Aren't I worth what my sisters are worth?
February 4, 2011 9:49 AM   Subscribe

How can I deal with the grief, jealousy and rage that comes with a resources disparity linked to being a bastard? (Of the literal kind, no the personality kind)

I feel guilty even voicing this complaint. I need perspective from other people and advice.

When I was conceived, my parents were unable to come to any sort of civil agreement. The time frame (1986) made obfuscating paternity easier for my mother (my crazy grandmother blatantly lying about possible conception dates did not help matters) and the pair parted company with my dad trying his hardest to cover himself (he tried to get my mother to sign a paper claiming he wasn't my father). Needless to say I got an "undeclared" on my birth certificate and my father was absent from my life completely. I'm not really happy how either of them handled the situation but lacking a time machine and the ability to yell through a megaphone at my parent's respectively 19 and 23 year old selves, I have to claim everything worked out for the best.

However, in the now, I have some serious emotional problems related to how I feel about the cards I was dealt, not respective to the human population at large, but my family and my peer group.

My father is preposterously wealthy, making no secret of the few million he has. I have spent most of my life on some sort of social assistance or government aid program, or watching my mother and step parent struggle with dubious financial circumstances. There was some otherwise pretty depressing stuff (some borderline child abuse, exposure to a substance abusing grandparent with mental health problems) and the chaos and entertainment that comes from growing up in an Asperger colony. Whatever, that's for my therapist and I to figure out and while it happened I'm again not dealing with a lot of this stuff in the now.

What I am dealing with is a great big head of anger because my father Will. Not. Shut. Up. About. Money. Or more exactly, his money. He's very pleased with his bank account and I can empathize, since I'm similarly happy when I can cash horde. The problem is that for someone in his financial bracket, though he is contributing to my college resources, he's below the average for his financial bracket among my peers and I feel very sad and jealous that my legitimate sisters are getting tons and tons of resources poured into them and he won't stop talking about that either.

I've broken him of the habit of only IMing me when he was at my ancillary sister's father daughter dances and sporting events (two bits of sentimental extracurricular activity that were conspicuously absent from my childhood) but every time horse back riding birthday parties or the like pop up I feel like I've been gut punched. Not because I didn't get access to a pony- most kids don't- but rather the disparity is pretty damn breath taking. My most tangible example is the swim goggles- I had to scrimp and budget to get ONE pair and my sisters have so many pairs of goggles that they can be scooped up by the handful. Other people getting pony parties or otherwise spoiled doesn't bother me, but somehow family makes it barbed.

He's promised to be helpful a couple of times, and when I've visited he's handed me his bank statements to remind me how ready he is to help- but when the rubber hits the road, he never functions in finite numbers and guesstimating over what I can ask for (since given the resource I'd rather not take on heavy debt) is emotionally fraught- under budget and I'm going to end up broke with months to go, and be anxious and go through weeks of working up to begging for money, ask over the magic number in his head and I get told off. And I'm not trying to support a Marijuana and Luxury Shoe habit- this is food, prescriptions and text books, usually with whatever money working at a job can get me. And I and my mother never saw a dime of child support.

Recently he announced to me, happily, that he's just made $250K after taxes. I can't even make March rent after I finished paying for my text books and tuition, but even hinting I might need some of that to stop my landlord from frowning at me got me shot down. He says he treats me like his closest friends and family, but I feel like he's paying the most minimal amount of money he can get away with to prevent the cognitive dissonance that would stop his often repeated claim that he's a good father.

The worst part? He's really upset at my mother for not filling out student loan forms for me respective to her income, but if he were actually on my birth certificate, the maximum to qualify as a "middle income family" for my province is "$79,243" for the number of family members. The threshold is below what he's making in salary, even excluding his investments.

So I wish my father would either contribute to me at his economic weight class or stop telling me about his vast wealth and the wonderful spoiling my sisters get. I want to be happy for him, and if I were him I'd want to tell an appreciative audience too, but how can I stop feeling so sad, mad and disappointed? I honestly wonder if he thinks I'm too dumb to run the math in my head. Picturing third worlders in mud huts only goes so far. I'm too old to feel jealous of children and I want to stop feeling rejected and hurt.
posted by Phalene to Human Relations (63 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Have you said to him,

"Hey dad - can you shut up about the amount of money you spend on everyone else but me? It makes me feel rather bad. If you don't want to give me money, that's fine. But stop yakking about how everyone else gets it!" And then every time he does it, remind him.

Step two is to stop asking or expecting money from him, ever again.
posted by Cycloptichorn at 9:55 AM on February 4, 2011 [15 favorites]

Are you sure you need to be in contact with him at all?

He doesn't sound like a father to me. He sounds like someone who has happened to give you bits of your DNA. It sounds like contact with him hurts your feelings. As a college student, I understand it might be hard to give up what little support he's giving you, but it also sounds like it will help put an end to how your heart is being squeezed through the ringer again and again.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:58 AM on February 4, 2011 [5 favorites]

Student loan debt is better than this.
posted by galadriel at 10:01 AM on February 4, 2011 [6 favorites]

Stop all contact with him for a month and see how it feels. If he asks why, tell him it's because he's an asshole.
posted by venividivici at 10:03 AM on February 4, 2011 [12 favorites]

I grew up with my mom telling me a couple of things that might help you out if you had heard them a lot growing up like I did (or maybe not):

*Life isn't fair.
*We're not helping you pay for college.

So I have had the good fortune to never expect financial assistance from my parents, and it has served me well. It sounds like your father has not set you up to have this expectation, but if you can expect nothing from him, then anything he offers is magical bonus cash from some dude.
posted by aniola at 10:04 AM on February 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

From a MeFite who would prefer to remain anonymous:
My situation is somewhat similar. My parents broke up before I was born, my father has plenty of money and my mom doesn't. I think my situation is somewhat easier because I've never had any real relationship with my father. I know who he is and I met him a few times as a child (my mom arranged it when I asked). I know he has two daughters who are my younger half-sisters, but I've never met them and don't know anything about them, so unlike you, I don't have to feel like I"m constantly doing comparisons. In fact, I never think about them and consider myself an only child.

I'm also sort of "lucky" (meaning I don't have to deal with the sort of hurt you do) because I didn't like my father when I met him. He spoke to my mother in a belittling tone that made my realize even as a young child that my life was better without him than it would have been if they had married. My mother has never badmouthed him, but things I have learned and heard since then have confirmed this.

