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Getting Worse Before It Gets Better - My Story So Far (Long Read)
#1
Hello all, my first attempt was published with tiny writing! Sorry about that. 

I will have another go... 

PART ONE:

It has become apparent to me that perhaps I should put all this to paper, rather than it swimming in my head like a bowl of spaghetti, with no timeline, no beginning, no end in sight. Perhaps the very notion of creating a diary of events would have helped me to understand the steps that I needed to take or allow someone far more intelligent than me to wade in and offer advice.

 
On the surface I would say that I have the perfect life. A beautiful, kind and caring wife who I love with all my heart. A life, perhaps, I should have always had. Happy and with a bright future.
A small, but beautiful home. Everything that we could ever need. Wonderfully decorated, exactly to our taste, and oozing with comfort and homeliness. (Is that a word?)
We have set up our very own business, away from the corporate eyes that dogged our past, exactly how we want it, and working by our own ethos and ethics.
Our private world has never been better. So why so glum?
Well... and here is where the complications begin. We both have kids from previous lives.
(Enter face-palm emoji here...)
Manipulated and used in a war of parents.
As a separated dad, I am not in the position of some. I see my children, biweekly as arranged, consistently. I pay more than the Child Maintenance suggested pounds and I have a fantastic relationship with my children. Open and honest where possible, and sharing many of the same comic wit and family values as expected.    
 
In a lot of ways I am very lucky. 
 
I suppose the best way to explain, describe and paint the picture is to roll back to the very beginning. 
 
There is so much that has happened and continues to happen that I am not even sure where the blame lies, or indeed if anyone is to blame at all. I have been portrayed as a monster, an abuser and a liar, and it feels like so many people believed it, there was nowhere to turn. 
 
Unfortunately, a turbulent history makes for a turbulent present.
For anyone out there who is a dad, separated from his children, it is a hard balance. You have little say in the way that they are brought up, although you are expected to "do your part". (Often translated into "pay your way".) When things are ok, they are ok. But when things get bad... there is genuinely no word to explain the hatred and evil actions that begin.
The children are used as a tool to wedge a gap between your life and your heart.
And so, here I am. Ready to document this. (Although I have an awful lot of backstory to tell.)
This will act as my story. A one sided interpretation of it all, biased to my own opinion and the feelings of me alone. I am not ignorant of the fact that this story would be told differently from the other side, I’m sure. 
Over the next (insert number of weeks/months/years here) I will try to write down exactly what has happened in the fight for my children, the child of my wife and the child we now share together.
I hope that my writing will be plentiful, and who knows, perhaps someone out there will find it interesting, in a truly voyeuristic way. The Germans call it schadenfreude. The delight in the misfortune of others. Whatever the reason... I only ask you to enjoy my rantings. I would not usually share this, but I have to tell someone...
And I've chosen you, reader.
 
 
Christmas 2016 I became a part time Dad. Suddenly living alone between working away and a tiny one bed flat. The main reason for this was my own stupid fault, and the kids knew all about it.
 
It exploded.
 
Christmas was hell. Returning to the family home to get through the festive season was possibly worse than not doing so. Ignored by her entire family at a Christmas party, and being demoted to the children’s room. Being thrown out by a best friend, loudly and publicly. Being told of each indiscretion she had made throughout our relationship, in detail. Being forced to explain things very openly with the kids. Some would say I paid for my mistake again and again. Some would say I deserved it. 
 
There were tears and shouting.
 
The kids were informed about everything, appropriate or not. 
 
At this point, I very bravely ran away and went into hiding. Abroad on the first flight. To work and to hide. I sent letters and tried to call. But the contact was limited to Mum. 
 
I only found out sometime later, but at this time, Mum took the girls to the courts to have my parental responsibility removed. This attempt failed. I don’t know the details. I was totally unaware. The children were taken to a "Court type person" (is how they later described it) to see if Daddy could be excluded from seeing them. Not surprisingly, this has never been spoken about.
 
And that was it. Just me for three months.
 
I tried to call - but they "did not want to speak to me." Three months of “Do you want to speak to Daddy? I know it makes you upset, you don’t have to…” and “Daddy’s on the phone again… shall I tell him you don’t want to talk because it upsets you?” 
 
I wrote letters - but they did not respond.
 
I text - I got no reply.
 
I whatsapp-ed and I was asked to stop.
 
The only contact I had was with their mother - who at the time was happier, better off, and "trying to help" me see the kids again. I was informed that the girls (at the time 13, 9 & 7) did not want to see me anymore and did not want to speak to me. At least for a while.
 
At this time, I received weekly, if not daily calls about the children and how they were not coping. I was called (in a friendly way) about any updates with school or home life and how they were being affected by this. I was informed about the extra measures teachers were going to, helping the children with their feelings.  
 
Finally I got a “Hi Dad,” from “Number 2”. She spoke candidly. Saying I was an idiot but saying she missed me. Would I pick her up after school? I readily agreed. My heart pounding. “Would the other two like to come as well?” The answer to which probably starts to show a character was (and I remember it so well), “They are just in so much pain right now. It will take them time to heal.” 
 
However, I picked her up, we went out. We had fun. I spent a LOT of money. And I took her home. It was amazing. 
 
