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Daddy’s Little Girl

Last May, my beautiful goddaughter, Sally, turned 1 and I was blessed to be included in this event. I have known said goddaughter’s mom ,Barb, since high school and we are the best of friends. One year prior to this event I was in the delivery room as Sally was born and stayed overnight until Sally and Barb were released from the hospital. Ever since I have been supportive of Barb and Sally in every way possible causing most of Barb’s family members to refer to me as the Baby Daddy (and yes I am female!)

Sally’s real dad, Mike, lives two states away but has (for the most part) been present for the special occasions including Sally’s first birthday. The day started nicely with lots of sunshine and family members on their best behavior. I had come early to help set up and volunteered to help Barb’s sister collect a few last minute items at the store. Mike spent most of the pre-party day in the basement putting together a really cute wagon/tricycle. The day moved on and it came time for cake cutting. Barb’s dad asked who would like to cut the cake as Barb was busy with Sally (still nursing).  I said I would as I have much experience doing so as my grandmother has worked in the catering business for 60 years and has taught me how to cut cake swiftly. Suddenly Mike says that he wants to do it as it is his daughter’s cake. I said okay would you like some help.

Now just a small tangent. Mike and I are not friends. He has annoyed me in the past and I was putting on my friendly face to deal with him. He has made several small comments in the past (and present) about my relationship with Sally and Barb. Barb and I are very close and have been mistaken for a couple on many occasions. We aren’t a couple but have been friends for many years and the fact that I watched her give birth has made us even closer. (I often joke that I watched her give birth and she didnt!) Sally and I are very close as well and I spend a great deal of time with her including her spending the night at my house.

Now back to the story at hand. Earlier in the day, Sally refused to come to Mike and screamed when he tried to pick her up. She ran to me and would not let me put her down. (This has happened before.) Now I don’t know if this had something to do with his attitude but he responded with a firm, “No.” I left it alone and since Sally was not interested in cake we began opening her gifts. I looked over to Mike cutting the cake to see him using his fingers to place the cake on plates. I approached Mike and said, “Hey, you shouldn’t touch other people’s cake. Its unsanitary.” Mike replied, “Stop being a germaphobe. My hands are clean. I just washed them.” My reply was, ” Its still unsanitary. Use a fork.”  Mike then shouted, ” Look I got this. Its my daughter’s cake.” At that point I threw up my hands and went to help with the gifts. As gift unwrapping ended Barb mentioned that it was late and I needed to get going. ( I had just finished graduate school and was going to a party held in my honor) As I got up Mike stated, “You not staying to help clean up?”  I replied (curtly), “No, I have a party.” Mike, “Well I see where your priorities are.” I did not reply and simply walked upstairs to exit the house.

Now I had already cleared my early departure with Barb and her parents. This party was being held in mine and 4 other girls’ honors but they had stated they were not going to start the festivity until I arrived. As I exited,  Barb’s mom asked where I was going and before I could answer her husband stated, “Her graduation party.”   I stated (to them only), “And plus I need to leave before I commit murder and get blood on your newly painted walls.” (Barb’s dad is a cop) They both giggled and said have fun at the party.

The holidays are fast approaching and I am worried that Mike will get the best of me and my friendly face will disappear. So I need some advice on how to handle a P.I.T.A barely there father who gets pissed at me because his daughter does not know him? Thanks! 1209-11

I’m afraid you won’t like my answer one bit.     By your own admission, Mike has made the effort to travel from two states away to be there for important milestones in Sally’s life.  We can deduce from your story that Mike is not persona non grata or some nefarious influence but is being invited into Sally’s mother and grandparents’ home to participate in his daughter’s life.  The fact that you mention there will be future functions where Mike, Sally and Barb will be in attendance indicates that Barb and her parents are extending invitations to Mike and apparently will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

You further mention that everyone in the family is “on their best behavior”.  Everyone but you, it appears.  You are the one who initiates the conflict.  When Barb’s dad asked who would cut the cake, and Mike stepped up to take on that task and Barb’s dad delegates that task to him.  Mike declines your offer of help yet you can’t help interfering with criticism on how he is cutting and serving the cake.   Neither the host or hostess appears to have a problem with how Mike is executing this so why would you think you had the authority to assume oversight as if you were the host of this party?   If you don’t want Mike’s fingers touching your cake, simply wait til he’s done cutting the majority of the cake and cut your own piece later or decline to eat any.   A piece of cake isn’t worth the angst you created.    And Barb’s parents’ giggles may have been nervous titters one does when confronted with a comment that was quite inappropriate.    You appear to have been contributing to the tension in the party.

