Tomorrow my daughter is one step closer to fleeing the nest. It’s a monumental birthday and I’ve had moments of pride, delight and depression. I cannot remember a life before her, and it’s near impossible to picture a life without her in it day by day. She will move on and forge her own path in this life and I will be standing on the sidelines, cheering and offering support and guidance when asked. Only when asked.
I had this life once I was not happy with. I had this life that racked my soul and made me less than. She was a witness to this and it weighs heavily on my mind these days. Did she see enough to want to live her life differently or did she see too much to know better? Children are subjected to the life we inflict on them. I think of the paper cuts of childhood that still sting in my life. Will she be sitting, typing on a blog, and think of those things she has seen?
I had this life once where I was living with someone very unlikable. He was not always that way. In the beginning he had dazzled me with his charm and the ruse of very human like behavior. It was not long after it began that I saw the cracks in the foundation, the fissures in the carefully crafted illusion. The reasons I stayed, in hindsight, were not valid reasons. I thought I was saving her from something untenable, but instead the pain was inflicted anyway.
The day I told him we were over, he threw that pain into my face like a punch. How can you do this to her? He had demanded. You’ve ruined her life, he ranted. I had stood there, taking shots, knowing every single word had a kernel of truth. He hated me enough when I ended us that he punished her for it. Those years of his declaration of fatherhood dissipated in hatred of me.
I’ve been careful over the years since the break up to maintain some sort of dignity for him for my daughter. It’s not always been easy as I’ve had a cadre of lawyers attempt to protect me from him. I’ve never wavered in my belief that the best thing, the only thing I could have done, was to claim our independence. It’s been painful, not because I miss anything about the us that was, but because leaving him, leaving the state, did not end his presence in my life. I had hoped to maintain their relationship, but he chose otherwise.
Then came the news, he had fled the country. It has become something out of a Lifetime movie. He’s all over the internet. My daughter has questioned time and time again why he hasn’t called, and here’s the answer. I agonized over whether to tell her just before her birthday. I wanted her to have a day free from the drama he has caused. But then I reminded myself she has been unrelenting trying to find him. Trying to find the father he was.
I told her and she looked at me, with tears in her eyes.
“I’m sorry he’s put you through this” she said to me, and I saw what a wonderful mature young woman she has become.
I told her how sorry I was too. She told me she just wants me to have someone who is kind and loves me. I told her I wanted the same for her. And then she looked me in the eyes and said, “I’d never settle for less than that.”
I knew she meant it and I wish I had figured it out sooner. Then I remind myself, it’s all a journey to this one moment, this place you’re supposed to be. We endure the pain and hardships so when we get where we are going we can make the decisions clearly. It’s taken me a long time, but that’s been part of the journey.
My heart opened and I’ve learned to love. I’ve learned that pain is part of the process. I’ve learned the most important thing in my world besides my daughter is being true to myself. I’ve learned that even the simplest gesture of affection can be fulfilling. I’ve learned to cling to happiness and to not let the sadness overcome me. I’ve learned the best part of me is the one I’ve hidden away.
My daughter has seen the transformation in me. Maybe it isn’t too late.