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David's Update

It’s Fathers Day again and I have some more good news to share.  My daughter is at last also back in full communications with me.  Although after a long silence, she had for the last couple of years been maintaining (always via texts) that she wanted to see me, no amount of suggestion, invitation and occasional open frustration could convince her to actually carry through with it or even reply because of the "spell" hanging over her.

Over the last 18 months since we reconnected, my relationship with my son has been substantially rebuilt after over 6 years of almost total silence.  We have seen a fair bit of each other and he has even offered to help FNF, so I think he has a remarkably mature view of the situation.  This is not to say that we have explored the depths of the reasons why he didn’t contact me or respond for all that time. He has grown into an adult and the gap of all those years seems strangely unreal.  He has a wicked sense of humour (like his dad) and we both enjoy discussing philosophical and political issues.  It really almost is as if the gap hadn’t happened.  In fact it is only if I try to recall the pain and anger I experienced during that time that the gap returns a little.  Just experiencing his return in the now makes dwelling on that past pointless, even though I’m sure we’ll eventually try to understand more of what happened.

Anyway, late last year when we were discussing how to help his sister to come along for my birthday, he decided to take the bull by the horns and "cleared the air" between him his mother and his sister in such a way as the spell was broken.  The result was quite amazing.  My daughter clearly wanted to come, but at the same time also felt she would be hurting or upsetting her mother if she did.  But going to college may have changed things for her.  At college kids live in their own space.  Their mother no longer does the washing, buys the furniture, tells them to get up or tidy up, etc.  In short, they suddenly learn to take ownership of their lives and in so doing, there comes the realisation that with adult boundaries, what she does is her responsibility and how her mother reacts to her actions is not.   Of course she still didn’t want to hurt her mother, but what she did with her life was up to her and her mother would learn to accept her growing up in time too.  So she was literally liberated and joined us for my birthday and a number of times since and we are now rebuilding enthusiastically.  My son was pretty chuffed too at having brokered the deal and taken things to a tipping point and brought the three of us back together. 

In some ways in retrospect I am glad I did not persist in pursuing their mother and them for breaking contact orders.  Terrible though it was, each battle according to the strange judo of such confrontations, risks only serving to entrench the kids in a position which later can be harder and not easier to return from.  Letting them know, with as little anger as possible, that I was there for them and would never give up on them nor blame them seems to have got through until they were ready.  But of course, every case is different.  Our "problem" is still something of an elephant in the room, but the difference is that we don't let it disturb us and nor do we ignore it.  Every so often we have a little chat with it and it seems to get a little smaller...

Another little story may be worth sharing.  My daughter turned up recently and we were having a conversation about the early days (when we still had contact) after they were moved to Yorkshire from their home in the south.  Although she was 9 at the time, her memories are a little hazy.  In response to a question I told her about how I used to every Friday take the train up from London to Yorkshire to see them (although her mother would only permit my son to actually have contact on the Fridays) and travel back to the south the same day (alternate Fridays) after doing so.  She looked at me, her eyes wide, saying, you mean, you came up all that way and back just to see us?  Wow, she said, I sometimes can't even be bothered to travel back to Yorkshire from uni!  That realisation in her eyes as her adolescent attitudes gave way to adulthood and the real world of parent and child, will always stay with me. So yes, no-one should give up.

A few weekends ago I drove to Nottingham to spend an afternoon with my daughter.  It was the first time I'd visited her after three brief visits to me since we reconnected.  We had a great time and she showed me her university home and we had a very happy afternoon wandering the streets of Nottingham and just talking about anything and everything. We are getting to know each other again (she was about 13 when we last had a proper conversation and is now almost 19).

A couple of days later I received a text from her saying she was going to be "back in the land of Yorkshire" later that week and could she come and stay for "a few nights".  I guess I don't have to explain what I felt...

And she did come and stay.  And as I write this, both my children have told me how they are looking forward to this weekend.

We must never give up.  Nor lose hope. Celebrate the future and the spell will be lifted.


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