Anyway, I'm not clear on exactly what youre question is, but on the subject of financial help: It sounds like you're still in school and you mentioned a "province" so I assume you're still in Canada. Your father is requried to pay half of your university tuition and expenses. My father was -- costodial parents have no obligation, but they can sue non-costodial parents for child support, even if the child is now legally an adult.

When I was 18 and about to go off to university, my mom (at my suggestion and insistance because it would have been a real sacrifice for her to have to pay it all), sued my father for child support and got both a monthly payment (yes, even though I was 18 -- until I got my BA he had to pay) and half of my tuition and books. Look into this, it might be possible for you, too. You don't have to have his name on your birth certificate (my father isn't on mine).

As for how to deal with the emotional side, like I said, I don't have this problem, so I can't necessarily help. I also get that money given by court order kind of misses the point -- you want to feel like your father treats you like your half-siblings because he values you equally, not because he has to. That may not be possible, but if you can't have that, paying your rent while you're in school, isn't the world's worst consolation prize.

Oh, also, before you lawyer up, it's a little unclear: Have you tried saying "I need $500 to pay my rent this month and $1500 for next semester's tuition." If he's offered in principle to help you, he may be waiting for you to tell him what exactly you need and when. If you've tried it, what does he say?
posted by jessamyn at 10:10 AM on February 4, 2011

Part of this is a psych trick - your father shows that he places such great value in money and wants you to think that money is the measurement of your worth, since you get so little in comparison to your sisters. It's a power game to make sure you know he is worth most of all, because of his bank balance. Ha. He's probably highly insecure about his value himself. It's hard not to buy into that when it's been shoved in your face so many times, but this is not a value system you must adopt. In fact, you'll probably be a lot happier if you don't.

You might get something out of Legacy of the Heart: The Spiritual Advantages of a Painful Childhood. There's a chapter on scarcity and abundance that might be very helpful to your situation specifically. There's a sense of starvation that comes with measuring your worth in the resources a parent figure gives you in comparison to others. I could say that you're pretty lucky to have a college fund at all - plenty of people (me included) never got any money for college - but that just means I'm buying into that value system.

Don't let the money define you. You can do whatever you want without his support. Use whatever he gives you to its best advantage, and say thanks, and accept that he's a sad person to try to define something like love with dollars. It's a sad, desperate trick of someone who has no idea how to be loved, or give love.
posted by griselda at 10:13 AM on February 4, 2011 [4 favorites]

Is there a reason you can't send him this post? If you're not ready to go that far, then I agree that you should tell him to shut up about the money because it's incredibly insensitive to your situation. It doesn't sound like he gives you anything beyond frustration and aggravation. He should be giving love and emotional support at the least, but since he doesn't seem to do this from your post, why not just cut him off if he can't be kinder towards you?

I'm assuming you're already working on all this with your therapist?
posted by smirkette at 10:13 AM on February 4, 2011

If he didn't want you around when you were a kid, and doesn't want to help you now as an adult, why in the hell do you have him in your life at all?
posted by auto-correct at 10:13 AM on February 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Sadly I have a feeling that if I didn't contact him for a month he wouldn't notice. One of the reasons he has pots of money is that he's the sort of guy who's happy to be on another continent than his children on a regular basis.

I'm baffled not so much from being miserly, but a sort of half assed one foot in the door and expecting all the rewards attitude towards fatherhood. I'm no stranger to people who don't pass muster as father (he's only one of three candidates) and my mother's side of the family has mastered the art of loving at a distance via forgetting the other party exists, but it's so damn wishy washy. I get money, but not enough money. I get attention, but not enough attention. He wants me to visit and then I spend the week looking after my stepmother, a woman who tried to hire me as her live in maid/nanny and spent most of her time non-seriously threatening to divorce my father (to me) and mixing Zoloft and alcohol.

Everything ends up being glittery on the label and tawdry on the outside. When I first visited him, he was happy to see me and put me up in a hotel so bad the amenities consisted of a bar of soap and a towel with a hole in it. I can't even tell if he's cheap or just clueless.
posted by Phalene at 10:18 AM on February 4, 2011

Either way, he's not behaving like much of a father. And he kind of sounds like a jerk anyway. Seems like there are very, very few upsides to maintaining this relationship and an awful lot of downsides. Pursue your happiness and leave him in your wake.
posted by fenriq at 10:28 AM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

You need to just cut him out of your life. He's not truly your father, no matter what biology says. Plenty of people support themselves through college and adulthood without their parents' financial help.
posted by joan_holloway at 10:28 AM on February 4, 2011 [4 favorites]

Your story makes me angry. I wish you could sue him, but what could you possibly sue him for? I think he's treating you badly. He's not just a horrible father, he's a bad person. You should not have had to grow up like that.

if you don't like the way your father is acting then tell him, don't vent to a bunch of strangers online about it.

I disagree. You're allowed to vent and you're allowed to seek help for the pain and neglect you feel.

Your dad is not a good guy. You need financial help. You should have had it as a child. Now you're grown up and he's using you. He puppeted your mother into denying his paternity.

What a terrible excuse for a man and father. Don't trust him anymore. He'll never love you, he'll never treat you well, and you probably won't get anything from his will. He's an asshole. Cut him out.
posted by anniecat at 10:33 AM on February 4, 2011 [7 favorites]

Plenty of people support themselves through college and adulthood without their parents' financial help.

People do, but it's very tough and there are lower rates of success. It's easier if you have access to a loving family and steady financial support.

Phalene, don't beat yourself up for feeling bad and for wishing your life were easier. He's just a person without character who enjoys eschewing responsibility and fulfilling his role as a father and a member of your immediate family. Perhaps you're hoping that he'll change, but some people are so self absorbed and selfish, they can't. He's a jerk. You'll never have his help, he'll never change, and I think you'll just have to accept it or continue to pine for what you need: a good family. You may just benefit from pretending he's dead.
posted by anniecat at 10:38 AM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

What you'll do here depends on what outcome you want. If you want a relationship with your father, tell him to stop talking about how rich he is and about how much he spends on your half-siblings when he doesn't help you, and to stop making promises he doesn't keep, because you find it upsetting and hurtful.

