[Solved] Loyalty Conflict - school events
I've been reading a book about loyalty conflict, which my daughter is unfortunately burdened with by her mum (just to be clear, I would never dream of putting such pressure on my child).
There was a particular situation this morning at my daughter's sports day at which both myself and her mum were present, as well as her mum's mum (Granny), and I can't seem to find anything in the book that addresses this.
This kind of thing happens a lot, but basically my daughter barely acknowledged me this morning. I was trying to wave, cheer her on, make eye contact, and nothing. When she did look towards me, it was a very momentary glance, a grumpy expression on her face and almost like she was look straight past me.
At one point between races, I noticed her mum was cuddling her and my daughter was crying. This kind of thing happens at every school event. The thing is, she wasn't crying before her mum went over to her. I'm guessing mum could see my daughter was unhappy and went over and then the tears started. I was stood just metre or so away at this point, and although I didn't want to make a fuss, and felt like it might add fuel to the fire if I said hello to my daughter at that moment, I also felt that my daughter might wonder why I had seen her crying and not done anything. So, leaned down to her and asked if she was ok, but she wouldn't talk to me and wouldn't look at me, she just nodded her head. I rubbed her back, as I often do when she's down, and said 'ok' with a smile and left her to her next race.
A few moments later and the children were having a break for refreshments. I was kind of just hovering around as I know it doesn't help if I approach her when she's with her mum on anyone from her mum's family - I can tell she feels uncomfortable. So I was stood there just hoping my daughter might change her tune and run over and say hello. I got nothing, she had glanced over so she knew where I was standing, and she knew I was looking over as if to say 'hello' but I was completely blanked. All the while mum and granny were evidently lapping up the situation and enjoying my rejection. Of course they were - that's the main cause for this loyalty conflict, to try and get me out the picture and have my daughter believe I'm not important.
After another race outside, we were then ushered inside to the sports hall for a final race. My daughter went straight to her mum and I was given the cold shoulder again and had to make the walk alone. When we got inside the groups of children took turns to do their final races. When it was my daughters turn, I was right in front of her as she crossed the finishing line. She sat back down, and then looked around, saw me and shouted 'Daddy, I won!' (she didn't but I was about to disagree). I was so happy that I had been acknowledged, and then I realised she was looking for her mum to tell her, and as she couldn't see her straightaway - in her excitement she just wanted to tell someone - I was the first person she could see to tell.
Parents were then ushered out of the sports hall. Her mum had already gone, going over and giving her a hug when parents weren't meant to go over to the children as not to distract them and cause chaos - she did the same thing last year - she makes up her own rules. So, as parents were leaving they were waving to their children. Granny waved to my daughter and she excitedly waved back. I then tried to get her attention but she wouldn't look at me. She knew I was about, but wasn't interested. Eventually, her eyes accidentally locked with mine so I gave her a wave, to which she just made a grumpy face and then bowed her head.
So this was my morning, and I am about to go back and pick my daughter up from school to take her to her swimming lesson, as I do every week. When she is with me, I don't get this treatment at all. She has a great time and is full of smiles and laughter.
I'm wondering what to do about this situation though. As I've said, it's happened before, and I'm pretty sure this won't be the last time. I'm aware that she may have wanted to be her usual self around me but felt under pressure from her mum and granny and felt she couldn't acknowledge me, should mum scold her for it, for example. But I'm also aware that as her dad I'm just as important as her mum, and feel that my daughter should know this - and should she have done it out of disrespect for me, that I won't tolerate that, and feel that I should teach her that it's polite to treat both parents equally. But I just don't know which way around it was this morning, and if it is the first scenario, I don't want to make my daughter feel worse than she already does by saying how I was upset that she treated me that way.