And so it went on like this for a time. I was told what I could say, what I couldn't do and what I "must be careful about." But at least I got to spend time with her. Me and “Number 2” saw each other for an hour or so once a week. I lavished her with gifts, grateful for her requited love. I took her to a hair salon, for a picnic, to the beach and obviously to McDonalds. She enjoyed the time. She truly capitalised on the experience and cashed in the gains with intelligence way beyond her 9 years and we rebuilt the new father/daughter relationship that we have today. I promised her honesty and she promised the same. 
 
Now, the rest of this I don't necessarily remember in sync. Some of this may be out of order, but I will do my best to recall.
The updates about the others ‘mental state’ continued and at around this time I was informed by Mum that she would be taking the younger children to a local family support group who focus on helping children with separation. I was told that this was to help the children deal with their pain and developing anxiety issues, which I was totally behind. The sessions would be once a week, and that the group may be in touch with me in the future. Child 1 was not coping well and decided not to attend, child 2 was writing scathing poetry about Dad and child 3 (youngest) was going along for the ride.
I was contacted by “Number 2” one day after a particularly fun session where as soon as I picked up the call I heard, “Dad, we made play-do models of you and smashed them with rocks! It was so fun!” We talked for a while and her glee was apparent throughout the call ending it with words to the effect of “Am I seeing you this week?”  
 
At around month five or six, the youngest wanted to see me. However, with a proviso. Mum had to be there too. And so we were able to agree some short supervised visits with my youngest daughter. Mum would bring her and sit with her while I commenced some kind of normality with the children. As “Number 3” needed Mummy to be present, my visits with “Number 2” was included with this new format. 
 
The supervised visits now became a coffee in town with mum while “Number 2 & 3” joined. The visits lasted no longer than half an hour and were mostly once a week, sometimes managing a second.
 
I soon received a call from the support group asking if I would go in to talk to the main counsellor and I readily agreed. The conversation very quickly became strangely biased against me, where the gentleman questioned my actions and accusingly commented on the condition of the children. We chatted for a while and I stated a few facts and opinions of my own and explained the steps that I had been taking to rectify and repair. 
 
A couple of days later I received another call asking for my assistance in helping Mum – not the kids – Mum. He explained that he felt that some of these issues were being created because Mum was not coping and is projecting her issues onto the kids. Terms like “Daddy left us all,” were not positive in his discussions with her and he was flagging these. 
 
A week later – he was gone. A family emergency pulled him from his position and the counselling stopped abruptly. 
 
Despite this for a number of weeks our meetings continued. Food, coffee or just time in a park. Supervised at all times.
 
My eldest still had no contact with me. One day I had a call from social services as “Number 1” had reported that I had hit/beat her mother. When they next came back to me, information had changed hands and the truth prevailed. I hadn't. The allegations were false. 
 
A strange supervised visit occurred when I received a message asking if I would like to meet the kids from school. I agreed and it was suggested that we went for a brief supermarket restaurant “meal” as the girls wanted to see me. I arrived and waited and was surprised to see the two girls, accompanied by their mum who was in turn accompanied by a female friend and her daughter. I sat with “Number 2” daughter and we chatted, ignored by the entourage of school buddies. Shortly before it was time for them to up and leave, “Number 3” sat on my lap and hugged me. She had a strange look about her and seemed to want to ask me something. It was then that she very quickly and purposefully smacked me, right in the face. Mum seemed to think this was funny and they all shortly left, daughter “Number 2” looking back at me in an embarrassed expression. I never spoke about this event again. It was what it was. “Number 3” never mentioned it and has built her relationship with me ever since. She clearly needed this strange explosion. It wasn’t disciplined or discussed by anyone. 
 
We never had another supervised meeting. 
 
Soon after, probably month six or seven by now, I was having time with both “Number 2” & “3”. On my own. Usually McDonalds. I would pick them up from their mother after school and take them for some food. Then drop them home.
 
Mum met someone. 
 
My contact with her became more limited as expected and I was relieved. The daily calls and late night shouting (that still intermittently occurred)  became obsolete. 
 
I decided that I would try to build more with the children and asked if a daily call to them would be appropriate. She agreed that it would and each morning I would call them on their car ride to school. “Number 1” sat silent while the other two would chat to me on speaker phone, Mum interjecting where she felt necessary. 
 
And then it happened. I was finally asked to have the two younger children at the weekend. Just on Sunday for now from around 10:30 until 4pm. Mum said she needed some time to herself (something I had expected) and again I readily agreed. 
 
Over the early summer this continued and things were ok. There were a few moments but overall it was a good time. 
 
By the time we had got to the kids sports day, I received a text asking for assistance. The new chap had begun to “get weird” and would I join them for sports day, in case he approached (his children also went to the school). I went along, but stayed with the girls who informed me “Look that’s him Dad.” “I don’t like him.” “He’s horrible to mum.” And that was it. Nothing happened that I was aware of and he became a distant memory. There were a few others but mum was adamant that she would not make the same mistake of introducing the kids and we continued on. 
 