If you try that and it doesn't work, or you'd really rather have financial support than a relationship with him, speak to a lawyer and find out if you have a chance of successfully suing your father for back child support and/or financial aid for your education.

If I were you, I'd go with the latter option, but of course it's your choice. I'm so sorry you have to choose a relationship or financial support. Parents owe both to their children and here you are having to take steps to try to get even one of those things.
posted by orange swan at 10:48 AM on February 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

It's a control thing. It may not be a conscious decision on his part, but it IS about control.

It's a pretty common and horribly frustrating relationship pattern... Person A want a relationship with Person B. Person B has the tendency to be a horrible shit. HOWEVER, Person B ALSO sporadically doles out the affection/attention/care that Person A so desperately desires. If Person B was a horrible shit ALL THE TIME, Person A would very quickly say, "Nuh-uh. Not worth it," and move on. HOWEVER, those periodic doses of [love/support/financial help/etc.] will keep Person A coming back for a LONG time, if not forever.

Another point: Person B-type behavior is often found in people who want to do morally-questionable stuff, but are terrified of SEEMING morally-questionable. Your dad wants to flaunt his wealth and play favorites with his kids and exercise generally poor parenting decisions... but he doesn't want you or anyone else to think, "Damn, what a shitty dad!"

So... he periodically tosses you a bone. It keeps you in his life. It keeps him from feeling/being perceived as a jackass. And it keeps you frustrated and hurt and in the lurch. It's ESPECIALLY hurtful when parents act like Person B... every kid wants parents who are loving and attentive. And because of that, grown kids will try to pursue relationships with their parents even when their parents are behaving really, really badly.
posted by julthumbscrew at 10:55 AM on February 4, 2011 [16 favorites]

To be magnanimous, maybe he thinks this is appropriate behavior between a father and his son. A way to motivate you to be your best. Some people think all girls need is pretty gifts and that's equally fucked up.

I think you should both talk with him and lawyer up. If he is your biological father, then he owes back support. If he dies, a portion of his estate may belong to you. These things should be discussed with a lawyer.

But, you're old enough to act and be treated like an adult which means tackling the tough conversations. Discuss with your therapist how best to approach this. He may have a reason for being like this and he may think he's doing right but that doesn't mean that it isn't harmful.

Also think about what you're getting out of this. Waiting for a handout? It's totally understandable given that he's constantly dangling carrots but it's so not good for you.
posted by amanda at 10:58 AM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

This kind of power trip seems to go all the time, in families where someone's got a few milllion to rub together-- somehow especially when it really is just a few million, not a gazillion. This whole thing about inviting you somewhere and then giving you crappy accomodations is just classic. I'd speculate that your father has some kind of unresolved issues with your mother and he's punishing you. Other parents act like that because deep down they are angry at having worked all their lives to support a family and don't feel they get enough appreciation, or for god knows what other reason.

How to stop feeling "sad, mad and disappointed" about it? I don't know; it's disappointing. I think above all, it's disappointing that you can't have a relationship with your father apart from this money nonsense. Even if you said, look, I don't want another cent from you, I just want a relationship, you probably wouldn't get it. He is too invested in this way of relating. So you're probably going to feel sad for a while, because in a sense, you're having to let go of him. I think you're at a stage of life where that happens-- where you have to give up expectations about your parents.
posted by BibiRose at 11:00 AM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

In the operational realm, as someone suggested above, maybe he is clueless or at least that's part of it. I can sing a few bars of that tune.

As someone also noted, have you been specific in saying (not quite so bluntly, "I need x per month for rent, y, per semester for school." Sounds like it couldn't hurt.

My father, who was not wealthy, very into his work, did help a lot with my college, but there were more than a couple times when I would call to discuss all that and he'd say, "Didn't I just send you...?"

I'd relate that it had been three months since then, this much went to rent, this much went to school, etc., generally point out that I wasn't gallivanting around and spending frivolously.

He'd say, "Oh, right. Sorry."
posted by ambient2 at 11:27 AM on February 4, 2011

I come at it from the other side (somewhat). Think of your half sisters. My parents have always been very fair to both my brother and me. When we were in our teens, they promised each of us our own house on some land. But I didn't want mine. I asked that they instead build a bigger one for my brother. Similarly with my father's company. I wanted no part of it. In short, my brother is welcome to it all, and I made that very clear. Shortly after uni, I left home, and lived in Paris for awhile, then moved to San Francisco. I never took a penny from them, to this very day, and never will, and have no intention of even learning about what I might inherit, because I won't take it. Not because they wouldn't be happy to give me money. But I didn't want money to intrude on our relationship, and I didn't want material considerations to influence my life. Many friends I grew up with, became trapped in their family wealth. Sometimes trapped in the family business. Rarely happy. Conversations revolve around payments from their various funds, and when they can expect to inherit their part, and who is getting more and who is getting what. They are people whose whole life has been destroyed by the golden goose they are chained to.

You know what felt great? Living in Paris, making my own - very good - money working as a fashion photographer. Landing in San Francisco with nothing but a one-time photo gig lined up. I would not exchange that for all the wealth of the silver-spoon-in-their-mouths crowd. I spat mine out.

Remember the old saying: never judge the happiness of another. You have no idea if your half sisters are better off just because of the money.

Don't worry about your father. His money is irrelevant. Laugh it off. Nothing infuriates those types more than an honest - not strident - dismissal of their money. I shrug. The sun on the leaves of trees I pass by is free. Put away your dull checkbook with its dull figures, I'm not impressed.

What difference does it make what other people have? Focus on your own soul, and don't worry about the luck of others.
posted by VikingSword at 11:28 AM on February 4, 2011 [10 favorites]

I got a raw deal as a kid too --- my mom wasn't around when I was kid ( there's more sordid details, but no need to get into it on the internet). I used to get angry and jealous too. I still struggle with it sometimes. But, I started to realize that I got some good things out of it too. I'm resilient, and self-reliant, and I have a dark sense of humor that allows me to see the humor in almost anything. I'm doing a lot better than some of my friends who were spoiled rotten and never really learned how to support themselves and take care of themselves. So there's an upside to this too, I think if you look at it that way.
posted by bananafish at 11:30 AM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Putting aside everything else (all of which is very important, but outside the scope of my answer):

You need financial support from him. He claims to have the assets and the wilingness to give it to you, but when the time comes he fails to deliver. Neither of you much likes to talk about it.