Has anyone else dealt with this kind of thing? What's the best way to approach it? Do I just not say anything at all? I really worry she will grow up thinking it's acceptable to disregard your dad like that, which would kill me. I almost left today, it got that bad. I'm glad I didn't, but I'm not going to lie, I'm not looking forward to the next school event right now.
this is a very difficult situation. I can only assume that if your ex is the full-time carer and your child spends most of her time with her, then naturally your child will be more inclined with her mum. When I first picked up my child from school, for mid-week visit/swimming, she was crying and asking for her mum. she was like that for most of the way, and only started laughing after I made some silly jokes. She was also being a cry baby on the first overnight stay with me, almost refused to get into the car and i practically had to drag her to the car. she no longer does that. Hopefully she will have adjusted for the 2nd school pick up. I am hoping to make a 50/50 shared care application to court in few years time, to address this imbalance of time spent between parents.
If I were you, I would just wait for a weekend when you spend proper time with your child, and there is no influence or distraction from your ex.
I think, if you can accept that events where you both attend are going to be uncomfortable, then it’s just a matter of getting through it, you’re daughter might not show it, but I’d bet that she would miss you if you weren’t there.
Just enjoy the time you spend together, all the best.
What you have written regarding the actions and manner of the Mother, Granny and your Daughter is exactly the same scenario my Son has experienced. The Mother and Granny of his Daughter appear to be placing his child in such a position that she is in an emotional turmoil as to know how to react in such a situation. I believe the pressure on the child from the maternal side is so great the child does not know how to behave other than to keep the peace as they see it through childs' eyes. Obviously in yours and my Son's situation both children are not free to be themselves at such times when both parents attend the same event. For some reason the child does not react to the other parent as they should and more importantly, how they would want to. It begs the question what has been said to them for them to rebuff their Fathers as they do on such occasions when normally, away from the maternal family they each have a wonderful bond with you and my Son.
I know it is a very painful situation to be in as a father, I see it with my Son. The time he has with his child, alone, away from the Mother, the bond they have is extremely strong, he constantly builds on this. They have a wonderful relationship but when Mother and Granny appear the atmosphere changes, not to the good. My Son has decided that he will not attend certain school events when the Mother and Granny are present for the sake of his Daughter. It hurts him as a father to not go but it saves his Daughter the heartache of being in emotional turmoil through no fault of her own. My Son does not ask his daughter questions as to why her manner changes, we know why, it's the maternal family causing the problem and neither does he bring to her attention how it makes him feel that would only serve to make the burden on his Daughter greater. We believe as a family in continuity, building strong, loving, secure relationships that eventually will give the child, confidence, freedom to openly express themselves and the knowledge to know what is right and wrong.
Thanks for all the replies and advice.
MotherofaFather - Sorry to hear your son is in the same position. It's uncanny, what with Granny being involved in his situation too. My daughter's granny has gone as far as to move into a flat across the road from her school, directly overlooking her classroom and playground. She used to stand there, with mum, watching me wait to go in the school gates, pick up my daughter, and then try to leave with a young child who's crying her eyes out because in her mind 'Mummy and Granny are right there, why do we have to go somewhere else?'. They've both been asked to stop this by my solicitor now, Hopefully it lasts.
Sorry that your son is in a position where he feels he can't attend school events. I feel the same, although right now I'm not sure that would be the best move for my daughter or me, personally. I am hoping I can find another way which makes my daughter feel more comfortable, although I'm still working out what that is. For a long time now, I have kept my distance from both my daughter, mum and Granny, at school events, etc, and if my daughter wants to wave to me, or come over and see me, I let her do it on her own accord. At some events, where it's possible, at the end, I will go over to her and quickly say goodbye or 'well done!', and then leave promptly, so that she knows I wanted to see her, but doesn't feel too under pressure with me lingering. Sometimes, these things happen during my contact time, when I am due to take my daughter back to mine, at which point it's kind of odd, as I have to revert back to keeping my distance until mum and granny have gone, in order to not upset my daughter.
