‘I co-par­ent bet­ter with the grand­fa­ther than I do the dad’

The Irish Times - Tuesday - Health - - Parenting Challenges -

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.”

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