Basketball season has begun. My daughter missed the first game because she was out of town. In the second game, she made the tying basket and then the winning basket, so my concern about her abilities is not the problem. (And she played on an empty stomach, my fault, of course, and in sneakers that are too small for her, really my fault.)
For the first half of the game I talked to the mother of the triplets who would be going with her daughters and husband to see a play right after the game. (Speak of conflicted mothers, she had one daughter on each of the teams playing, and then one cheering them both from the sidelines.) Sitting or standing along the walls of the basketball court were fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers, grandparents, and friends. For my daughter, I was there. Now it was quite obvious that most of the girls did not have a mother and father watching the game because it was not so crowded; but neither did it mean that they did not have a parent off watching a sibling play his or her game or at some practice. It simply meant that most of the girls had one person in attendance, like my daughter.
But my daughter had me there remembering the last two years of basketball games. Two years ago after her team lost in the finals, ex (with whom my older daughter sat) called me a bitch when I walked over to congratulate her and he was standing by; and last year he didn’t attend a single game, not even the finals, which her team won. He doesn’t even have the excuse of saying that he can’t stand basketball, because that had been his sport. No, the man is such a mental midget that he can’t put aside his feelings of “having to see me” over his daughter’s desire (need) to have both of her parents there.
I know that there are many instances which cause me to regret having married him, but the hardest is to see what a horrible father he is to his younger daughter. He does not ignore my older daughter; rather he has made her into a sort of surrogate wife, which is just too creepy and upsetting to think about long enough to write a post about. But his virtual dismissal of this girl, this charming girl with the beautiful eyes that are so much like his is deeply, deeply damaging and surely must be the cause of intense heartache for her. And there is nothing I can do. Yes, I can be her cheerleader and her punching bag, which I am, but I can never make up for presenting her with a man who is so lacking in compassion, so unable to leave his mental kingdom long enough to nurture another.
During a time out I watched as the coach showed her a move, and then she must have asked him a question, to which he calmly responded. I was thankful that she has at least some positive male role models. That at least some men take the time to nurture their own daughters, and then extend the nurturing to coaching. Maybe she will see her father as one manifestation of a father and a husband, but she will have these other men in her life to think of as well. She has friends’ fathers, her grandfathers, her uncles, her coaches (although last year I was thrilled that it was a woman who led them to victory), her teachers. Please, please, I think, let her not accept a man like her father as the standard, as acceptable.
After the game we went out for lunch, then for ice cream. She told me about her week, told me that I am annoying, even that I was prying when I wanted to know what subjects her best friend was failing. We had a mother-daughter outing, and it was lovely. But I wonder if she would have preferred a father-daughter outing.