At this time I called the kids every morning. When I would drive the eight miles to work, I would call them and check how school was going and that everything was ok. I didn’t realise at the time that each of these calls was on speaker phone and that my eldest daughter was sitting in the car grimacing and flinching when I talked. These calls continued for some weeks until I received a call from mum stating that each call was upsetting the kids and ruining their school day. She understood that I wanted to talk to them but perhaps I could call when they got home from school later. Although this was more difficult due to my own work hours, I agreed and began a four/five o’clock call instead. It quickly became apparent that this was more difficult for the kids too as very often they were eating dinner or playing outside. I would ask “Can I speak to the girls?” And the varied response would be something along the line of “I’ll see if they want to talk to you.” More often than not I would hear them reply “No, thanks.” Mum would explain that it was really hard for them at the moment and I should just keep trying. The kids were apparently feeling pain and hurt by my actions and didn’t want to upset themselves by talking to me. Interestingly, when I did speak to the kids I would ask the paranoid, “Why didn’t you want to talk to me?” The answers of “I was with my cousin.” Or “I was on the trampoline,” soon made me realise the reality of each case.  
 
It is nothing to do with wanting to speak to me or not. It is actually because they are doing something far better. (At least in a child's mind.)
 
So I did a little test. The next time I called and asked the same thing.
 
"Can I speak to one of them?"
After a little time, the response came back the same.
 
"I'm sorry. They just don't want to speak to you. Give them time. They are still reeling from this. I've tried to get them to talk to you, I really have."
 
I'm at this point beginning to understand. The words are there, without a doubt. But as we know, what you say, and how you say it often have different outcomes.
 
"Dad's on the phone, come and speak to him please." Would probably have a different result than. "Dad's on the phone, do you want to speak to him?" Also adding phrases like "You don't have to if you don't want to." Will reduce the effect by a large percentage.
 
One day I had asked one of the two girls how “Number 1” was getting on. The main reason for this was a discussion that she was reacting badly to things and that she had become increasingly angry with me recently. I had, by now, not had any contact with her for around a year. “Number 2”, the fountain of all knowledge explained that she was happy now, because she really liked Mum’s new boyfriend. She immediately hushed herself after receiving a look from number 3. “We’re not supposed to tell you,” was the reaction. “Mum made us promise.” I explained that it was not relevant and did not matter. I certainly would not be grassing them up any time soon and lets just pretend it had not happened. They both seemed pleased with this, and we continued with our daddy/daughter time.   
 
It was around this time that I met my girlfriend. She had a son and we slowly met and courted away from the limelight of our families. I excitedly dropped hints to the girls to gauge their reactions. One afternoon I had collected the two younger girls from school, taken them to the toy shop for a non-committal browse and then to McDonalds for a healthy round of burgers, fries and milkshakes. We chatted and my phone beeped the text tone. I checked the message, presumably smiled and continued with our Father/Daughter catch up. Number two was astute and asked if I would get a girlfriend soon. I told her not to worry about that but she informed me that the two young girls had already discussed it at length and had a few provisos of their own. We sat while they went back and forth between them describing this fantasy woman to me. She had to be beautiful, that was important, but also really good at hair and make-up. Number 3 asked if she could have loads of shoes. “Number 2” asked if she could be funny. Number 3 asked if she could really like them. And so it went on until we got to the nitty gritty. Number 3, 8 years old at the time was perfectly clear… “She has to live in a castle and have a pet unicorn!” Right… The three of us laughed and joked for a while longer before it was time for me to drop them home. I kissed them goodbye and “Number 2” returned to speak to me briefly alone. “I know you have a girlfriend Dad. I can just tell.” That night their mother text me to warn me that they were very upset that I had a girlfriend and was lying to them.  
 
For the sake of biased ‘tit-for-tat’, I should interrupt myself here and state that the kids mother had by this point had a string of short term failed relationships, and the kids had met them all. In fact, the children talked about each of them. Mostly negatively, but quite openly. 

To be continued...


PART TWO:

My new girlfriend and I discussed meeting the kids. It was a big thing for us both but we had progressed quickly and positively so thought it was time. Firstly I met her son. His relationship with his mum and dad was ok if a little disjointed. His mother cared for him most of the time with Dad flitting in and out if he wasn’t too busy. He donated nothing in the way of maintenance money, and when he did “babysit” more often than not he was at work so left the son with a girlfriend or parent or friend. 
 
In all honesty I probably resented the son at the start because I wanted to spend time with his mother. I would hope that it is a natural reaction. The boy was 8 and so had firm relationships and a lifestyle that my existence imposed upon. He talked about his dad a lot. Had no memories of his mum and dad together. And it would take him almost half a week to get Dad out of his system anytime he returned from his care. However, over time we bonded. We bonded strongly. Now I am his father when he is with us. And his mum’s husband when he is not. He has adapted well. His Dad has him more consistently now, although still rules him with the iron fist of a draconian disciplinarian. The boy flourishes and has learnt to adapt his personality to the parent he is with. His Dad has some odd ideas that I certainly don’t agree with, feels that he has a natural right to his child’s love and constantly tells him he is rude when he has an opinion. But I’ve known him for years and never liked him, so I am very biased. I tell you this merely to set the scene and to differentiate between the relationships to come. 
 
I decided that I would speak to Mum and inform her that I was going to introduce my girlfriend. I desperately wanted the children to meet her as were now practically living together. However, I was reliably informed that the kids were just not ready for that.
 
And so, I decided to ignore the warnings. 
 
My excitement was too much to bear and I made a telephone call that week to “Number 2” & “3”. I asked for privacy, and I was taken to a different room to complete my call. (Rather than the usual speaker phone conversations.) I explained that I had met someone and I would like them to meet her. “Number 2” was excited, saying “I knew it!” and asking me questions about her, bubbling with enthusiasm. “Number 3” was a little more reserved, although curious. 
 
