Children Singing

Photo by Keith Williamson

I was thinking the other day as my daughter was talking to me about a song in a musical that she and her elementary school classmates performed last month about what happened when I attended the event.

When I went to the crowded auditorium I knew her mother was there, along with her allies – friends of the family who my daughter thinks of as grandparents.

When she saw I was there in the audience she gave me a very intense look, a look exactly like the one that her “grandmother” gives me every time she sees me at a pick up or drop off. The look was so intense that it registered in an instant that this is not a look my daughter was giving me. The look she was giving was a signal to them. She was showing the expression she knew they wanted to see.

I have been blessed enough through what I’ve been learning about this dynamic that I was able to get that look and know in an instant it had nothing to do with me. It was about keeping her own comfort level intact. I believe she knows she can give me that kind of look and I won’t get upset or punish her for it. She does know if she looks at me with a friendly expression 3 of the people right now she spends the vast majority of her time with would get upset and there would be consequences.

It’s not about me.

As those more expertly trained than me in this field (and in my opinion common sense as well) would say, I am the adult and I am the one responsible for doing everything I can to let her know we’re OK, not the other way around. I didn’t need reassurances from her.

When she was with just me, and the subject of the school musical came up she was relaxed and reminded me about that song from the show. There was not a hint of upset that I was there.

It’s not about me.

In general, when I drop my daughter off at mom’s, I notice that she does not display any affection with me in front of her mother and in fact usually puts some distance between me and her as we approach the front door. Conversely, when I pick her up she displays what I would describe as almost theatrical displays of affection- along with many air kisses and “I love you mom”s as we go to the car. It’s my best guess that she’s doing everything she can to soothe mom because again, there will be consequences later if she doesn’t.

It’s not about me.

My experience so far has been that if I can just allow her to relax when she’s around and not put pressure on her to behave a certain way to make me feel better it softens the dynamic that mom is attempting to create. I know she’s young, and I am doing what I can can get the court to allow her more time with her father. It’s tough because the court system moves slowly and as long as mom keeps delaying things and making new accusations, it keeps delaying a decision from the court.

I don’t know if what I’m doing will stop things from getting worse if I can’t get enough help from mental health and the law, but I’m not giving up. I’m doing my best to take it one visit at a time.

Here’s what I am doing at this point:

  • Putting this information out there.
  • Doing my best with every opportunity I can find to educate people about Dr. Childress and Dorcy Pruter’s work.
  • Continuing to look and connect with other people who have had some or a lot of success minimizing the effects of Parental Alienation.
  • Writing my legislature.
  • Writing the APA.

It’s not about me.
It’s about all of us and all of our kids.