Can you arrange to have him direct deposit $x every month? That way you don't have to ask, and he doesn't have to think about it or remember.

If you put it to him in a business-y kind of way, like "I've run the numbers and I'm consistently coming up $350 short a month. Can you direct deposit that amount to my account each month? Here is my routing number," it's possible that he'll just do it and save you lot of financial anxiety.
posted by charmcityblues at 11:30 AM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Amanda, I'm pretty sure Phalene is female.
posted by Pax at 11:41 AM on February 4, 2011

Amanda, I'm a woman. I'd appreciate pretty gifts but those aren't coming either.

It's a lot to consider that there might be some issues projection going on. For the most part I've attempted to take a forgiving route, but it might be worth exploring that direction as well. I do believe that he's really insecure and incredibly competitive, the latter of which is probably congenital because he had zero parenting influence.

I actually sent him my budget (which was neatly laid out in excel, with the most strict, bare bones expenses only (no replacement clothing, frugal use of soap) so he's not ignorant to my actual needs. That's how I found out that he's inclined to make a short fall where he can get away with it. It's like he wants to be a magnanimous uncle.
posted by Phalene at 11:48 AM on February 4, 2011

First, write down all the ways in which you feel sad, mad, and disappointed, and then burn it. Your feelings are completely valid, and treating them any other way will just turn them against you. Once you've accepted them, and that he's been not nice, you can move on.

One way to move on might be to sending him an email or something that lays out:
a) that you need money for the basics at school. Make up a budget, say you need help with any and all of it. If he wants your mom to work on financial aid, show how much the loans will cost you long term.
b) ask him, politely, that he not point out the many ways in which he has money and spends it on his other children, because it make you feel less. You know that's probably not how he intends it (well, he might, but saying that won't help), but you want to have a good relationship with him.
posted by ldthomps at 11:49 AM on February 4, 2011

Oh, and seeing your update, yeah. Sorry that even seeing your budget doesn't help. I agree, he wants his cake (being seen as a decent dad) without having to pay for it. In his own head anything he gives you is a bonus, which stinks - you deserve an education from parents that can afford to help with it. It's the best investment he could make in your future.
posted by ldthomps at 11:51 AM on February 4, 2011

If he's really your father, I think you need to get a lawyer and get the child support stuff sorted. If he balks or isn't your father (sorry, not trying to be hurtful, but I can't actually tell from the post), then wave him goodbye, shed a tear for the dad you should have had, and walk away. It's not worth the angst and heartbreak to get the tiny amount of money he's willing to give you. He's sure not giving you any attention or affection in any meaningful amount or way. IMHO, being fatherless beats having this guy in your life.
posted by Ideefixe at 11:59 AM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

It seems as if you are confusing what is fair with what is fact. Unfortunately, there is a lot of unfairness in everyone's life. I would be upset if he were treating me the way he is treating you. That said, it is time to make a choice. It appears that there are two possible reasons why you continue to have a relationship with him. Either it is because you feel that he is your father and he owes you a "fatherly relationship" or you are just hanging around for the financial benefit.

Let's look at the "fatherly relationship" first. His actions show that he is not, and will never be, the father that you would like him to be. You will not change him no matter how you try. You have, however, this image of what he should be. If he were not a blood relative, you would not feel this way. Imagine him as your next door neighbor. You would not have the same expectations of him as you do because he is your father. My guess is that you would not try to cultivate a relationship with this guy if all he was was that neighbor. If you agree, it is time to simply cut your ties. This does not require any kind of formal statement or gesture. Just stop contacting him and stop visiting him. He will either let go or seek an understanding of why you no longer come to his palace. It is up to you whether you want to explain or just let him figure it out.

That brings us to the other problem. If you really need to rely upon the funds he does give to you, then you have to decide to just suck it up, recognize that he is a jerk, but that you are getting a financial benefit from your relationship. It may not be all that you want. It is certainly not what is "right." But it is what it is. If you want to continue for the financial benefit, then he is really no different than the ATM down at the bank. If you can get money out of that machine, you have no further expectations about the machine giving you only "X" dollars when the guy in front of you got "Y" dollars out of it. You certainly don't expect it to love you or care about you as long as it keeps giving you the money.

That second option sounds harsh. What you have to do is let go of the images of fairness and recognize the situation for what it is. You would gain a lot by discussing this with your therapist.
posted by Old Geezer at 12:00 PM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Whoops, sorry, Phalene. Not sure why I thought you were a guy. Anyway, I also wanted to say: your Dad, no matter his reasons is being a total jerk. Just keep in mind that you need to protect yourself first. So sorry you're going through this. It's really unfair.
posted by amanda at 12:27 PM on February 4, 2011

I actually sent him my budget (which was neatly laid out in excel, with the most strict, bare bones expenses only (no replacement clothing, frugal use of soap) so he's not ignorant to my actual needs.

I just want to make it clear here, but showing him that there is a $1000 gap in your budget is not the same as asking him for $1000. This gets to the Ask Culture vs. Guess Culture divide that, frankly, should earn tangerine a Nobel Peace Prize one day. If your father and half-sisters are Ask and you are Guess, it may be the root of many of your problems.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:45 PM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

OP - Why haven't you addressed the multiple suggestions to sue this guy in your updates?

In a lot of ways, my dad is your dad. Let me tell you a few things...

#1 - You will always be a second class citizen to this person, STOP SEEKING HIS APPROVAL.

#2 -He will rub the benefits he gives his more favored children in your face FOREVER if you keep on like this. Stop giving him plausible deniability already by taking the "forgiving" route. That's a loser's game with rules he has set.

#3 - He will always give you just enough to keep failing. It will forever be couched as YOUR FAILURE, not his for the lack of support and stringing you along.

#4 - The only person keeping you in this shitty position is YOU.

See a lawyer or three for a legal opinion on your rights. If you have no rights for back support or college tuition, write him off and move on with your life. I mean it.

Memail if you want to hear about all the misery and shit my full brother and I put ourselves through trying to convince our dad we were good enough for his emotional and financial support. I'm happy to share. I know the mind-set you are in very very well. I know how much better off you can be.

