Yesterday was an interesting day. It was a tiring but very necessary day. It was my daughter’s birthday – that should have been the main event. What I didn’t expect was the ending to the day. My daughter sat on the couch with me that evening and began venting. She does this often, but she’s usually ranting about her friends or teachers or something she wants to buy. But this time, it was about her father.
Let me back up to provide better context. Ever since I found out that my ex-husband was, in fact, a certified covert narcissist and lying manipulative cheater, I have not shared any of the fun facts about the divorce with my children. Anything has been on a need-to-know basis. For many reasons, but mostly because 1) they’re too young and it isn’t appropriate, 2) they still very much needed a father to parent them, and 3) my parents shared entirely too much information during their divorce and it just wasn’t necessary.
I’ve never lied to my kids, but I haven’t given them a bunch of unnecessary details either. They know I’m not a fan of their dad, but I always tell them he loves them and focus on shared parenting as much as possible. As my daughter has gotten older, she regularly asks me “Why did you and daddy really break up?” I tell her she’ll understand by the time she’s in her 30s. I believe she even thought I was at fault for breaking up the family at one point, and she’s challenged me numerous times about being the reason for all of the upheaval in her life.
I guess her dad recently told her his version and actually confessed to being a cheater. I’m not stupid enough to think he truly owned it, I’m sure I was made out to be a villian in some way. Ever since then, she seemed to observe him more closely. One day she told me she knew why we split, but I still kept quiet. No point in rehashing the past or adding fuel to a fire that is already out in my mind. She didn’t seem mad at him, but I’ve noticed that she picks up on many more of his personality traits and habits lately. She is observant anyhow, but this new fact has her very fixated on his behavior lately. It started out with her noticing small things he does or says. Until last night when it all snowballed into one big realization that her dad is not the person she has idealized her whole life.
I didn’t say too much, except to acknowledge that I understood what she was referring to when she described the situation she was frustrated about. She was telling me about how he was responding to (aka manipulating) her opinion about something. As she was talking, it’s like I was forced back through a time warp when I was with him and he had me doubting and questioning my reality over and over and over. It was a personal hell of mine, to have to do that on a daily basis to the point of detaching myself from my own reality just to survive. It is not a place I want to go back to, nor do I want her to live in that world.
My daughter was experiencing the madness of communicating with her narcistic father. I always wondered if it was just me, or if he would end up treating the kids similarly to me. I guess I got my answer. My daughter sees it for what it is right now, because she’s 13. At 13, you see things clearly. It may be confusing but she’s seeing it play out in real time – It’s not too late for her yet. I will calmly support her without aggravating the situation to the best of my ability. The good news is she has already been talking to a counselor regularly, and said she wants to talk to the counselor about her father. I am hopeful that she will not relive the past I went through with her father. I really hope she can have a relationship with him and not be manipulated by him. I don’t know. It worries me, but I’m confident in her.
It really sucks to find out that a parent is not who you thought they were.
After a lot of venting and some tears, my sweet daughter fell asleep on my lap as I pet her hair. She laid there peacefully for about 15 minutes and then hugged me and went to bed. I was so proud of her for owning her feelings, facing her doubts, and being honest about her realization.
And I have never felt so validated in my life. It’s taken almost a decade, and last night was the first time I could breathe in a long time. More challenges always await, but I can see so much clearly now.
Stifle Me Not