Announcing that I had met someone now drew out the official announcement that Mum had a new boyfriend. I was informed that the girls liked him. From what I could gather, he spent a lot of time at their house and they were all developing a positive relationship with him. He was fun and treated them well. I was genuinely pleased that the attention was off me and while the girls remained happy we all began to concentrate on our own futures. 
 
By now I had begun to build a really good relationship with girlfriend’s son and things were going well. Although his Dad, realising that this was serious, was making it abundantly clear that he had “a right” to see him more and I was not his father. Something that we had never questioned. The decision to see his son suited my girlfriend and he was allowed further access by agreement. The son seemed happy and was also being lavished with gifts although the time was still mostly spent with Dad’s girlfriend, due to working hours. 
 
I asked mum at times if “Number 1” was doing ok, and I was informed that actually she was far better, forging a relationship with the new man, but still being very verbal of her hatred for me. She had no interest in meeting with me or talking to me, and though I tried to text her from time to time, I was always met with either silence or a tirade of abuse. At the age she was, around 14/15 at the time, I knew that it would take time. 
 
Perhaps now would be a good time to explain the background of “Number 1”. I met her when she was 14 months old. She called me by my name at first but within a year or so, she started to call me Daddy. It was a shock as no one had ever suggested it to her. It was a decision that she had just made as a young toddler. I became her Dad very quickly and we had a strong relationship. Possibly at times I overcompensated for her. Knowing that one day she would learn the truth, we stayed honest with her, informing her of her other Dad. He had nothing to do with her, and by the time that she was three, we began the process of a legal adoption. The court date was when she was four years old, and her biological father never fought for her, negating his parental responsibility as soon as financial responsibility was discussed. He had another daughter 6 months younger than her, and was happy to remain within that family. Within a year or so he had left and moved north alone. During the adoption procedure we spoke to him once, and that was the end of it. 
 
The conversation of her biological father had started up again during everything that I am writing about, and I had received a few hate filled messages from her telling me that she would meet him and he would be a better father than me. I allowed these to slide, understanding how rejected she currently felt with Mum feeding lines like “Daddy left us.” 
 
Finally it was time. 
 
I collected the girls, alone, and we went to one of their favourite places. Armed with bags of 2p pieces, we would go to a local amusement arcade. There was a lot of excitement in the car until we pulled up to the car park, and I stated, "I have invited my girlfriend along so you can meet her." They were understandably nervous. 
 
In fact, there was widespread panic. Youngest was adamant that she did not want to meet her, and middle one was looking around asking "is that her Dad?" “What about her? Is that her?” 
 
And so it happened. We got out of our cars, and I introduced them all to each other. My girlfriend with her son, myself and my two younger daughters. It was almost instant. Within 30 seconds, the awkwardness had vanished.
 
The five of us together pushing money into the machines, laughing and joking. My youngest followed my girlfriend around, chatting and playing the machines, whilst middle daughter, son and me played others. The day went so well that it ended with an ice cream, my girlfriend and I hugging on a bench, while the kids chatted together and ran on the beach. It was such a perfect start and after dropping the kids back home, I returned to my girlfriend and her son who were talking about how much they enjoyed the day. 
 
The following day I received a text or a call (it has merged into one now) stating that the children had been upset all night with the situation and that they had felt forced to meet my new lady. It was unfair of me to push these things on them and that they were too young to deal with this extra pain. I felt awful, sure that the day had been positive. However, mum was adamant that the children were thoroughly heartbroken. 
 
Again I will interrupt myself here. At the time of our separation Mum and I had a mutual understanding about finance. Put very simply we sold a house and split the profit 50/50 (despite the deposit being supplied by my parents, both sides had contributed through hardship, so it seemed reasonable.) I decided, without the assistance of a maintenance scheme that I would contribute monthly. I was employed and worked out, using the government web page what was about right. So I added a little and set up a standing order. This had been consistently leaving my account for around a year and a half without problem, despite my being made redundant and being out of work for 5 months, I continued to pay. When I got another job, I changed nothing and allowed the money to leave my account on the 2nd day of each month. We will come back to this subject. 
 
I decided that I would push forward with the relationship between my children and my girlfriend. As we were now living together, with her son I made sure that the children were aware of her all the time. They chatted to her and were more than pleased (or so it seemed to me) talking about her and telling me how nice she was and how beautiful. It was not long at all before the girls had said "I love you" to her, and she was plaiting their hair, playing dolls with them and cooking their dinner.
 
Things are going really well. For a time at least it seems that we are progressing. “Number 2” calls me during the week in preparation for her weekly visit and asks if she can stay over. She would come over on Saturday, and stay for two days. I was so happy and I prepared for a longer weekend. At this point I would love to say that this was the beginning of a better situation, but sadly it was not to be.
 
Her first attempt ended at midnight. She could not do it. I drove her home – in her pyjamas. 
 
She did not try again for a month or two, so for now we had the kids every Sunday. 
 
“10am until 6pm... wait...”
 
“4pm I need them back at 4pm...” 
 
“5:30pm is fine but can you feed them...”
 
“7pm in the holidays...”
 
“Actually 8pm...”
 