I know you will never be truly happy or successful until you stop being a doormat and get yourself congruent with reality.
posted by jbenben at 12:51 PM on February 4, 2011 [7 favorites]

You're in Canada, you're from Montreal, you probably speak both English and French. We have a strong economy here, and you have marketable skills.

Why not leave school for a couple of years, move across the country, get a job, cut your father out of your life, and return to your studies when you are in a better position to finance things yourself.

Your birth father is an asshole. Nothing is going to change that. Maybe one day you will be able to reconcile with him, but he's never ever going to provide you with the financial support you feel you deserve.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:53 PM on February 4, 2011

That's how I found out that he's inclined to make a short fall where he can get away with it. It's like he wants to be a magnanimous uncle.

This may well be because your father is a jerk about money, not because he fathered you out of wedlock.

My own father, whom I loved deeply, was a jerk about money in this exact way. I moved out of his house before I was 18 and he paid exactly 1/10 of the contribution my college expected from me. But he loved to buy me presents I didn't want or need when I was living on ramen and selling my plasma.

If you want to have his financial support, my guess is that you will have to dun him like a creditor, submitting invoices and bugging him for the money until he pays up. My brother had to do that with my father; I chose to work more hours and earn the money I needed for myself.

This is about your father's issues around money. Your father has some kind of problem with this. I am so sorry you have to deal with this, and that it is more difficult for you than for his other relatives--it may be that they have more successful strategies of addressing his issues (they may dun him), or it may be that he has compartmentalized his money issues into his relationship with you, but the key thing is that this is something he is an ass about.

If you plan to continue relying in part on his support, I recommend invoicing him monthly, and perhaps framing it as if it's for his convenience. That way you aren't going to get too far behind if he fucks you over.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:54 PM on February 4, 2011

When we were in our teens, they promised each of us our own house on some land. But I didn't want mine

VikingSword, I doubt you meant it this way, but that is a very privileged point of view. Eating sparingly by choice feels a LOT different from eating sparingly because you have $4 to last you til next Monday. I don't think the OP is talking about money, though it looks that way. She's talking about all money represents.

In my experience working with a lot of people and their finances, money is only "just money" when you have a real fortune, and usually not even then. Money is usually a stand in for things of real value. In this case, it's respect and acknowledgement of responsibility (and lack thereof.)

Phalene, through whatever defect of character, this guy can't give you what you need. If you can't accept his table scraps without taking their paltriness as a slight (and it would be hard to manage this, though with a full enough life of your own, you might pull it off), I have to agree with galadriel: Student loans are better than this.

I read a study once, that I think about all the time.
A rat that pushes the lever and gets nothing, doesn't keep pushing it.
A rat that pushes the lever, consistently gets a pellet, and then stops getting pellets at all, quits pushing the lever.
A rat that pushes the lever and gets a pellet sporatically will push the lever 1000+ times between pellets.

We aren't that different from rats, except that we can tell ourselves to stop pushing the lever.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:57 PM on February 4, 2011 [8 favorites]

People who string you along are actively toxic to your well-being. And you know this but you also know they have something you desperately want and need.

You should benefit from my experience when I tell you: nobody who has strung me along has EVER delivered. Even when they seem to reward me, overall they ALWAYS take away more than they give.

Here's me yelling into the past to my much younger self: D THESE MFs ALREADY. THEIR PRICE IS ALWAYS, ALWAYS TOO HIGH. ALWAYS. THERE ARE NO EXCEPTIONS.

If it's any consolation, the fact he's contacting you to tell you how great your sisters have it suggests to me they're disadvantaged in ways you don't know about.
posted by tel3path at 1:23 PM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry your father is so utterly rubbish.

If you can sue for child support or college help, and you can afford the legal fees then do so.

But don't bother talking to him again. If you don't talk to him, he can't tell you about your bank balance. And he can't pretend that you two have a great relationship.

Take out loans if you can, but in general, if you can't make it financially in college without his help you'll probably have to drop out and return to your studies later. That sucks, but unfortunately, it's still true.

You know what felt great? Living in Paris, making my own - very good - money working as a fashion photographer. Landing in San Francisco with nothing but a one-time photo gig lined up. I would not exchange that for all the wealth of the silver-spoon-in-their-mouths crowd. I spat mine out.

With all due respect VikingSword, being able to ask for help and choosing not to is totally different from not having anyone to ask for help. If you had failed, you could have called your dad and he could have stopped it all.
posted by plonkee at 1:55 PM on February 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

Um... although you didn't actually ask for one, I would like to add a hug to my earlier reply. Let that be my nano-contribution to giving you a little of the love you so clearly are owed.

I feel anger on your behalf. Your father is not, repeat not, doing a good job as a parent. I do think it's important to understand that he is never going to give you what you want and you will likely feel better in the long run for stepping away from him. You don't have to do a big dramatic Breaking of Contact, just... step away. And don't rush to answer if he ever bestirs himself. (GRAR. SO ANGRY ON YOUR BEHALF.)
posted by tel3path at 2:20 PM on February 4, 2011

We have money issues in our family, both between the extended family and my parents and my parents and me. In the former case, my aunts arranged for my mom's share of my grandma's very large estate to be put in trust for her, while they got theirs in one go - this is ostensibly to protect some of the money for me, but my mom would have given me a chunk of it straight off, and we could use it as much now as in the future - so nobody's speaking on that side any more; in the latter case, my parents made many very bad business decisions, spent my other grandmother's inheritance and went through all they'd saved for my college education - only to go bankrupt, leaving me to find my own way from the age of 17, which I have. We get along well enough, but I maintain my reserve since they're not smart with money and like you, feel they should have made different decisions in the past.

The way I have dealt with it is by reminding myself that their money is not my money, and it never was. I do not ask for anything, but treat what they give me, whenever they offer it, as a gift. I live according to our family's means, and what they offer from time to time now helps us get ahead, instead of being a drop in the well. And it's hard, because we've been very, very broke at times.

So, to remove your frustrations which arise from his talking about it you could him not to talk about it, as others have said; or structure your interactions and conversations so that he doesn't have the opportunity to do so. Or, realize that that listening to him and suffering the inequality is the price you pay for whatever you get from him. Think of the old trope about prostituting yourself: You've already agreed you'll "sleep" with him for a certain amount of money - now you're just negotiating the price. You can also choose not to get in bed with him financially at all - if you remove money from the relationship the two of you have - what do you have?

