missed him, so they were eager to get together, but things weren’t the same. After our divorce, the chasm was even greater, but each of the girls had grown older and more mature. Kate graduated from high school at the time of our divorce and headed off to college. That experience propelled her to question her life—past, present, future—and what she wanted to achieve. One day she told me she wished she had a better relationship with her dad. I remember well what I told her, because I said the same thing to each of her sisters when they reached that same point in their lives.

For good or bad, I told each of my daughters that their dad didn’t have the skill set to reach out and build a relationship with them. If they wanted one, they were going to have to be the adult and do the building. They didn’t like that at all. It was in complete contradiction to the roles they were in as father and daughter. But having lost my own father when he died when I was just sixteen, I pleaded with my daughters to remember one important thing. You only get one dad.

Well, I am blessed to be the mother of four daughters but each is a treasure I will hold in my heart forever. I will only get one Kate. Even though I am tired and my heart aches, I’m going to try again to reach out. My hope is that maybe if I check in once a week, Kate will grow more comfortable talking with me. Maybe it will prove to her that I do care, if that’s even the issue, and that I want to be in her life. Maybe we will re-learn to talk. Maybe, just maybe, we can put ourselves back at the old kitchen table and discuss everything and anything and put this sour moment behind us.

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