When Sally refused to go to Mike, you should have kindly told him that this is a common phase in small children to have stranger anxiety and then worked to encourage Sally to get  more comfortable with Mike.   I view it as a positive that Mike was upset that his daughter did not want to come to him.   I don’t view it as positive that you seem to relish this.

If you love Sally, you will do nothing whatsoever to undermine her relationship with her father.   She will need her father and you are not her father.   You should have a common goal with Mike, Barb and Barb’s parents to pursue what is in the best interests of Sally.  Being contentious with Mike in Barb’s parents’ home is not in Sally’s best interests since it has the potential effect of discouraging Mike from attending future events in which it is quite likely you will also be invited.   If you love Sally, you will not only not undermine her relationship with her father but should be encouraging it as best you can.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Jennifer December 20, 2011, 12:39 pm

    I think what we’re articulating about the relationship being overboard is that it interferes with another relationship.

    I’ll give you an example – I have a best friend since we were toddlers. I may disagree with some of her dating choicess, but it is NOT my place to say anything. Unless a relationship is abusive or hurtful, you as a friend/parent/spouse don’t get to say how someone else’s friendships or relationships with family go. So if Barb decides to date Mike again, you really can’t say anything (unless there is abuse involved). My husband may have a buddy I don’t like or vice versa, but I don’t control my husband and vice versa (I like all my husband’s friends so this hasn’t been an issue). I may prefer my hypothetical kid play with Suzy at school rather than Bobby, but unless Bobby is dangerous or a bad influence, I can’t pick my kid’s friends.

  • Gracie C. December 20, 2011, 1:32 pm

    Wink-n-smile – I agree those are good ways to broach the subject if OP is worried that her friend has not thought about that and should (as ALL parents should). But your suggestion was: “If you want custody, in case of Barb’s death, then tell her.” You didn’t say “if the issue of guardianship comes up and you’d be agreeable to becoming Sally’s guardian, you should make that known. Likewise, if you wouldn’t want that, you should tell her that.” You basically told her to tell her friend that she wants (if she does) her kid if she dies. I’m sorry, but there’s no way around that being creepy. And if I had a kid and someone said that to me, regardless of how close, I’d be floored and more than a bit put off.

    That said – yes, people list guardians in wills all the time, in the event of the death of BOTH parents. Unless Mike has had his parental rights taken away, Barb can put down whoever she likes and Mike would still be given legal preference as Sally’s ACTUAL father. The courts have to approve guardians (particularly non family guardians) and they would not give Sally to OP unless Mike is proven to be an unfit parent (fingers on the cake won’t count). And even then, they might not consider her the best choice.

  • Rap December 20, 2011, 4:12 pm

    “In my “family” we include all those we love and cherish not just those we share a bloodline. ”

    Which isn’t a judgemental comment at all, OP. 😉

    I agree with the poster who noted how the story doesn’t seem to be staying the same. Mike doesn’t pay child support, he does but he works part time and got it to stop because he’s broke. Barb wants Mike involved with Sally, Barb only invites Mike to see Sally because the OP encourages it, Barb doesn’t want to be alone with Mike because he tries to to grope her.

    So let me give this piece of advice. If Mike is exactly as described, and Barb has full custody and does not have to allow Mike to see the child, then she shouldn’t. If Mike does want to see the child, and Barb wants to allow it, I can understand why he might not enjoy these visits with Barb and “the baby daddy” who clearly despises him (and OP, you do despise him, your cutting remarks about what a loser he is for being broke, living at home, groping your friend, being a deadbeat absent father make it very clear what you think of the guy). Based on your described behavior, you don’t have a lot of patience with him. Ignoring whether you may be too close to Barb, the fact is, you and Mike seem to clash and since this is about *Sally*, if you must be there, perhaps you should take a backseat role. You say you’re close to Barb’s parents… visit with them while Mike it there. He’s not likely to go away… and if you make visiting difficult or angry for him, he might a) just stop visiting since he has no incentive to be a parent under these circumstance b)might seek concrete visitation c)might start making his own demands on who gets to be around when he’s seeing his daughter.

