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Carolyn Hax: Daughters said they couldn’t visit, then vacationed nearby(ish)

(Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post)

Dear Carolyn: I have two daughters. I divorced their mother more than a decade ago and moved to Florida, while they remained back in Washington state. Over the years I have tried to maintain contact, with varying degrees of success. They have never initiated any phone or video calls to me, I have to do so, and the only times they have visited is if I paid for the trip. I have done so several times, including for them to attend my destination wedding to my current wife in 2019.

As covid has waned, I asked if they wanted to visit again, although at this point they would have to share costs (eminently doable, given what they earn). They repeatedly gave the excuse that they were too busy, that their work schedules could not work out. So imagine my surprise when I found out via social media posts they just returned from a week-long family vacation to a city only a six-hour drive away from me.

Their lie about not being able to travel hurts, but the fact they were that close and chose not to include me even for a brief visit is gnawing at me. I would have been willing to drive up to spend just a single day.

Am I too stupid to realize they do not want me as a part of their lives? Is this a passive-aggressive way to tell me to go away? Should I just consider them permanently estranged and go live the rest of my life as if I have no children or grandchildren?

— Feeling the Loss

Feeling the Loss: Maybe just live the rest of your life as if divorcing their mother and moving to the opposite coast had consequences.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

We don't even need to get into your reasons, which might have been excellent. I have no opinion there and come to everyone in this story — you, ex-wife, daughters — with only the information you provided. What it tells me is you took distancing actions and now, still, have to call your daughters and pay for their visits. Nothing about their vacation offers anything new besides the conclusions you're jumping to.

I could even argue no one lied to you. “Too busy” doesn't have to mean “for all travel ever”; it could mean travel in addition to whatever else they had scheduled. Which happened to have included a vacation.

And choosing to allocate their limited resources and days off for a vacation-vacation instead of family visits is normal behavior and doesn't mean they don't love the people they chose not to visit or include. At a location they may have regarded as nowhere near you, much less “that close.” Six hours!

So please stop. I understand why you're thinking the worst, but it's still fuel for a self-pity cycle. Stop doing that to yourself and to them. Instead, rewind your expectations to where they've been the last decade or so with your daughters, where your choices produced relationships that, while not super close, are still viable as long as you put in the work.

Why settle for that? Because that's apparently what they have for you right now.

This would be true regardless of context but we’re in a pandemic and context is therefore our version of The Force (surrounds/penetrates, 2 out of 3). So your daughters are working and raising your grandchildren and holding a lot together through it all and managed to wedge a vacation in there. Good for them. This may just not be the time to ask them for more — but, regardless, be sure not to do anything to guarantee their “more” never comes.

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