Mixed media on Arches Watercolour Paper – 185 gsm.
38cm (W) x 56cm (H)
Framed: Natural Timber and glass frame
A1 – 59.4 x 84.1cmx 3cm deep
Part of the series focusing on the tactics used by one parent in order to influence their children to reject their other parent during the process of parental alienation.
I found this old photo at the bottom of my drawer today. Me up high on Daddy’s shoulders on the way to day- care. He used to walk me every day and take me to the park on the way home. I remember, when I was older he taught me how to ride a skateboard and we’d skate to school together. He looks as if he loved me then.
I think I loved my daddy too, when I was little. But when Mum and Dad divorced Mum decided it was best
I lived her. And things changed. She taught me to hate my Dad. I confess that it almost felt good to hate him sometimes, because when I was on Mum’s team, when I would nd reasons to criticise him and be mad at him, it was one of the only times Mum would smile. She almost seemed gentle towards me when we were doing battle with Dad, she would do special things for me and be kind to me, and I needed that then.
I didn’t ever want to her to hate me the way she hated Dad, because it was scary. I missed him but I was being forced to forget everything that meant something, because it seemed to make Mum feel better if I just concentrated on how good my life was with her.
Sometimes I would drift off and think about how before the separation she had always been yelling at Dad when he came from work and how she would throw things around the house and threaten to kill him. She was so angry at him. I was so confused about whether those memories were real or not as Mum was always telling me all the good things she did and explaining to me why my father was garbage. My own memories got buried in the debris.
She would tell me over and over again how wonderful everything was now that Dad had gone and how lucky I was to have a Mum that did everything for me, who was willing to have to put up with all of Dad’s lies and abuse in order to protect me from him. I remember feeling like there must have been something wrong with me because I didn’t feel lucky. I felt alone and anxious.
I stopped mentioning feeling this way to my Mum. Every time we had a disagreement she would scream at me that I was just like my father. My dad had become a bad person who I could no longer love and I didn’t want to be like him. I would sometimes try to bring up a conversation with my mum about my dad but good memories were not welcome in our home. She would tell me not to defend him. Mum would turn my conver- sation into negative stories about bad things he had done or reasons why I was not with him. She would tell me that I hadn’t remembered things correctly or she would quickly turn the conversation to the things she did and said on that day.
We slowly erased Dad from our history and in time he became something else altogether.
There were no more big fat cuddles, silly conversations or ridiculous Dad jokes. No one to adore me the way that my Dad used to. After I while I forgot his smile and the way we used to laugh together. I forgot the way he put me to bed each night and would stroke my hair until I fell asleep. No one knew I have been cut off from my Dad. My Mum told me not to talk about it as it was no one else’s business. My memories and feelings were forced into a dark, remote place I couldn’t reach. People would ask me where my Dad was and I never knew what to say. I just felt guilty and ashamed that he wasn’t a part of my life. It seemed to make it easier if I could tell them it was because my Dad was a bastard. So I started to repeat the stories Mum had told me.
I would see other kids with their dads and feel a longing. For years Dad used to text me every night and ask to see me but Mum said I couldn’t because he hadn’t communicated with her in an acceptable fashion or he was only asking as a facade, to make himself look as he wasn’t the terrible parent that he actually was. In the end I used to tell my mum that I didn’t want to see him. It was just easier that way. Otherwise there would be weeks in the build up to his visits where Mum would be agitated and angry. She would spend days preparing me, telling me what I could and couldn’t say to him, reminding me of the terrible things he had done in the past (things she remembered but I didn’t), and telling me all the things I needed to look out for in Dad’s behaviour. She would give me secret signals to send in case there was ‘trouble’. She would write Dad loads of emails telling him exactly how our time should be spent and asking for his written agreement to do everything she asked. There were always ghts and she was so angry. I was so nervous every time I went to see him I would almost sit in silence. Frozen like a stone. When I got home she always wanted to know every detail of every part of the occasion, ev- ery word that was spoken. I learned it was easier to tell her anything negative I could think of rst – like Dad was 5 minutes late or Dad made me cry because he told me he really missed me and wanted to nd a way that we could see each other more often. Mum hated it when he put his feeling before mine but it sure made her happy to have something to write to him about to tell her how much he didn’t deserve to see his daughter.
In Mum’s eyes it wasn’t OK for Dad to tell me he missed me, she said it put too much pressure on me to pro- vide him love when it was me who he should have been thinking of. But Mum would always talk to me about her feelings when no one else was around. She would tell me things that children should not hear. Things that made me feel as I had to choose her side. She told me my Dad was having an affair. She told me his new girlfriend was not the type of person who could be trusted and she insisted that spending any time with her was dangerous. She told me Dad never loved her and was sel sh because he never appreciated her. She told me how Dad made it so hard for her to get the money we deserved and that she had to ght for us, she told me how Dad destroyed our family and didn’t care.
I know now that none of this was true. But it was all enough to make me despise my father at the time.
I realise now that my mother never gave me an opportunity to hear his side of the story. She was incapable of seeing any good in Dad at all. Everything he did was wrong. She never, ever agreed with anything he said or did. He was barely ever allowed to see me. He was not allowed to communicate with me directly. Everything had to go through her. On the rare occasion I did see him Mum would always insist on Dad that the visits were short and that there was someone there that could make sure Dad didn’t upset me. Mostly she liked to have another witness to report back to her. Mum used to spend a lot of time gathering her army of allies by always telling everyone all the terrible things Dad had done. If they didn’t come around to her way of thinking she stopped calling them.
I found the letters Dad sent me too. A few times he wrote telling me how sorry he was about everything that I had gone through as a result of the divorce, saying that he missed me and that one day he hoped I would be in his life again, but he understood that it just wasn’t possible now. Although he didn’t say it at the time, Dad knew that Mum wasn’t ever going to let me spend any time with him. She couldn’t bear the thought of me enjoying his company. The more he pushed the harder it was for me – the more pressure she put me under. So Dad backed off a little while Mum spent years creating delusions to justify her story that there was something wrong with Dad and that he somehow he had lost his right to be a parent. In her venomous cross re I lost my right to be loved by my Dad.
I am 20 now – still broken, confused, ashamed and lost. I see things a little more clearly now but before me lies a world of pain and suffering on the very long path back through the reinvention of history.