“Actually I need them back at 6pm...” 
 
“It's a school night so I need them back at 5pm...” 
 
“Can you just tell me when you are bringing them back?”
 
“6pm I need them back at 6pm every week.”
 
This sleep saga continued and developed. Finally it was requested that I have the girls for longer than my 5/6 hours on a Sunday by Mum who now wanted her own time. I was over the moon and we all made plans for both girls to sleep at my house. They would be dropped off Saturday morning after gym and theatre groups and they would stay with me until Sunday night. Obviously I was thrilled although cautious. The girls were dropped to my parents, as I was at work and spent the day there until I collected them at around 4:30pm. We travelled to my house where we had planned an evening of movies, popcorn and chocolate fondue. My girlfriend, her son, myself and the girls crammed into our small flat and very much enjoyed each others company until bed time. It was then that all hell broke loose. The girls refused to stay. Cried a lot, playing off each other. And I drove them home. 
 
Sometimes they would return to me on the Sunday, but often they would remain at home after this as it continued. Each week trying my hardest to get them to stay but each time reverting back to seeing them for one day. Sometimes there were strange explosions of tearfulness from the girls during the day as they anticipated the night, and I would take them home even earlier. The very final time before this improved, my youngest decided that enough was enough. She went to bed and went to sleep, stating “If she won’t stay and you have to take her home, can you wake me up please, but I’m fed up of it and I’m going to sleep.” Needless to say, “Number 2” wobbled and I took them both home. However, this small event caused them to discuss it between themselves, deciding that next time they would both help each other through. 
 
It had now been about a year and a half since the beginning and I had now been told that my eldest wished to revert her name back to mum’s maiden name. She was intending to meet with her biological father and was happy building a father/daughter relationship with mum’s boyfriend. It was very hard to take, especially when coupled with “She wants to un-adopt you.” It made me hurt and angry but I continued to ask if she wished to talk to me, and bought her gifts at birthday and Christmas. I knew that the process would take time, and I felt that I understood her feelings of rejection and loss. However, one evening when I took the younger two home, after being with me one Sunday, she rushed out of the house. She ran straight at me and I steadied myself for a punch in the face. She threw her arms around me and we stood in an embrace for about 15 minutes. I whispered I’m sorry, and she whispered I love you. We just hugged. The relief that I felt was unfathomable. The pain of the last year and a half washed away as we both cried and held each other. Once she had finished she made a horrible comment about my ugly shoes, and went inside. Mum seemed pleased although shocked by this and explained that it would all take time, but it was a good start. I drove home completely elated. 
 
The next time that I took the girls back home, I asked if I could see my eldest. The answer was unexpected and to this day I feel anger toward it. I had asked if mum could call her and tell her I was here. “She’s fragile at the moment.” Was the response. “Ok, well can I go in and give her another hug?” I asked. Mum then replied “I don’t think that is a good idea. What if she says you touched her?” 
 
And PAUSE. 
 
What? Back up…. 
 
I asked exactly what was meant by that, and Mum explained that my eldest might say that I touched her inappropriately. 
 
Woah… What the hell? 
 
“Who cares.” I got angry. “You will be there, and you can say I didn’t.” We argued. Loudly. Needless to say, I did not go in. Mum did not call her. And that became the only time I would see my eldest for further year.
 
It was at this time that “Number 2” began to suffer from insomnia. Her sleep patterns, I was informed, had become totally disrupted and she would remain awake all night. This was causing havoc within their household and it had been reported to the mental health service. We awaited the referral. She explained to me that she found the night more peaceful, and liked the time to herself. 
 
The girls finally came to my house, adamant that they would sleep the night. They had planned how it would be achieved and discussed it together at length. They got ready for bed, washed, brushed teeth and asked for a variety of lights to be left on. I joined them in the bedroom and they asked if I could do one of my stories, but not the Scottish one. It was something that I used to do. Instead of reading them a story I would tell them a story from history. Henry VIII, Hercules, The Queens of England and William Wallace. I would animatedly and excitedly tell them the stories, full of blood and war and they loved it. However, my Scottish accent had caused nightmares for about a week. I quickly looked up a tale from history, and we talked. It was around 9pm when they went to sleep and I tentatively went to the living room to find my girlfriend. “I think we have done it.” I said. “Don’t jinx it!” She replied. The following morning I had two very excited young ladies. The youngest had joined us in our bed and was now watching television, with the middle one talking at a million miles per hour saying how happy that she was. “I can do it now.” She said. “Now we can stay here whenever we want.” 
 
And they did. 
 
We now had the girls every Saturday for the night, and we would spend Sunday day time together until around 6pm, every weekend. 
 
The next time that I would speak about my eldest was when Mum informed me that she was now in contact with her biological father. He would be travelling to meet her and they would be rebuilding their relationship. He had last seen her five days after her 2nd birthday, and she was now coming up to 16 years old. I was dubious of this but had no say in the matter. It was what it was and I had no choice but to accept it. However, there was a part of me that hoped that he would be what she was looking for and her replacement of me would be a positive experience for her. At the same time, I was then informed that my eldest had begun secretively self harming. Apparently she was stealing blades from around the house and carving her arms and legs. When approached about this, Mum was told that it made her feel better, in control and letting out her anger. Although Mum had not told me straight away, she had quickly referred her to a local mental health service.
 
