When my daughter was ten years old, I left my marriage and turned her life upside down. Sara was furious with me, justifiably furious.
Often, when she was at her dad’s house, I called to check in with her. Sara would come to the phone but not talk to me. So I carried on a conversation as if she were part of it, then told her I loved her and said good-bye.
I felt terrible, of course. Full of guilt and sadness and fear that I had lost my daughter forever. And I almost stopped calling more than once. Then I would pick up the phone and call and talk to myself. Eventually, Sara and I became friends again and she asked to live with me full-time.
She even thanked me for not giving up. “You called whether I wanted you to or not,” she said. “It was a feeling of caring, even if I didn’t care for you at the moment.”
So, now, when I hear an estranged parent talk about giving up on a child, I am quick to empathize—and also to say, “Don’t give up. Keep calling even if they don’t speak to you. Take my word for it. My daughter’s word.”