Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree of Separation.
My heart breaks for my daughter. But I canâ€™t fix whatâ€™s wrong, and I wonâ€™t even try. Itâ€™s not my place. Not this time.
But Iâ€™ve been in that place before.
All I can do is sympathize because I know what itâ€™s like to try again and again to get my daddyâ€™s attention and have him love me just for me and not for all his expectations.
Sheâ€™s a good kid. A great kid. Intelligent, funny, creative, talkative, Â loving, Â respectful, Â visionary, Â honest, Â music-minded, insightful, openâ€”not necessarily in that order. I often feel Iâ€™m the luckiest mom in the world to have her and her little sister because theyâ€™re everything I could ever have wanted in children, with the possible exception of clean-room genes and those have been recessive for the past generation or two.
Since she was 11, sheâ€™s been attending State competitions in forensics, with quite a talent for drama and oratory. She was supposed to be at one such competition in Ft. Lauderdale this weekend, leaving last Thursday morning and returning late Sunday.
Thursday morning, in the wee hours while I slept, she was on the floor of the bathroom, fevered and throwing up. I donâ€™t know if sheâ€™d Â caught her grandmotherâ€™s flu while in her dadâ€™s care or if it was something she ate the night before, but she was too sick to stand up. So I sent her back to bed and told her there was no way she could handle a 14-hour bus ride and to imagine how the rest of the team would feel if she infected them the night before the big competition. She finally acknowledged that she was too sick to go.
She sent word to her teammates, her coach, and her dad, who was traveling with the team as a judge. I donâ€™t know what her dad said to her, just what she relayed to me and the hurt in her voice.
She thinks he didnâ€™t believe she was really sick. He never asked her how she was feeling, what was wrong, what kind of medicine she was Â taking, what her symptoms were…anything. All he talked about was how it was too bad that she was going to miss certain things at the competition and not be there with him. When she hung up, she felt even worseâ€”and felt guilty for being sick.
I know the feeling. Iâ€™m prone to letting myself get worn down by too little sleep and too much work and falling prey to various bugs or infections. And of course, when the kids were little, they brought home every known germ to cross the thresh- old Â ofÂ Â thatÂ Â biological Â warfare Â incubator Â known Â as Â daycare.
Maybe Iâ€™m supposed to be invincible. I donâ€™t know. I do remember an ER doctor telling my ex one time just how sick I was and how dehydrated and him confessing that heâ€™d had no idea I was so ill, even though Iâ€™d certainly not kept it a secret.
I used to feel guilty around my ex for being too sick to sit up on Â the sofa where Iâ€™d spent three days straight to keep from getting him sick with whatever I had. He used to seem an- gry that I wasnâ€™t going to work, even with a 102-degree fever.
I have no idea why or what thing happened in his child- hood to draw him that direction. I figure it must go far, far back. I know only its effects on the people who love(d) him.
Sometimes I felt punished for being sick. Or that he didnâ€™t care because not only did he expect me to go workâ€”even with paid sick leaveâ€”but he didnâ€™t call home to check on me or bring me lunch or pick up my prescription or hold my hand or drive me to the emergency room or to a doctorâ€™s appointment. Maybe itâ€™s that heâ€™s really afraid of illness and doesnâ€™t know how to handle the frailties it forces on us, but from his reaction to me, I always felt like a huge disappointment to him for being sick and that it somehow reflected badly on him. I felt I wasnâ€™t worth even the acknowledgement that I was sick.
And thatâ€™s Â how Â my Â daughter Â felt Â Thursday Â morning. Worthless. Â Guilty. Unloved. Like he was concerned only that she made him look bad for not showing up at the competition and winning a trophy. Iâ€™d like to think that he didnâ€™t mean for her to feel that way, except that sheâ€™s seen the same reaction to me when Iâ€™ve been sick, and she just never expected to get the same treatment.
So sheâ€™s been a bit subdued these past couple of days, and my heart breaks for her. I hate seeing her feel sad and wrestling with the self-esteem issues that come from not being able to get your dadâ€™s Â acknowledgement that youâ€™re hurting. After two days in bed, sheâ€™s feeling a little better but she didnâ€™t fail to miss that her teammates have called her several times to check on her, to see how sheâ€™s feeling, to try to cheer her up.
She also didnâ€™t fail to miss that she hasnâ€™t heard a word from her dad.