Shortly afterwards Mum informs me that “Number 2’s” insomnia was becoming unbearable at home, (although non existent at my house), and she is also being referred to the mental health service.  
 
 
So just to recap – I now have two daughters referred to a mental health service, one for self harm and the other for insomnia and anxiety. The two younger girls stay at my house every weekend for Saturday and Sunday, and I have seen my eldest once in two years. My eldest is building a relationship with her biological father and still won’t talk to me. I live with my girlfriend and her son. The girls live with Mum who has a boyfriend. 
 
Believe it or not, that was the easy bit.
 
To be continued...


PART THREE:

At this point I realise that I am 6000 words in but only about two years. I appreciate you reading this far. This might be a long one. I am also becoming more aware of the mistakes that I made as I write - places where I could have done more. Perhaps places where I should have involved the courts, but I still want their Mum to do right by them. 
Despite the new mental health service involvement, (it seems laughable) everything seemed to calm down in the next months. 
 
At this point, money had become an issue. Having discussed the payments with my girlfriend, I realised that I was paying way over the odds for what I was earning and this money was now needed in my home. It had also become apparent that my money was not necessarily going where it should as I was receiving requests for extra. Mum was now expecting me to pay for school uniform, shoes, swimming lessons, mobile phones and various clubs on top of the monthly figure that I was giving her. I carefully approached the subject after working out a new figure using the government website. The figure was almost half of what I had previously offered, so after explaining this, I offered two thirds. I also explained that I would still keep an extra £100 per month for emergency if needed, but the money that I gave her was for all of these things generally speaking. 
 
The next time that I saw the children, they asked why I wasn’t giving mummy any money anymore. 
 
When I explained that this was not the case, they asked why they were now put on financial help at school. Mum was now claiming to the school that she needed financial support as I was refusing to pay maintenance. At the time, I disregarded this, assuming that the children had heard incorrectly, but I assured them that I still gave mum money, standing order each month. 
 
Mum’s relationship had broken down. The boyfriend was not as expected and left. I knew that this meant more contact for me, and possible anger pointed in my direction again, but I was now getting better at ignoring it. Our messages were now mostly by text, and very carefully worded on both sides. At this time Mum was studying child psychology/social care, a fact that will become relevant as the story continues, so the messages became slightly more “educated” or “in the know”. Luckily, I did not have to wait long, and mum had a new chap. 
 
And now it was decided that the kids must stay the night each Saturday. Whether they want to or not. (There had been times when the kids had decided that they wished to stay at home, but this was no longer an option.) It was also suggested that I had the kids for a dinner one night in the week. The girls made some comments about Mum needing time to go out and “drink” with the new guy, but these were quickly squashed. I was happy as I was able to see the girls more consistently and we continued on temporarily.
 
It was not long before my girlfriend suggested that perhaps we were beginning to lack time to ourselves. We worked all week and then had the girls every weekend. Our relationship, which was still also in quite early stages was beginning to suffer now that the kids had returned. After some discussion and her highlighting my obvious guilt and the fact that Mum was now using us for a babysitting service when it suited her, I agreed to approach the subject. After an argument, and the kids asking why I didn’t want to see them anymore (a prompted response I guessed), it was agreed that every other weekend, would include Friday after school until Sunday night. That way, as I explained to the girls, I would have them the same amount as I did before, but we could spend the whole weekend together.  Initially this was not met with Mum’s approval, as she believed that she “deserved” that time to herself. However we remained strong, and this is still the arrangement to this day. 
 
It was approaching the eldest’s 15th birthday and as usual I had prepared a basket of make-up and other items as a gift. As usual I was expecting the gift to be placed in a cupboard or sold to the highest bidder. However I knew that I must continue to do this, for my benefit as well as hers. This time when I had delivered the gift, and offered my verbal and mobile text, Happy Birthday, eldest came out to thank me with a non-committal “Cheers.” Progress indeed. 
 
I later found out that on the night of her birthday, she and two friends had camped in the garden and shared 70cl of Vodka – in a “controlled party environment.” This controlled environment consisted of the girls camping together, drinking until they were sick, and one of the girls being returned home due to her excessive alcohol poisoning. I was not told this until months later. 
 
Three months later, I proposed. 
 
She said yes. 
 
The girls were so excited and began planning their attire for the big day. Would they get dresses? Could they be bridesmaids? Would they make a speech? I told them that we had planned to go to away within the UK and that they would come too. They were so excited. “Will we be with Nanny? What are we going to wear? How long is the drive?” When they stayed with us, they talked to my girlfriend about hair, make up and beauty products for the wedding. They spoke about what they would wear, and if they would match. My girlfriend warned me, “Don’t get too excited, they may not come.” 
 
What nonsense! 
 
Or so I thought. 
 
When it came to planning the wedding, we were unsure whether or not the girls would be coming, as questions had been asked and comments had been made. So we left it as long as we could to ask. Obviously, planning a wedding away from our locality meant hotels, and travel expenses had to be thought about. About a month or so before the day, it was decided that the girls would not come. Mum had suggested to them that they may get scared or fearful being away from her, and that they would not be able to return at the drop of a hat. Instead, she would plan a “special” day for them to take their minds off the wedding itself. I was heartbroken. Mum assured me that it was all in the best interests of the children, and they quickly stopped talking about it, ignoring it as if it wasn’t happening. 
 