I didn't say anything to my daughter whilst she was with me the last few days in the end, and having slept on it, I'm now wondering if I can involve my daughter in deciding what would be best for her in these situations, without making her feel uncomfortable or guilty by asking her why she acts the way she does - like you said, we know why our children act this way and asking her would only make it worse - and without bringing mummy and granny into it - she'll work them out in her own time, I hope. For instance, I don't want to say 'Mummy and granny make you feel rubbish and like you have to choose between us' as I'm aware, as much I don't like it, that she loves them. So, how I do this, I'm not sure yet. It may be that I just have to make a decision and say 'this is what Daddy is going to do at school things, I'm doing it because I love you, will that be okay?'.
Your daughter is under pressure from the situation, and it's probably a case that if she shows you any affection, she might get some grief from her mother. My view is that you don't ask your daughter about it (that would increase the pressure) but before the next event, tell her that you understand it's difficult for her, and that you know she loves you, but she doesn't need to show it in front of her mother. You could possibly come up with some simple, subtle, and secret sign she could give you to acknowledge you, that her mother wouldn't realise.
Within the last day or two my Son unexpectedly did attend a school event. His Daughter was with her Mother and Granny.
Throughout his time there, his Daughter looked unhappy didn't look at Her Father and dare not speak to him. The sight of my Son being present completely took the Mother and Granny by surprise and it was obvious his Daughter was being told not to speak, look at Daddy or have anything to do with him which she didn't. My Son stayed at the event and throughout there was no acknowledgement of his presence. What he went through personally did not cause him to be concerned for himself as his love for his Daughter and her love for him is so strong. However, he did find it upsetting and disgraceful that the attitude of the Mother and Granny caused so much hurt to his daughter. A few days after this, it happened to be his day for contact and a sleepover --- what happened --- she was the happy, loving little girl we all know her to be when with her Father. To my knowledge the school event was not mentioned by either of them.
It is most unfortunate for you that your daughter's Granny lives so close to the school but if you have a Court Order which states the day and time for contact and permission to collect her from school which is within your allocated time stated in the Court Order you can pick her up and go. In my Son's situation this is what he has done even though Mother and Granny have been there because it is his time and the other adults should respect this and not be there. If you do not have a Court Order then you cannot do it the way my Son has.
I personally would not ask your Daughter why she acts as she does towards you in the presence of the maternal family and neither would I comment to your Daughter about her Mother or Granny. What I would do, which I am sure you do already is have a lot of fun when you are together, give her all the love you have and talk about all kinds of things but not Mother and Granny. If she is use to talking openly with you when you are on your own together, she will talk about them when she is ready to do so. I have always believed the two most precious things you can give a child is your time and your love which can create a very strong bond indeed resulting in security for the child.
You do not say the age of your Daughter and whether you have a Court Order.
MotherofaFather - sorry to hear your son and his daughter have had to endure more hurt from Mother and Granny. What you described is again similar to my situation - once she is in my care alone, she is generally her usual happy self. There are moments though, which have been getting more frequent, when something will trigger my daughter to remember that mummy isn't around - it could be as simple as cooking her something for her tea that mummy wouldn't usually cook - and then she completely breaks down and is inconsolable. It's heartbreaking to witness. Her mum and her granny have a hold on her and they are encouraging her to be highly dependent on them - Granny did the same thing with mum, and in that relationship I witnessed a grown woman unable to be away from her mother for five minutes. It's also clear that my daughter sometimes feels guilty for having a good time with me. I personally think this comes from when I drop her back home. I get the impression that when my daughter tries to tell her mum about the lovely things she's been up to with me, her mum doesn't want to listen which then makes my daughter feel bad about having a good time. As well as the fact that her mum makes such a huge deal about my daughter leaving her side to come and stay with me - she speaks to her in a very sad tone, smothers her in kisses, tells her how much she'll miss her, etc, and she'll sometimes say things like 'and when you're back, we'll do x, y, and z, and loads of fun together!' - as if to say 'you're going to have a rubbish time with your dad, but don't worry because when you see me, things will be good again, and THAT'S how it goes'. My daughter has actually told me that mummy teaches her that 'mummies are the most important parent, so we must love them most'.