He's not going to change so you need to re-adjust your own thinking. It's better if you don't depend on anything from him, and then you can think of anything that comes from him as a bonus instead of something to make up a deficit. Lots of folks get nothing from no-one and never did. Re-frame: Instead of being envious of the copius amounts of swim goggles available to your sisters, be proud that you're not wasteful, that you've had to work harder and that in the long run, you'll likely value what you've worked for instead of having had everything handed to you. In my life, I've come to realize that envy and jealousy may be feelings that wash over me from time to time - but instead of embracing them, I can choose let them go.
posted by peagood at 2:31 PM on February 4, 2011

This might not directly answer your question, but how about trying to get money from him via transparency? Since he's financially open enough to show you bank statements, how about putting together a detailed spreadsheet showing the mismatch in your income and expenses/responsibilities, leading up to "This is why I need to get $XXX from you, otherwise these bad consequences will occur. I'm embarassed that I need my dad's financial help, but as you can now see, I really do."

Even succeeding in this obviously has a potential downside (making someone you dislike feel good about themselves, feeling more dependent on someone you dislike, etc.), but who knows, maybe he'll be less of a tool if you show him a way to feel less shame about how things have worked out until now.
posted by NortonDC at 2:48 PM on February 4, 2011

[sorry folks, please take it to email if you're not directing your answers to the OP.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:08 PM on February 4, 2011

I do understand that to come at this problem from the other side (relative privilege) is quite different psychologically than from the side of relative disadvantage. But both must strive for the same result - psychological independence, or you will never be free.

VikingSword is right. My family was poor when I was growing up. Not really really poor, but poor as in yay for church hand-me-downs. I had troubles with my dad. He started using the smallest thing against me. I wouldn't see movies with my friends because I didn't want to ask for money for a ticket. I cut the cord. I have never taken any money from my parents. I knew there was no college money, but they helped my sister. They bought her a (cheap) car. They bought her a new microwave for her dorm room (oh, the silly things one remembers). They never visited my first apartment. They bought my sister groceries and she did laundry at their house and they complained to me about her eating their leftovers from restaurants. I went to a laundromat. I have paid all my car payments, all my car insurance, all my bills, all my rent, ever, myself. There is no safety net for me. I left home and never went back. Had some live-in relationships where I made sure I could pay all the rent, all the bills myself in case they flaked out. I am my safety net. Nobody holds money over me.

I've done fine for myself. My parents want to buy me things now, but they are soon-to-be retirees, and probably going to have to sell their home to live on a smaller budget. They don't understand that it's not about the money. I like being this way. I just wanted them to care for me like they seemed to care for my sister. I take the money out of the equation and they try to put it back in, and they get upset with me when I refuse gifts. They want to buy me off - buy off their guilt - instead of apologizing. That's what hurts. I'd take an apology and some genuine interest and respect for me as a person over a fat check any day. I like myself better for having paid for these things myself. I've come to a place where I'm okay with them being imperfect parents. I just wish they were okay with their imperfection.
posted by griselda at 3:33 PM on February 4, 2011 [5 favorites]

This guy is just a sperm donor.

Lawyer up, get a paternity test if that is what it takes and find out if he can be sued for past due child support.

Let him know you will be happy to never contact him again if he so wishes but that he has past obligations he needs to clear up. Tell him if he wishes to have any other relationship beyond that that you will meet him in the therapist's office to fix this trainwreck.

Then go and life your life with the happy knowledge you don't have to hang around this toxic individual. Because, honey, this is toxic.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 3:54 PM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Phalene, your father seems like a real jerk (if he IS your real father; you mention there are three possible candidates? Could that be another reason why he is more generous with the legitimate daughters?). I think, even though it will be tough, that you need to distance yourself from him. This relationship is only hurting you with the constant reminders of what his "other life" is like with the sisters.

I see from your profile that you are a student and 24 years old, so I am really not sure that you could gain anything from suing him, as others here have suggested. Most child support ends at 18, to my knowledge, and even if it didn't end until 21, you are beyond that time period as well. If there is some way to get "back pay," that would be one thing, but since he has already paid for SOME of your expenses, I am not sure you are entitled to anything legally anyway.

I know you feel this is all unfair, but you have to be pragmatic about all this if you are going to get beyond it and realize that you have the power to do something about your own circumstances. You can either swallow your bitter disappointment and continue to take the meager allowances he gives you, or you can cut him out of your life completely and make your way on your own.

If you can get a job, you will no longer have to put up with your father's jerkish behavior. At 24, you are probably nearing the end of your college years, aren't you? So perhaps you could just keep going until graduation and then, once you have found a good job, cut Dad lose.

Or you can just cut him out of your life now. It seems pretty clear to me that as long as you continue to take his money, you are going to have to put up with his attitude. At least you do have the option of receiving some money from him--knowing, as I'm sure you do, that many people are not even that fortunate might help you to just grit your teeth and bare it until you get your career founded. You have to decide which you need more--his money, or freedom from the constant reminders of just how much better off you could be.

If I were you, I'd consider readjusting my school schedule and starting a job search. You may well find you like your independence much more than the security Dad's money is giving you, especially with all the baggage that comes along with it.
posted by misha at 4:09 PM on February 4, 2011

Peeps, she is ALREADY working.

Maybe you should ask him what you should do if you get evicted.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:07 PM on February 4, 2011

We had the paternity test- I was referring to other people who'd tried to step up to the plate. Since one of 'em bailed when I was five and the other one stuck around and threatened to smash my face open while waving a cleaver at me, I'm underwhelmed.
posted by Phalene at 6:37 PM on February 4, 2011

So I wish my father would either contribute to me at his economic weight class

What makes you entitled to anything? Because he had sex with your mother in the 80s? You're, what, 24 years old? Be a grown-up. Get your own life and your own money. His money will become irrelevant the second you stop expecting some of it.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 7:14 PM on February 4, 2011 [4 favorites]

It is...undignified to carry on with this man as you are doing. "I get money, but not enough money. I get attention, but not enough attention" -- this is unhealthy stuff.