However, around the same time, my eldest turned up. As if nothing had ever happened. “Hi, Dad. Can I come today?” The whole thing was momentarily awkward, I introduced her to my girlfriend, and we spent the afternoon together. We walked along the beach, me, my wife and now four kids. Everything was normal. Just a family together for the afternoon. And that was it. My eldest just… came back. No questions. No apology. Just came back. 
 
Before long, she had changed her surname back to mine, was seeing me regularly, and texting daily. It was as if the last two years were just a blip. We eventually talked at length, trying to catch up on the lost two years. She told me about her issues with self-harm (which she still did now and again) her problems at school, her job, and life at home. She spoke candidly about her biological father and the relationship she now had with him, and how nice he was, his family and her new siblings. Her relationship with my girlfriend was ok, but strained and sometimes forced on both sides. But I didn’t care. I had my daughter back and at this stage I was oblivious to what else was going on. 
 
The problems started now in quite a major way. 
 
One day I had all three with me, and on the way home we had travelled the long way around. We had a chat and really took the time to clear the air. The girls all explained their problems to me. A few things that upset them, or they were unhappy with at home. We discussed how my actions had made them feel, as well as how actions at home had made them choose mum. They explained that they had sometimes felt forced to choose, or that they felt they needed to protect mum. All things that I understood and did not blame them for. They asked me if I would help them to talk to mum. They felt that she had become unapproachable and they needed me to initiate a conversation so they would not get “shouted at”. They explained that they wanted to be honest with how mum made them feel at times, tell her that verbally complaining about me to them had to stop, but she refused to listen. Rightly or wrongly, I agreed. 
 
Arriving to drop off the girls, I asked Mum if she would come outside so she could speak with them. I spoke openly about what they had said to me, and suggested that she listen to their feelings. At the time I believed that I was doing the right things, but things very quickly turned sour. The youngest was sent into the house and the argument began. Number 1 and Number 2 both backed each other up, as Mum shifted the blame to their bad behaviour. Mum explained that the kids were manipulating everything to suit themselves, she was red faced and shouting. Number 2 was crying, telling me that Mum never listens, while Mum erupted again and again. Number 1 had turned on her heels and was now sat in the car, refusing to get out. Eventually, Mum’s boyfriend came out of the house. Telling me that I was a mild swear word, telling Number 2 to get in the house, and shouting at Number 1 that she was a “manipulative C-Bomb.” He was immediately dragged into the house by Mum. Who said nothing to us at this point. Number 1 was just coming up to 16 years old. She sat in the car, besides herself with tears. And I took her home to my house where she stayed for a few days until things were resolved and she returned home.  
 
After this incident, there were many more. I had now become more involved with daily phone calls and complaints on both sides. Number 1’s behaviour was “spiralling out of control”. The way she spoke was “disgusting” or “vile”. She had no respect for Mum’s family, treating her cousins, sisters, aunt’s and uncles with contempt. (Behaviour I never saw.) She was consistently cutting herself or threatening to do so (again not behaviour I witnessed) and Mum could no longer deal with her. She continued to see a counsellor with the mental health service, and was now “diagnosed” at least by Mum, as Manic/Depressive. Phone calls ranged from “school have called again,” to “She’s had an argument at home.” Each time discipline ranged from a simple screaming match, to removing her pocket money, with at least one threat to “Board Up the bedroom door.” I would drive to them to try to appease the situation, each time meeting with “Boyfriend is dealing with it, don’t worry.” 
 
When I could, I spoke to Number 1 and tried to find out the issue. At nearly 16 years old, she could not explain eloquently, but the general information was a selection of; previously bullied at school so had now turned into a bully, hated Mum’s boyfriend, blamed Mum for her strained paternal relationships, liked the attention, had lost attention due to new man, was expected to be a parent to the younger two but only when it suited the family etc. I tried to help her and to teach her that these things can either be remedied where necessary or there were better ways of dealing with things. However, the various dramas continued to fall at my door. 
 
Number 1 was seeing someone within the mental health service weekly, and her schooling had now become a total disaster. She had developed a bad attitude, swearing at teachers and disrupting classes. The school had had no contact with me until now, having labelled me as a “Non-Contact” parent. Despite parental responsibility, the school repeatedly “forgot” to take this off their notes, meaning I received nothing but a school report each year. I had asked the school to report to me, where relevant, any issues, so that I could assist. However,, within two years I received one phone call, and it was by accident. 
 
She had broken another child’s mobile phone, possibly on purpose. The school contacted me, via a new teacher who did not realise that we did not live together. I passed on the message to Mum and received regular updates from her about police involvement and steps the school would be taking to discipline. After this the school resumed a radio silence. 
 
When Number 2 started to follow suit, Mum suggested a “pattern of learned behaviour” I became even more involved. Every time my phone would ring, it was Mum reporting their dreadful behaviour. Smoking, swearing and fighting became the norm. The phone calls that I would receive ranged from “I don’t know what to do,” to “It’s because of the hurt you caused.” My girlfriend and I continued to take these in our stride, speaking to each child individually where necessary and offering a place to stay when things erupted at home. They both would appear at our door or call to be collected and phone for help on a regular basis. This started to affect everyone and everything, with my parents becoming involved and my girlfriend’s son becoming confused and upset. It was a tough time, and the expectation for us to handle the situation on behalf of everyone became a difficult cross to bear, affecting work and personal time. My managers would talk to me each time the girls turned up to sit in my office, refusing to go home to their Mother.  
 
