In the midst of the emotional whirlwind following Youngest Daughter’s GCSE results, I was pleasantly surprised to get an email from E asking how she’d got on.
I don’t know why I was surprised. I know he pretty much ignores every email I send him, but this is his daughter, so surely this was exactly what a good Dad should do? OK, so it might have been better if he’d contacted Youngest Daughter directly to ask how she’d got on, not ask me, but I sort of understand why he didn’t. He knows damn well that she would probably have told him to fuck right off and his standard line with Youngest Daughter is that contacting her ‘will make things worse’ (I’d love to know how he could make things worse with her, but, given his history, it’s probably best not to challenge him…). If it was me who’d damaged my relationship with my daughter the way he has, I’d think it was worth being sworn at, or ignored for a while, but persist anyway, but this is E, and because it’s E, I was impressed that he’d contacted me at all.
We exchanged a couple of emails, in which I explained how upset Youngest Daughter was about her results and how she might not get the place she wanted in Sixth Form. He replied quickly to every email (showing, if nothing else, that he does get and read my emails, and that when he doesn’t reply it’s deliberate) and, whilst we didn’t say much, I think it was made clear to him just how distressed Youngest Daughter was and how tricky things were at home.
I told Youngest Daughter that her Dad was asking after her (and got given the rolled eyes and insults about him that were due to him in return), but despite the fact that I knew I had yet another battle to fight (for and with Youngest Daughter), I began to feel that, perhaps, E and I had turned a corner, that maybe we would now communicate (if only by email) and start to co-parent our children together again. I sort of thought that perhaps he’d changed his attitude to me a bit – at least with regards to the fact that I was the mother of his children. I was hoping that, maybe he’d finally started to show me a little bit of respect.
The next few days with Youngest Daughter, were trying to say the least. Over the years, one thing I’ve learned with her is that you have to ‘drip-feed’ her information. I’ve also learned that she will argue with anything and everything I say. So I began the knife edge process of getting her to think about her future, one tiny step by one tiny step.
Two days later, on Saturday, E bought Oldest Son some paint, and in a feat of never before seen co-operation Oldest Son and Youngest Daughter worked together to decorate his bedroom. I was so proud of the pair of them, they worked for hours (Oldest Son’s room had been painted in various 90’s shades of orange and yellow and featured a massive dark blue dragon on one of the walls) and they transformed the room with several coats of a neutral cream colour, and also added a dark grey feature wall. I’d been expecting to have to go in and save the day and repaint everything, but they did a brilliant job all by themselves.
I’d love to take the credit for it, but I suspect it was a lot to do with the painting and Oldest Son’s accepting presence, but by the Bank Holiday Monday, having started on Thursday with ‘I’m never going to school again’, Youngest Daughter had agreed to at least consider Sixth Form and things were on a bit more of an even keel. We went down to Surrey to see my parents (Mum had been in and out of hospital for a couple of weeks, and had been really very poorly, so it was lovely to spend some time with her) and on the train home, the five of us were tired, but happy, looking forward to one more week of summer holiday and feeling a bit more hopeful about things than we had a few days ago.
At exactly this point, my phone pinged and I saw I had an email from E. Given everything that had happened over the last four days, I assumed he was checking to see how Youngest Daughter was. I’d forgotten it was E I was dealing with.
This was what his email said:
“I have been needing to raise this for a while. Left it as long as possible but can’t imagine there will ever be a time that is right.
Too much money and debt is tied up in the house and I can’t see any other sensible solution than to sell as soon as possible.
Current situation isn’t affordable and hasn’t been for a long time and I cannot keep this up so the sooner we sell the sooner we can move to a more certain way forward.”
I wasn’t remotely surprised by the fact that E is in so much debt he needs to sell the house (that one’s been coming for years), I wasn’t even upset by the coldness of his email and the fact that it was all about him and didn’t consider anyone else’s needs. What shocked me is the fact the he didn’t once mention what he proposed to do regarding providing a home for his children and the way he seemed to expect me to click my heels and just do what he wanted.
I’ve been fully expecting to have to sell the house at some point. In fact, I’d love to be living somewhere with no trace or memory of E or our life together. Nobody wants my association with E out of my life more than me. The house is also expensive to run and to maintain and I simply can’t’ afford it (especially as E isn’t helping with repairs etc). But, this is the kids’ home, the one place they’ve felt secure and happy since everything happened and I am going nowhere until I know that they will be looked after and have some sort of security.
The shock must have shown on my face, because Oldest Daughter immediately asked what was wrong. I was so stunned that I just showed her the email. Her face fell, but then she just laughed, saying “just when I thought Dad couldn’t lower the bar any further, he manages to crawl under it”. The others then asked what was going on. We showed them the email and Oldest Son went pale, he was confused, saying “but, I’ve just decorated my room!”, then, face stricken, he asked “where will we go?” Youngest Son just shook his head sadly and muttered something like “dickhead“. Youngest Daughter’s fury, however, was white hot. She wanted to text him there and then and tell him exactly what she felt (I stopped her, I’m not sure why, he probably deserved to hear every word she had to say), she also pointed out that he had a lovely, secure, home with P in Canary Wharf and that he didn’t care what happened to us, she then started planning how to sabotage his sale plans (she had some horrific ideas – I’m still not sure whether to be proud or scared).
In the end, having spent a lovely day with my family, we all got home feeling utterly defeated and insecure. No matter how much I tried to reassure the kids that I’d make sure we were ok, and that we’d still be together no matter what happened, the threat of losing the home they loved had upset them all. They were all dealing with the news in different ways, but the person most dramatically affected, was the one who was most emotionally vulnerable – Youngest Daughter.
E might have been right – there would never be a good time for him to raise this, but with his unerring sense of timing, he’d somehow chosen the worst possible time. Youngest Daughter was still reeling from her GCSE results, and struggling with the depression that developed not just as a result of his leaving in the first place, but because of his getting married without telling her, so facing losing her home on top of everything was the last thing she needed.
There might never have be a good time to raise the issue, but there are plenty of decent ways to behave when you raise it and several vital things to address when you do so. E didn’t manage any of these. I don’t really know what I expected – he’s not shown a shred of decency in any of his other dealings with me and some things will never change – expecting this leopard to change his spots was a stupid thing to do.
Anyway, whilst I wouldn’t generally recommend following E’s example in anything (especially in matters of financial management or relationships), I decided at this point, to take a leaf out of his book. A few months ago, he’d rather patronisingly told me that he wasn’t ‘ignoring’ my emails about money, he was simply ‘not responding’ to them. So, I decided to not respond to his email and see what happened next.