You don't like him as a father, so why expect the cash? This doesn't sound so much like a complex relationship with a loved one as it does a mortgage application. Stop supplicating; you are not being fathered here and while it's totally kosher to hit one's better-heeled parents up for tuition, this chap doesn't seem to qualify as a parent on any level.

You call him "father" and "dad" but "my father was absent from my life completely" -- yeah -- this is extremely unfortunate, but this guy is not "father" or "dad" and if he is, after being absent from your growing up, manipulating you into believing otherwise? He is actually worse than a run-of-the-mill deadbeat. It is a blow to your dignity to maintain contact here.

Society hates on deadbeat parents because nobody likes to think of impoverished children, and of course the take would be quite different if you were asking this as an eight-year-old who didn't have proper shoes &c. But you're an adult with choices and options, and his awful choices shouldn't have an impact on your life like this.
posted by kmennie at 7:41 PM on February 4, 2011 [4 favorites]

It's not the lack of money that bothers me it's his inability to step up to the plate with a full commitment AND his inability to stop lording over me with how much money I have when I'm tentatively trying to have some sort of relationship with him. For example I never asked him how much money he had- he's gone as far as to bloody well give me his bank balance receipt after visiting an ATM. It's like he wants me to take him to court out of some subconscious need to be punished.

Yes, I'm an adult. That's why I'm not nagging my mother to take him to court, I'm trying to deal with intense negative feelings of unfairness and loss. I KNOW how shallow this is. I want it to stop It's not about the money, it's knowing that three people have already failed to "father" me and this guy's grandiose fuck up is only not the worst because the asshole in number one spent enough time around me to manage a death threat.

I suppose I'm lucky it took until I was an adult to actually track the guy down, since I can't imagine what this would have done to my 14 year old self, who already had to deal with random false matches trying to solicit her for threesomes.

Everyone tells you to be zen, to forget and let go, but they never tell you how. Me, I wish my dad was poor and responsible because I'd rather have a student loan than put up with this. I want a daddy. On the other hand, I didn't spring from parthenogenesis (as much as my mother liked to pretend), and I'm not going to give someone a pass if they also are strongly anti-abortion and trying to do the good father thing at me just enough to feel good about himself.

Sadly my first impulse of maxing out my credit cards so I can fly down and kick him in the balls so there's no risk of him doing this to any additional children is even less mature.
posted by Phalene at 8:59 PM on February 4, 2011

This isn't the nicest suggestion I've ever made in AskMe, but...

I get money, but not enough money. I get attention, but not enough attention.

Well, what does he need from you? Deny him that.
posted by desuetude at 9:22 PM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

The first step in the "how" of letting go is to cut off contact. Bear in mind that's only the first step. It is a necessary step. You won't get out of this any other way.

Another step is to accept being angry and enraged and furious and hurt and torn up and tearful and anguished and sobbing. You have no obligation not to feel that way. Now if your ambition were to feel that way for the rest of your life, that would be a bad thing. But with awful feelings like that, doing the glib "forgiveanmoveon" thing whereby you don't have these feelings and you just decide to free yourself and voila! - well it's not going to happen. The only way out is through.

And yeah, follow desuetude's suggestion. I'm not saying break the law or cut off your nose to spite your face, but you're really under no obligation to be "nice" to him. You've tried to explain and he hasn't heard, so it's time for some consequences.
posted by tel3path at 3:41 AM on February 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

...except I was just thinking about my cousin Jimmy. He spent his entire adult life avenging himself against my uncle's inadequate parenting. He died an angry, bitter, twisted man. So, while you're feeling all your feelings, just keep Jimmy in mind.

If your college can point you to any counselling services that would help you figure out what to do and how to feel better about it, and wouldn't cost you an arm and a leg, use them.
posted by tel3path at 4:10 AM on February 5, 2011

No need to feel ashamed about or deny any "intense negative feelings of unfairness and loss." My few friends who have also been touched by the bar sinister, even those who, like us, had little to no meaningful contact with their fathers until later in life, have uniformly expressed strong negative feelings about not having a dad. They have in fact experienced a sort of loss, or unfairness, and were they to feel good about it, it would be positively panglossian.

When talking of myself, though, I prefer euphemisms.
posted by L'oeuvre Child at 4:47 AM on February 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Everyone tells you to be zen, to forget and let go, but they never tell you how. Me, I wish my dad was poor and responsible because I'd rather have a student loan than put up with this. I want a daddy.

Wishing is the complete opposite of being zen.

Okay, time for some hard truths.

One of the things I wish I'd been taught before my teens was that you can't change people. Learning this (though it hasn't always been easy to accept!) has been key to my growing into a mentally healthy, whole person. People are who they are--often immutably. Okay, sometimes they change--but that happens of their own volition, and you can't affect how that change develops. Instead, you need to work on, first, accepting who he actually is and the truth of your situation. And let me tell you, from everything you told us:
  • Your father is never going to be truly giving with you.
  • He's always going to brag about his money.
  • He's never going to be a father who cares for you in the way he cares for your sisters.
  • He's never going to be your friends' fathers
  • You can't change what happened to you as a girl.
  • Even if, by some miracle, your father magically shaped up into a real dad, it still wouldn't fix what happened with these other father figures.
And all of that is hard. It hurts, I know. Give yourself time to grieve these things. Get angry. Punch your pillows.

And then, when you've really absorbed the truth of your situation, look at your behavior. What of your behavior is still trying to influence and change who your father is? You need to stop that. It's not healthy for you. It's only going to hurt you more. Instead, decide how you want to react based on the person your father is. Is he a jerk who will never give you money? Well, a healthy response is to stop asking for money, to cut off ties, or to have a merely cordial relationship with him. A healthy response might be to get angry and try to get your mother to sue him. A healthy response might be to just work on cutting the artifacts of the emotional relationship between you two.

Being zen is not trying to swim upstream, struggling to change people you can't. Being zen is acceptance. It's working with the life you were given. If you haven't already, I recommend picking up a copy of the Tao Te Ching. I've found it helpful for times like these:

Do you think you can take over the universe and improve it?
I do not believe it can be done.

The universe is sacred.
You cannot improve it.
If you try to change it, you will ruin it.
If you try to hold it, you will lose it.

So sometimes things are ahead and sometimes they are behind;
Sometimes breathing is hard, sometimes it comes easily;
Sometimes there is strength and sometimes weakness;
Sometimes one is up and sometimes down.