I do have a court order - we just got a new, revised order the other week as it happens, as I had to take my daughter's mum to court for a second time, for contact issues as well as lots of other breaches, and verbal abuse and harassment.
Mum and Granny watching me from the balcony was raised between our solicitors, and Mum said she would speak to Granny and ask her to stop (like she wasn't doing it herself too). That's as far as it went. During the court process it stopped, as I'm assuming they knew they'd get another solicitor's letter if they were caught, However, today when I picked my daughter up from school, Granny was stood on the balcony again. I knew this would happen. As soon as my solicitor's eyes were off them, so to speak, it would start up again, because as much as I tried, I couldn't get something about it included in the new order. I don't know if mum was there too, as I didn't have my glasses on, so mum's usual spot, hiding behind the glass balcony doors, was too blurry! They don't come down from the balcony usually, sometimes they pass by 'conveniently', but Granny's flat couldn't be in more of a prime position.
I have considered asking the school if I can pick up from the entrance on the opposite side of the building. Granny wasn't waving today, and so my daughter didn't notice her (unless she's been told rubbish about me forbidding them to wave, who knows!). It's hard to know if my daughter feels distressed - when they were waving, her distress was very obvious. I'm also unsure if picking her up from the other entrance, where none of her friends get picked up from, will actually make things worse, which is the last thing I want to do for her.
I don't have any plans to talk to my daughter about mum or granny, nor ask her why she acts towards me the way she does in their presence. As suggested, I may simply say something like 'I know things are a bit hard when me and mummy are both there at the same time, but I know you love me, so you just do whatever you feel is most comfortable'. What do you think?
My daughter is 6 btw.
It is a most unpleasant situation that your daughter and you are placed in through no fault of your own as I well know.
When Mother and Granny are waving from the flat, they are on their own property and there isn't anything you can do about it. If they were on school grounds you could speak to the school and they then could ask them to stay away if it is in your time as stipulated in your Court Order.
As for picking your child up from the other side of the school building. This, I personally would not do.
If you decide to do that, I believe you will be encouraging Mother and Granny to continue to control the situation and they mostly likely will interpret your action as you not being able to cope with what unsavoury scenario they create but you can cope. I would wait with the other parents and when your daughter appears, I would look happy and immediately engage in continuing conversation with her whilst all the time walking away out of view of Mother and Granny. Ask her questions such as "how did you get on at school today?" "It's a lovely day, shall we have a picnic outside?" "What shall we have to eat for tea?" "Shall we get an Ice cream on the way home to Daddy's?"
Be confident and don't let the unreasonable behaviour of others cause you to deviate from what you know is reasonable, normal and sensible behaviour.
If your daughter cries, she will stop. Make the time she has with you fun and loving. You need to counteract the destructive influences coming from the maternal side of the family by being a better role model than they are.
I personally would not mention Mother or Granny at all to your Daughter. The more fun and love you have together will eventually create more security and a stronger bond between the two of you. I believe she will then eventually move from one parent to another without being overly upset.
My grandchild is the same age as your daughter and every time she comes to my Son's we always say, "it's lovely to have you home, " and when she leaves, I say "bye bye, see you when you come home again." She has always been told she has two homes, Mummy's home and Daddy's home. We never say Mummy's home and Daddy's house. She moves with ease between the two homes she has.
Giving your daughter security when she is with you and building up her self esteem is a great way to go. Have time with her when she can lead the play and just be herself having fun with you. Building memories of these special times together will increase your bond.
Praise your daughter for the behaviour that you want to encourage. Ignoring the rest is ok - giving her attention for person she is and the positive things she does will build her sense of self. Praise her for those good characteristics- she is loving, funny, caring etc
Be specific in your praise too. Saying she is a good girl doesn’t always let her know why. Saying something like
“Thank you for giving me a hug. You are so loving.” Or “Thank you for laying the table. You are helpful” will enable her to see herself as you see her. She can then appreciate those qualities in herself and see them in you too.
This will help her to be herself around you.
You can’t control what her mother/grandmother do but you can have a positive effect by what you say and do.
I hope things improve for you