Sunday, May 07, 2006

And to be fair... daddy dearest

I just spent 15 days with my father in Italy. Italy being as inaccessible as it is, meant that those 15 days were pretty much 24/7 as well. My relationship with my father is not an easy one either. In many ways it is easier than with my mother, as I am more similar to my father in many respects. But what complicates the matter is that I am my father's favourite and he showers me with attention that he does not give my brother, and I cannot stand it. It was a VERY uncomfortable 2 weeks. Well, the first week was okay, but during the second week, I reached my limit. I am all torn with emotion. See, my father is very intense. Quietly intense. He's always asking me how I'm feeling and hugging me, etc. On the one hand, I commend him because he had a difficult childhood and showing his emotions is difficult. He and my mother divorced when I was 5 and my brother was 8. For the next 15 years or so, I was kind of my father's companion. I was unequivically the most important thing in my father's life. He didn't have any serious girlfriends for that time. I was shy and reserved and didn't have many friends, so my weekend was spent solely with my father. We went to dinner together, to movies.. everything was just us two. As a child it didn't bother me too much but there was this one evening that we both remember and our interpretations are both different, though my father does not know that. He was picking me up from my mother's on a Friday night and we were going out to dinner. He leaned over to give me a hug and a kiss and I backed off and said "not on the first date". I must have been about 9. Now, my father has never been inappropriate around me, so I don't mean to imply anything of that nature. However, I do feel that our closeness has always been a little inappropriate. Inappropriate in that it was too close and intense for a father/daughter relationship. It's not that he sees me as anything other than a daughter, but in many ways I felt like his companion. He relied on me, and I had no one but him because I had few, and sometimes no, friends. He tried to give me as much love as possible and probably extra attention as a result. But I feel it was just as much, if not more, his own need, than mine. He was lonely, not very self-assured, and had few friends. Although many people liked my father, he didn't let them get close, or he doubted their friendship, or didn't see that they liked him.

As I came into my teenage years, I started to resent this closeness a little. I resented that my Friday nights were at home playing Scrabble with my father rather than going out with my friends like most kids. So, I pushed him away. When I was about 15, my mom moved cities and I went to live with my father. For the most part, it worked out well, as I wasn't getting along with my mom then. I lived with him for the next 10 years or so. He finally got a girlfriend, but this didn't change our dynamic much. I was still very much the centre of his attention, and I still pulled away. Then my stepmother came along and all changed. All his attention got diverted to her. I resented her, didn't like her. It all had happened so quickly, there was little time to adjust. She was living in another country, so before they got married and she moved here, I had only met her once. My father and her moved away after 2 years of marriage. Ever since the marriage, the time spent with my father is very awkward. It often ends up in tears. There were more heated discussions and anger at the beginning, but now it's mostly him trying to be close, me pushing him away and big tears seconds before I leave. This is what happened in Italy.

Now don't get me wrong, I love my father. And ever since he's been married, I have been trying to spend time alone with him, because it happens very rarely. He came and stayed with me for a few days a couple of times when he came to visit and she came a couple days later as she was visiting her kids in the interim. Usually it was 3 days, and that was fine. But also, I was working or volunteering or going to school so we'd usually see each other in the mornings, and then for dinner. So, I had been pushing for 7 years for this trip for the 2 of us. It took that long for him to agree and commit to a time. We planned it over the last 7 months and I was excited about going and spending time alone with him. Then, a week into it I swear to god, I wanted him to die. Ok, not literally, but I wanted to run, escape, be far, far away. And the emotions around this were astounding. They still are. First of all the accessibility issue, as I mentioned... we were sharing a hotel room. So, really, it was 24/7. I am a person who really needs my space. Anyone, if around them too long, will annoy me. I just need to retreat and hide ... often. I coudln't do that here. And my iPod wasn't working properly so I couldn't even escape into that. I would get up in the morning, and cry in the shower so he wouldn't here. I would lie in the dark, crying carefully so as not to make a sound. In the last 3 or 4 days, I wanted to cry all the time.

Now, when my father knows there's something wrong, he gets all intense. The problem was, I needed space. So, the more I withdrew, the more he'd do things like keep eye contact. It drove me crazy. In fact, it made my skin crawl. So, the more he'd do that, the more I'd avoid him, and look to the left, to the right... anywhere, but at him. If he kept it up long enough, I'd finally say "WHAT?". And he'd say "you seem distant". I'd say "I feel like you're staring at me." He'd say "I am". It's his way of trying to get me to talk, to try and let me know he's there. Well, see, I know he's there, because I can't freaking get away! I have never been comfortable with his intenseness. I have never been comfortable with the fact that he seems to find it so easy to give me attention, and resists giving any to my brother. I have asked him numerous times why he doesn't go on a trip with my brother. His answer is that he doesn't think my brother would want to spend time with him. Since I've been back, I had lunch with my brother who told me that on his last 2 of 3 trips to Asia, he has asked my dad to come along, and my dad has decline. GRRRRRRRR!!!!! Why does he spend so much time trying to get close to me as I keep pushing him away, and not bother trying to get close to my brother when my brother invites him in, which isn't often, I admit????? I can't stand it!

Since I've been back, my dad has been trying desperately to reach me. And I don't want to talk to him. I am so angry. But, for the last 12 years or so, I'm always angry at my dad and I'm tired of it, but I can't let it go either. He called me the morning after I returned, but I was getting ready for work so didn't answer the phone. Then he called me on my birthday, and I didn't answer. Today he called me, but I was actually down doing laundry. It's only been 5 days since I've been back (I should mention that he's still in Europe.. he went to France to meet my stepmom who has relatives there). He sounded upset that he can't reach me and said he'd try again while they were still there. Yet, he hasn't tried to call my brother. Each time he calls he says what a good time he's had. Ok, I get it.. he doesn't have to reassure me 5 times already! Then, of course, I feel guilty for being angry. One friend said "so let him treat you like his favourite, why not?". But I can't. I know I can't change him, but I can't accept his behaviour and attention either. I'm tired of the struggle, tired of always being angry at him, but I don't know what else to do. I feel like a horrible child.

4 comments:

imfunnytoo said...

Everybody needs space...can't avoid that...

And you cannot *make* him give more affection to your brother than he has....

You're not a horrible kid. You just want balance in your relationship with him...and it seems like he's not catching that...

L said...

Hi,

I just found your blog off of Audacity's list of links.

I really can relate to this entry. I can't really give you advice (don't know what to do myself!) but please don't think you're a horrible child.

iknowhatchamean said...

I am having the same problem with my dad. He is visiting me and is sleeping in the living room of my 1 bedroom apartment. It's going on six weeks that he's been here. I've had it. I feel like he's my shadow. He tries to control what I do and is always home. Today he insisted to tell me which credit cards I should be paying and the other day, I came home to find out he did my laundry!! I was so steamed. I couldn't believe he went through my underwear and actually put them in the wash for me!! Talk about crossing boundaries. I am a grown women in my 30's. I do not like to feel like a child and I too need my space. I need privacy and independence. He is not going back to his city until 6 weeks from now, but I can't take it any longer. I feel like screaming and choking myself sometimes. In about a day or two, I'm going to find the courage to tell him to please leave sooner than later. I want my life back.

Anonymous said...

number one, I have a father that backs off way too much. I wish that he would care more rather than just let me do whatever i want. right now i am living with my grandmother, on my own choice, and i wish that he could sometimes be more like your fathers. some people dont realize how good they have it until its gone. dont you realize that this is your fathers love act? doing things for you and paying attention to you is one way to show that he cares. you guys should feel lucky.