  • Gracie C. December 20, 2011, 5:08 pm

    Reposting part of my comment as Wink-n-smile addressed some of what I wrote (feel free to ignore previous post, Admin)

    Thanks for the clarification Wink-n-smile. Your original post stated it as “If you want custody, in case of Barb’s death, then tell her.” which I interpreted as Barb striking up a conversation to ask for someone else’s kid.

    Yes, people list guardians in wills all the time, in the event of the death of BOTH parents, and yes, the listed preference is usually given high consideration. In this case, though, unless Mike has had his parental rights taken away, Barb can put down whoever she likes and Mike would still be given legal preference as Sally’s ACTUAL father. The courts have to approve guardians (particularly non family guardians) and they would not give Sally to OP unless Mike is proven to be an unfit parent (fingers on the cake won’t count). A father has rights as well.

  • MonkeysMommy December 20, 2011, 11:29 pm

    I think people are being unnecessarily hard on you, OP. I’ve had the kind of ex Barb does, and it certainly doesn’t sound like he’s father of the year by any means. I think the therapy comments are over the top. I don’t think being a good friend is a qualifier for therapy. Just ignore him as best you can!

  • Felis D December 22, 2011, 7:04 pm

    I just wanted to comment on the OP’s subsequent posts clarifying the situation (thanks for that, btw, OP!).

    First, the OP mentioned that Barb could block Mike’s visitation because she has physical and legal custody. No.

    Technically, she certainly has the ability to since the child is with her, and all she has to do is not open her door when he shows up. But legally? I don’t know whether it’s different in the States than here in Canada, but here, unless the non-custodial parent has proved to be a danger to the child, or physically neglectful, or unless the custodial parent presents evidence to the court that she feels threatened by the non-custodial parent, she legally cannot prevent visitation between the child and the non-custodial parent. Also, here in Canada, whether CS is being paid or not has no bearing on whether visitation is allowed or not.

    Secondly, Barb is quoted as saying that she feels unsafe when Mike around because he’s “trying to get back in her pants”. She does know that she doesn’t need to be there when Mike comes for visitation, right? My boyfriend and his ex have been split up since their daughter was 6 months old. Except for a few rare occasions, he usually takes the daughter somewhere on their visitation days. Given, it’s a little more difficult with Mike, since he is travelling in from 2 states away, but unless he is completely unsafe around children, a day out with dad isn’t unheard of. If Mike’s open to it, then it might be the best situation all around. If he’s not, and he only wants to be with the kid when Barb’s around, then that’s another story. And also, if Barb or her parents refuse to let Mike take the child out for a day to, say, a playground, a play centre or a museum/the zoo/etc, that’s also very telling — on Barb and her family, not on Mike.

    Finally, it’s great that you’re such a good friend and godmother. Barb and Sally are very lucky. But as in all cases of badly ended relationships and messy loose ends (insomuch as you can call a kid a “messy loose end”, she said, tongue in cheek), I’d be careful about getting too enmeshed in the aftermath of the relationship. And remember there are two sides to every story.

    I don’t know the situation, but I have been in a situation where I totally believed what a friend told me about being cheated on by his ex-gf (also a friend), and all the other horrible things he said she did to him. Came to find out after a long time of thinking the ex-gf had gone around the bend, that the guy had lied to me the entire time – he had been systematically getting her blacklisted amongst all their mutual friends. It wasn’t until I found out she had gone back to her parents’ and finally got in touch with her again that I knew what was going on – and that HE was the abusive one, not her. I wish I could say it was the only time this happened, or that it was always men, but unfortunately, it’s not. Another very good friend of mine was falsely accused of sexual abuse of his children and physical assault on her by a vindictive ex who would stop at nothing to ensure he had no relationship with his kids. She managed to get all her own friends to believe her. Only those of us who knew him well knew it was crock. Fortunately, that time, the law saw through her conflicting testimony. Many separated parents (custodial and non-custodial) aren’t so lucky.

    I am glad that you’re trying to help foster a good relationship between Sally and her dad though. If she is screaming when he’s around, just calm her down and distract her with something fun to do with her dad. Helped me and my bf a lot on visitation days when his daughter was afraid of him because of what the ex was feeding her about daddy being a bad man. Good luck.