The day finally came, and we eloped to be married. Accompanied by around 25 of our closest friends and family we had the most fantastic time. My eldest had asked to join us, but it was too late to alter the plans. Instead she had written a short piece for me to read at the speech. It thanked my new wife for all she had done so far with my youngest two, and said that she looked forward to getting to know her properly. On the day itself I felt sad the kids had not come with us, but tried not to show it. It was after the honeymoon that my wife explained how distant I had been in the month approaching the big day. I had been all consumed by the drama with the children. I had not concentrated on the wedding as I should have done. I was so happy to have my eldest back that I had over compensated and forgot everything else. My wife had been hurt by this, but moved forward as only she can. She continued to support me and the kids, inviting them to our house and being their friend. Support that I never even noticed at the time. A testament to her as the wonderful person that she is. A day after the wedding I facetimed the kids to show them where we were. My guilt, my wish for them to be there with us all overtaking any other emotion. Mum decided that she would appear on the facetime to offer her congratulations to my wife. It was sickly sweet and forced to make a point and caused the conversation with the girls to be cut short This was not lost on my wife. 
 
A month or two later, I was beginning to watch a film with my wife as we had experienced about a week of calm, when a call came in. In whispered tones my eldest said “Dad, I need you help Mum is going mental at me.” I responded in a way that I was now accustomed saying that if Mum and her were arguing then they needed to sort it out. I couldn’t keep running to her aid because of a tiff. For the following three hours I now spoke to number 1 and number 2 with interjecting calls from Mum. The basic premise of the event is that 1 & 2 were having a row with Mum. I still am not sure what it was about. The argument escalated. Mum’s boyfriend had called the girls names including a C-Bomb or two, and told hem to “F Off and live with your Dad.” Number 1 felt that she had been told to leave, something that Mum now disagreed with, saying that boyfriend hadn’t meant it. Number 2, now beside herself and trying to back up her sister,  had been sent to her bedroom, and finally Number 1 had enough and left. Mum sends text to me saying that if she doesn’t reply to her then she will call the police and report her missing. I called Number 1 to find out where she was or where she was headed and a short conversation later I was informed that she was on the way to a friends who had agreed to take her in for the night. I text mum that information, and feeling relieved restarted the film. A matter of minutes later and Number 2 was calling again. 
 
I cannot be sure exactly what had happened, but Number 2 called me in tears explaining that Mum’s boyfriend, Mum and a next door neighbour were now tracking Number 1 on her phone. (I found this out later, this is a real thing apparently). Mob handed they had left the house, leaving Number 2 in her room, and were driving to where Number 1 was. I quickly called Number 1 and suggested that she needs to remedy the situation by calling and informing everyone that she is safe. While I was on the phone, I could hear a disturbance in the background, and then “Dad, they are in the house…” A huge argument with lots of shouting ensued while I was on the phone. I said nothing, just helplessly listening in. Mum was shouting, Number 1 was belligerent, and now next door neighbour was shouting very aggressively. Suddenly mum was on the phone, talking to me demanding that I assist with the situation. I suggested that everyone calm down as I was still unsure of exactly what was going on. Then the next door neighbour took the phone. A tirade of abuse was shouted at me, while interrupting himself to tell my daughter that “Your Dad, doesn’t love you.” He swore at me, shouted at me and explained aggressively to my daughter that if I cared about her, I would be there helping. At this point, about 4 hours from the first call, I hung up the phone. 
 
I never really knew the full details of that night, only versions of events told by each bias, but the following day I found out that there had been a young child in the house. A younger brother to the friend who had heard everything and was scared enough to tell his primary school teacher. This was then reported to Number 1’s teachers and it was immediately reported to Social Services. 
 
I was invited into school that day for a meeting. One of the teachers had very serious concerns. She had spoken to the older girls, Number 1 and her friend, at length and had flagged a number of things that she was told. She asked my opinion on the relationship that the girls had with their Mum, and I was frank in my discussion. I believed that she loved them very much, however, since our separation had given them 200% attention. This attention was now on new man, and the girls did not like it. Sometimes she made silly errors in her behaviour and did not get the support that she needed from her family. Unfortunately she no longer listened to my opinion, and each conversation would become argumentative. She rarely listened to them either, and her family would explode in anger rather than discuss things calmly. The girls also needed support and were beginning to behave in a way that gathered her attention. Even if it was negative. This is genuinely how I felt at the time. She explained to me that the Social Services wished to speak to us all about the situation, and that they would probably conduct a multi-agency assessment under section 17. Something I knew absolutely nothing about at the time, but I was relieved that we were making some progress. 
 
About a month later, and this was the first time she ever mentioned it to me, Mum called me to inform me that the “section 17” had begun. 
 
To be continued.
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#2
I hope since you last updated us that things have improved and you and all your family have found some peace and equilibrium. I feel so sad at the manipulation of you and the girls and in awe of your patience. What an incredible woman your new wife is, please make sure you show her appreciation and give lots of time and love to your new son. This must be so hard for them too.
What lessons would you say you have learnt with going through all this, what things would you have done differently?
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