‘I co-parent better with the grandfather than I do the dad’
Single mother Keri Knapp believes in sharing the parenting of her nine-year-old daughter with her former partner but, in practice, it is hard to achieve.
“I know it is probably sad to say but I have just kind of given up trying to involve [my daughter’s dad] in her life, because the more I try, the more he seems to back away,” she says. “I co-parent better with the grandfather than I do the dad. In a lot of ways I do feel that I am parenting with the grandfather.
“Any medical issues, I call him; parent-teacher meetings, I call him. Overall, if I need any kind of support, he would be the one I would go to.” She hopes this filters back to her daughter’s father.
An American, she and her former partner were in their early 20s when their baby was born. They drifted apart and she moved out of their Dublin home with their daughter when she was four.
“I just packed our things and left. We both knew it was coming; we weren’t on speaking terms, and even though we lived together we could go days without seeing each other.”
She and her ex did sit down together and discuss what time he would have with their daughter. With him working nights and their daughter in school, there wasn’t much chance for him to see her during the week.
The agreement was that he would take her weekends, alternating between one day and two days, she explains.
“He rarely upheld it. I would go to drop her off and he wouldn’t be home.” In practice it worked out that he would take her for a few hours one Saturday a month.
However, his now widowed father, with whom he lives, would take her about once a week. “He would collect her from school, have her overnight and then take her to school the next morning.”
Knapp, who has since had a second daughter whose father migrated to Australia, moved to Waterford with her two children in 2015. She was finding Dublin too expensive and felt it was very hard on her eldest daughter, knowing that her father was only 10 minutes up the road but rarely seeing him.
Change in maintenance
She applied to court for a change in maintenance and hoped that a new visitation plan would also come out of that hearing.
Her daughter’s father, who, she says, had no objection to them moving, attended court, and they agreed that she would lower her maintenance and that he would come down to Waterford every other weekend to spend a few hours with their daughter, and that they would negotiate separately about time during school breaks.
“It went well for a while; he was coming down. Some weeks I would, for a change of scenery, bring her up to Kilkenny where he would have her for a few hours.”
After a few months, he started missing weekends due to work engagements and he said he would come two weeks in a row, “which sometimes he did and sometimes he didn’t”.
However, he has always supported her financially, “and when it comes to Christmas and birthdays he has always done more, or beyond, what I do”.
The grandfather came down for one night after Christmas and he texts and phones their daughter nearly every day.
“That relationship is as solid as a rock – she loves her ‘pop-pop’,” says Knapp, who is also full of praise for her former partner’s extended family, describing them as “amazing people, you can’t fault them”.
Knapp no longer communicates with her former partner. Instead she is happy to keep in contact with their daughter’s grandfather, knowing her father can ask him for updates. He does know about events coming up in the child’s life, she stresses.
“I put them out there and if he wants to reach out and be a part of them, he can. But I don’t want her to witness me asking him and getting no response, because that hurts her feelings.”
While she believes in the importance of the fatherdaughter bond, she doesn’t know how much longer she can keep trying to maintain it without damaging her child.
“I don’t know if I can keep pushing it, or if I should just let it fade away, which it seems to be doing.”