  • Cat December 23, 2011, 3:22 pm

    OP, if you are indeed a licensed counselor, then you should be able to take this LARGE step back from your situation and view it objectively.

    From way over here, you do not sound close. You sound enmeshed. You also sound co-dependent. Volunteering to drive your friend to and from work close by is one thing. Her making her ex’s visitation conditional on YOUR agreement to come over and run interference is another. That you agree to this condition is yet another.

    Given what you have said, I would be very surprised if your friend has told Mike in definitive terms that she does not want to pursue or continue any physical or romantic relationship with him. I would be willing to bet that she demurs in much more conditional terms “my parents are here”, “let’s just concentrate on Sally”, “OP’s in the next room”, and “stop it” or “not now”. *Not* “Mike, I’m not going to get back together with you, or sleep with you. You’re in my life because you’re Sally’s father, and nothing more than that. That’s it and nothing more. Please stop trying.” She has options that you should be helping empower her to take on her own behalf.

    1) Telling *him* that he can visit but cannot stay in the same house with her unless he agrees to be there only as Sally’s father, and that he will not attempt to pursue anything else. Then telling him that if he violates this, he will have to leave immediately, and she will not attempt to help him find a place to stay, it will be solely up to him. He is welcome to visit and be in Sally’s life, and Barb will help make that happen as long as he respects her and her wishes for the relationship between him and Barb.

    2) Telling him to come pick up his daughter and go somewhere else with her. Barb does not have to be part of that equation.

    3) If she doesn’t trust Mike to be alone with Sally, asking her parents to facilitate by being there while she, Barb, leaves.

    There’s more – but that should be the minimum start, as a baseline. Not all this hesitation and wriggly arms-length juggling that you are participating in.

    So in your closeness, I would advise you to tell your friend that she can’t make her child’s father visiting conditional on your presence but that you will help her figure out ways to remove herself from the equation that do not rely on you creating the silent bulwark he is butting his head on.

  • Cat December 24, 2011, 1:17 pm

    Has anyone noticed that there are two of us posting under the name of “Cat”? It confuses me. I see something under “Cat” that I did not write. Maybe we should be Cat1 and Cat2.

  • TeacherAmy December 31, 2011, 10:13 pm

    I’m still in the midst of reading through all the responses and seeing if there’s anything salient to add, but I’d also like to point out something puzzling in the OP’s follow-up response. You indicate being “qualified as a licensed therapist” to make these assessments. As I’m in the same field, I’m a little confused by that as you’d mentioned heading to a party celebrating (well, honoring) your graduation from the master’s program. I wasn’t aware of any state that would license someone who was just graduating and likely hadn’t yet taken the exams to be a LMFT, LPC, MSW, or other related professional.

    The reason I point this out is that, if this is a stretch or exaggeration of the actual situation, it calls into question both the accuracy of your descriptions as well as your analyses of them. Does that make sense?

  • azazazaz March 8, 2012, 10:50 am

    I realize that this is probably a cold thread by now but, as someone who has just stumbled upon it, I wish to point out that toonces and Library Diva have made some good points. I don’t think that the OP should be judged harshly for her support. I feel that this is the sort of female bond that should be encouraged in our society. It used to be incredibly common but has in the last 100 years or so, sadly, petered out.

    For example, my cousin and I are good friends, we even look alike to some degree, but have on occasion been confused for a lesbian couple. I really don’t think it is the fault of the two women that society can’t think of them as close friends.

    I have stayed over at her home and she at mine. If she were to have a child and she wanted me there, I would certainly be in the delivery room. In fact, if I were not there for the few weeks after the birth my family would probably shame me for being inconsiderate.

    I can’t imagine not being there for any of my close girl friends. I only have one or two but that seems to be more than average nowadays. I have friends that I feel are closer than some of my family and they feel the same. Is this not the same for the rest of you?

  • Rap March 10, 2012, 4:27 pm

    I think there’s “being there” for a close personal friend, and then there’s my close personal friend refusing to allow the father of her child to see the child unless *I* am there.

    I think the OP’s heart is in the right place, but I also think this is a “she said/he said” situation where we’re only only getting the OP’s version of what the father is actually like. The OP’s description of the dad changed from reasonably favourable – ie he was reasonably involved, making an effort – to downright nasty – he’s a deadbeat paying no support and her close personal friend is afraid he will sexually assault her during visitation – as the feedback was less than positive.

