Well, I think it’s safe to say the visitation situation has gone from bad to worse.

Caroline freaks out when she is even in the same room as Tyler.  She clings to me, cries, and screams that she wants mommy and doesn’t like daddy.  He hadn’t seen her in about three weeks because he has been traveling.  He stopped by to visit her yesterday and ended up leaving after about five minutes because she just would not calm down.  I had hoped this was just a separation anxiety issue, but at this point it seems like it is something more.

We talked about it today, and we basically decided that he has two options.  He can either step it up and take all of his visitation for the next year until he moves away, and try to maintain some kind of connection once he does leave… or he can let the whole thing go, because this half-assed business that is going on right now is clearly not working, and it’s neither fair nor healthy for any of us.

I truly don’t know what is best for her at this point.  Is it better to force her to have visits with him in the hope that this is just a phase?  He is supposed to take her to North Dakota for two weeks in early June– should we just make her go with him?  I panic inside at the thought of forcing my child to leave me, her only real attachment figure, and fly across the country for weeks with someone she doesn’t even really know and clearly does not want to be around.  Or is it better to just allow him to throw in the towel?  He’s going to live far away from us and will only see her very rarely, and he seems to think it is crueler to allow her to form any attachment to him only to have him move away.

Will she feel more abandoned if she gets attached over the next year and then he leaves without any explanation she can understand, or if she never has any kind of real relationship with him in the first place?

Which is worse, a father who is constantly disappointing her, or no father at all?

Why do I even have to ask myself these questions?

My heart breaks for Tyler.  I can’t imagine how it must feel to watch your child throw a tantrum at the mere sight of you.   But she is too young to understand that in order to be there for her in the way that she needs, he would have to give up his career in order to stay close by, and his career has always been everything to him, and now that he’s lost his family, it is one of the few things he has left that makes him happy.

I don’t think there is a good answer here.  He can give up his career that he loves to be near her and hope that they will eventually develop a better relationship, but that will only lead to bitterness for him in the end.  And it seems to me that there is a part of him that would be relieved, to be able to start fresh and not have to re-live his mistakes every time he tries to take a visit with a child who does not even want to see his face.

He said that the situation is similar to my reasoning, back when I filed for divorce– that it was better to cut it off sooner, while she is young and won’t remember how it was before.   But I don’t know.  In my heart I just cannot say that walking away from your child could ever be the right answer.

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  1. by Madeline

    On May 27, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    I was just a bit older than Caroline when my parents split so I see this from her point of view. My mom decided it was best for me to go visit my dad a few times a year even though I threw tantrums, cried and made myself sick. Every situation is different, but if I were her mother, I wouldn’t force her to visit Tyler. I’m in my twenties now, and have a great relationship with my dad, but I hated him for years since I felt forced to be away from my mother.

  2. [...] Is it better for a child to have a father who continually disappoints? Or no father at all? ( [...]

  3. by Jennifer

    On May 31, 2011 at 8:32 pm

    Im in same sitation… but tot he point that he doesnt even ask to see his daughter. Weve had a plethera of medical issues and Im handling on my own… making her closer and closer to me. The separation anxiety is intense, but I will do whatever is best for my daughter.

  4. by Kate

    On June 1, 2011 at 12:35 am

    My parents divorced when I was 2 and my brother 3, and my mom moved us several states away soon afterwards. I was definitely a Mama’s girl and had a hard time visiting my father, because I didn’t know him and the little I did know about him wasn’t comforting. It might have been difficult for him to get to know me, but that was his responsibility.

    As an adult, I look back on my childhood and still feel angry at my father because he didn’t make me a priority. His career was very important to him, but in my opinion, your children should have at least equal importance. Not long afterwards, my father remarried and had two more children. He seems to have done better this time around, which just makes me even more angry. The fact that he could ‘start fresh’ as a parent is infuriating, since there was no possibility for a do-over on my side.

  5. by Katie Smith

    On June 2, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    My parents divorced when I was very young, and my mom made my brother and I go to see my dad sometimes. I think it was about once a month or even less often; I don’t really remember. The only thing I remember about visiting him was that I hated it. I hated being around him. I hated knowing that he didn’t really want to see me, and I hated that we only ever did things that my brother wanted to do.

    As we got older, I only saw my dad about once or twice a year, even though he only lived about 10 minutes from our house. I had no desire to see him or have a relationship with him, and saw no reason to pursue a relationship with someone who obviously didn’t want to see me.

    Now that I am and adult and raising my own child (with her father, I am happy to say), my only regret about my dad is that he chose not to have a relationship with me. I wish that my mom hadn’t made me go to visit him, but I also understand why she did that. I’m sure she needed some ‘mommy’ time, and I know that she tried very hard to ensure that we did know my dad.

    It’s a very sad thing to have to go through, for all involved parties, and I wish there was a magical answer that you could just click on and see. It’s really your (and your ex’s) decision as to what to do moving forward. It sounds like he has little interest in forming any kind of real relationship with his daughter, and that is very sad. But, one day, she will realize (as I do) that it’s better to have one loving, supporting, ‘everything’ parent.

    Ok, I just wrote a lot, and I hope some of it helps. Know that you are not alone, and that this is not a new problem (unfortunately). I know that you will make the right decision for your family.

  6. by singlemomma

    On August 22, 2011 at 6:47 pm

    My parents were never married, and had a very dysfunctional relationship throughout most of my childhood, and still do, only now they are not “together”. I was forced to go on visits, even though I knew from an early age that I didn’t want to be around him- it just wasn’t a healthy environment.

    I have had a lot of emotional issues in the past 6-7 years, and a lot of them stemmed from that unhealthy relationship with my dad. He is still a very difficult person to deal with. Often, I would find myself wishing that I had never knew him, or even that he would die, just so I wouldn’t have to deal with the emotional havoc he wrecked on my life. (I don’t wish that anymore, because now that I am an adult, I live alone and have my own life, and his presence isn’t forced on me by my mom.)

    When I became pregnant last year, I decided not to tell the father, because he was too much like my dad. I did not want to end up like my mom, tied down to some jerk; and I did not want my daughter to go through the same hurtful things I did. I knew he would not be good for us (I have gotten a lot of crap about that decision, for different reasons, but at least I know I am doing what’s best for my daughter, and it’s none of their business anyways.)

    Anyways, I don’t know if this helps, but I thought I would share, since I have experience from both ends of the problem.

    I have a suggestion though; if you and Tyler decide that it would be easier to call it quits (at least for now), it might be a good idea for him to write her letters, at least once a month. You can read them to her now, and she can read them on her own when she is older; at least that way she will have a clue that he still cares about her. Also, you could ask him to send pictures and fun information about the places he travels to for business. I think if you take some of the pressure off of the relationship, and make it more like a friendship, it would be easier on everyone.

    Sometimes physically spending time with someone isn’t the best way to have a relationship with them.

  7. by Julia

    On February 2, 2013 at 8:28 am

    Hi Julia, Please, please, please. If he wants to walk away from his daughter, let him. You are both better off without him. No father at all is so much better than a shitty one. Believe me.