Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Turn deadbeat dad into friend

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DEAR MISS LONELYHEARTS: I had a falling-out with my father because he'd never make time for me, always made excuses; you know, deadbeat dad syndrome. Stupidly I decided to try to reach out. He reacted with anger and defensiveness. Basically he told me he's an A-hole and I'd have to accept that. I'm so upset because I have a boyfriend, the love of my life, the only guy I've ever been able to count on -- and the other guy (my father) probably won't even be at my wedding someday! My dad still tells my mom he loves me, but I actually don't believe a thing he says anymore. I hate hearing songs like "You can let go now daddy," or "Butterfly Kisses" etc, all of those father/daughter songs. Isn't a father supposed to love his daughter, and treat her right? I just can't help but wonder why I wasn't good enough, and why I was replaced by his "new" family. He never answered any of these questions, or made any attempts to make it up to me. Believe me, I've tried more than enough times -- I've written countless letters, talked to him in person. The last time I emailed him his response was "I want to leave it in the past." I don't want to be one of those people that show up to the his funeral someday and regret not making amends. But I honestly can't even call him dad, I have so much anger and resentment toward him, that I don't even know if I care. But obviously I do care if I'm writing to you. Until my current boyfriend, every guy I'd dated was exactly like my father: player, liar, cheater, unreliable, sketchy, very fake, etc. The guy I'm with is wonderful, and I'm so lucky to have him. It just makes me sick to my stomach sometimes when I would talk to my dad because he would always tell me how he wanted my mom back, etc, etc, and yet he's married to another woman. It's disgusting how much of a womanizer he is. But he's still my father, unfortunately. I just wanted to tell all of the fathers out there who don't appreciate their daughters: you don't know what you have until it's gone, trust me. -- Daughter of a Dead Beat

Dear Daughter: I'm going to teach you what works. Remember this is not what's right, or the way it should be for you. But, it's a way to get more fathering into your life, which you really need. You sound like an intelligent, sensitive young woman so you will understand this:

1.) Guilt makes people run away. Your dad deserves the tongue lashings he has gotten, but they don't make him want to come back for more. Tell him you're going to let the past go and try to be friends. Start having some guilt-free times together doing activities -- movies, concerts, the zoo. He will start to find out it's safe, and see you more.

2) Accept that you're just going to get a father who is a casual friend, not a fully qualified parent. By his own admittance he has blown it as a dad. Everyone agrees on that. Let up on your expectations, make him a friend, and feel less disappointment.

3) Celebrate the fact you have graduated from picking guys like your father and trying to change them the way you could never change daddy. You have a great young man in your life now and you can build a wonderful family together as good mom, good dad, happy kids.

4) We get two chances at a good childhood -- the one in first childhood and the one we build for and with our own kids. Children love having parents who enjoy kid things with them ( in your case, almost as much as they do). Get down on the floor and play with them, it's good for you!

5) Praise your man when he does well with the kids you (may) have together and he will do even more. Love his fatherliness with them, but don't start treating him like substitute dad and lose the feeling of being lovers.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 18, 2010 D4

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