    The family unit here is Barb, the baby, and Mike. “Baby Daddy OP” is not a member of the family and as described, Barb currently won’t let the father of the baby see the child unless Baby Daddy OP encourages it and *agrees to be there physically* to protect Barb – despite Barb’s mother and father also apparently being there. As described, right now this is a situation where the close personal friend is the deciding factor in whether a child sees her father or not. That, much more than the “People refer to me as Barb’s baby daddy” and “I even stayed with her in the hospital!” is the indicator that the OP is a little too involved.

    Personally I’d love to hear “Mike’s” version of this situation.

  • swagg_mama April 17, 2012, 9:12 pm

    Super late here, just reasing throught the old posts, and I feel like the OP is getting a lot of flack for stepping up to take a place that was, for all intents and purposes, empty. A previous commentor stated that it doesn’t matter whether Mike is a good or a bad father because he IS the child’s father, and that simply isn’t true. I’m not of a mind that a bad parent is better than no parent at all. I have a 2yr old myself, and though he has plenty of loving, supportive adults in his life, I never get the feeling that someone’s trying to oust me from my place. Because it’s not possible. Someone can’t take over a job that you’re doing or fill a seat that you’re already sitting in. The way I saw it, the OP is jokingly called ‘Baby Daddy’ not only because she’s been there for the duration, but because she’s filling a parent’s role that was LEFT OPEN.

    As for the cake, I see nothing wrong w/ asking him not to dole it out w/ his hands, clean or not. It’s unsanitary and rude to touch other people’s food w/o gloves or serving tools. Mike comes off as a petulant deadbeat.

  • Kate May 26, 2012, 9:12 pm

    Wow, people are really jumping on the OP. Between the defense of the father (about whom we know nothing) and the attacks on the LW (about whom we know nothing) and the language used, people are really getting emotionally involved, and not rationally involved. A letter a little too close to home, perhaps? Can we please just help the LW, who actually accuses the father of nothing, admits that she could have been more polite, and is asking for advice on how to be more polite and control her temper when he is around?

    On the less rational side, where does it say that the LW was happy about the daughter rejecting her father? Where does she chide him for living two states away? She stated it factually, with no adjectives involved. Any emotion read into it is yours. How can you say that she is “too involved” you don’t know her or these people. All you know is what she has written, in whatever mood she has written it. If you only have one person to help you, and they help you all the time, of course you are going to be close! We don’t know, also, what limitations the parents, for example, may or may not have that might make them less able to help. Perhaps the LW is the friend’s only source of help. Many commenters did not read the LW post in the comments, as well, I see. Talk about judging without information! I hesitate to point fingers, but the seemingly extreme and irrational response from normally reasonable people makes me wonder what about it hit home? Daddy issues perhaps, or even sexuality issues?

    I don’t know, and I’m not judging. Just as we don’t know the LW, and you don’t know me. Please don’t judge, either way, for or against the LW! And yes, I know this is an old post.

  • Kate May 26, 2012, 9:36 pm

    My last comment after reading a few more of these posts: Why do people think that forcing a small child to spend time with a bad father, who treats the child and her mother badly, is worse than having no father at all? Even after reading what OP/LW has written about Mike, saying that you believe her and he doesn’t seem like a very good father, you go on and on about how important it is that Sally have a relationship with him, spend time with him. Children aren’t stupid. As she grows older, what kind of example is that going to set for her? I understand wanting your kid to have a good father, but I don’t see any reason to pretend that he is better than he is. I have never understood telling a child whose parent (male or female) didn’t mean to miss a visit/birthday/holiday, that they are late/busy/stuck at work/in traffic. They know, they can tell when someone is genuinely interested in them, and she will know more when she is older. Telling kids things like the above only sets them up for more disappointment. I am not saying you should say “Daddy doesn’t love you.” Just that you shouldn’t lie. At all. If you don’t know why he missed the visit, say so. Say you’re sorry, but don’t lie, and don’t pretend.

  • Mouse November 15, 2013, 11:25 am

    This thread is cold, but I can’t help asking a question: where are Barb’s parents in all this? She lives with her parents. Why can’t she ask them to be there when Mike visits? They’re in a better position to step in since a. it’s their house and b. these are their daughter and granddaughter.