Therefore the sage avoids extremes, excesses, and complacency.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:08 AM on February 5, 2011 [14 favorites]

>>Everyone tells you to be zen, to forget and let go, but they never tell you how.>>

By getting through your 20s. Seriously, I'm repeating myself some, but a lot of people go through a kind of psychological separation from their parents around the time of leaving university. If it's not about money, it's about something else, but I think at base it's usually about the whole idea that someone is going to take care of you. At some point in your twenties a light bulb goes off and you realize that nobody gives a shit. (I'm making a sweeping generalization here about middle class people who go to college etc. Some people find this stuff out much earlier; some, never at all.) It's scary, but it's liberating too.

Not saying your case isn't different from anyone else's. Your father is clearly playing a game with you that's designed to keep you as dependent and vulnerable as possible. Just guessing, but I bet his other kids would each tell you they got the short end of the stick in some way. It is the strategy of people like that to make everyone feel a little isolated and infantilized. This is a toxic and powerful situation and the only way you are finally going to get free of it is to have your own life. You're never going to stop thinking about him by trying to stop thinking about him; you just have to let other things crowd all of that out.
posted by BibiRose at 8:51 AM on February 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

Phalene, you don't get a daddy. That is just how the cards were dealt you in this life. Maybe it sucks, maybe it's liberating. How you interpret your cards is up to you. But the interactions you describe with you biological father are not ever going to result in a satisfying experience of parenting. You'd probably feel better and be happier--and I am not typing this to shock or to offend -- if you formed a purely financial/physical relationship with a sugar daddy.

Also, it's weird that you have come back to the thread repeatedly, and never respond to the suggestions that you may have legal recourse for back child support. Why is this not on your radar?
posted by Scram at 8:52 AM on February 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

Phalene, I did grow up with a dad. He never paid me much attention. My needs were met but he never listened to me or "got" who I was and he yelled a lot. He spent all his spare time in his workshop instead of wanting to spend time with my mother and I. Oddly I know he loves me, has mellowed thru the years, but on my side at least it's like having a cordial stranger who does nice things for me but who I can never, ever, have a heart to heart talk with.

There are a lot of good dads out there, and there are a lot of meh ones. My own husband's father abused him horribly. I said all that to say this:

You can get past this. You can find people to have in your life who WILL be there for you, who WILL love you unconditionally, and yes, even adopt you in a sense into their lives. Go find worthy people and do that. Just know that the dad lottery dealt you a crappy hand but that it doesn't mean you don't have worth, and it doesn't mean you will never be loved like that. It just means that that guy is a loser and pitiful and no amount of wealth will change that.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:48 AM on February 5, 2011

Reconstruct your future reality without your father's resources. Prepare yourself realistically for your adult future by making the most of the resources you have... not what's been promised.

In fashion similar to the rat study, your father is conditioning you to accept sporadic rewards instead of reliable, predictable rewards. He is teaching you to seek the reward of the moment (when he finally "saves" you from your financial woes) instead of the reward of YOUR hard work (when you begin to function as a self-sufficient adult at an age far younger than he managed to). Whether he's conscious of it or not, he does this because it rewards his fragile ego which must be fragile indeed if all of his self-worth is tied into bragging about how much money he has. By keeping you dependent on his sporadic rewards, he gets reinforcement for how "successful" he's become.

Recognize that the ongoing interaction you are having with your father is ensuring that his flawed legacy of life lessons is continuing in his children, despite how he's failed to step up. By withholding visible, material rewards, he is teaching you his value system: money stands between you and happiness, the person who has the most money is the most happy, and I will give you money when I love you "enough".

When you accept his flawed parenting without holding him responsible for his shitty behavior, you also reinforce to him that his value system is right. Quite frankly, venividivici's advice is spot on. Your father probably never had proper parental attention himself to understand that the behavior he is showing you now is TOXIC. Instead he's [probably] using his child[ren] as mirrors to reflect his own self-worth, and there is no one in his life to reinforce the negative consequences of such self-centered behavior. It's not fair (and it's certainly not your job to take up the duty of parenting him) but it is what it is in the case of your family and many families across the world.

What you [probably] need is to draw firm boundaries - not for him, but for yourself - to ensure that despite his parental failings, you will persevere with a stronger, better-balanced value system that works for you.

And before you can do that with confidence, you need to be able to envision your life financially free of him. Look into options for how to make this happen (e.g. student loans, line of credit, etc.). Consider spending some time with your school's counselling/therapy services. Ask specifically for help on drawing boundaries in unhealthy relationships. Unhealthy relationships between parents and children exist TOO. Right now the conditions of your fatherly relationship is breeding resentment that is sucking the happiness out of you. The first step to breaking free of that jealousy-fueling resentment for your father and half-sisters is to free yourself from the fuel that is feeding the fire. You are more free than you realize (probably far more so than your half-sisters) to take charge of your life and transform it into a rich, rewarding one. You don't need your father to accomplish this :)
posted by human ecologist at 10:01 AM on February 5, 2011 [7 favorites]

I KNOW how shallow this is. I want it to stop It's not about the money, it's knowing that three people have already failed to "father" me ... Everyone tells you to be zen, to forget and let go, but they never tell you how. Me, I wish my dad was poor and responsible because I'd rather have a student loan than put up with this. I want a daddy.

Phalene, this is NOT shallow. This is very, very deep.

Someone should have given you love and protection and provided for you - making sure you had a safe, secure home, with all your physical needs AND your emotional needs met - and no one did that for you. (It sounds like your mother may have provided a lot for you, but you should not have encountered a death threat.)

I don't know if this will help at all, but in case it might, here goes:

Make up the dad you wish you had. Give yourself a really terrific pretend father.

Make him whatever you want him to be.

Whenever you're feeling sad and hurt about how your DNA father is treating you, close your eyes and think, "But my REAL dad would never do anything like that. He loves me for who I am. He would rather spend an afternoon with me than do anything else. He thinks the world revolves around me." Make him as real as you can. Give him a cool job. Give him interesting hobbies. Imagine him playing frisbee with you, or taking you to see the ocean, or buying you ice cream.

Separately, you can decide whether you want to put yourself through any more time with your DNA father. (And you can keep deciding. Maybe it would be good for YOU to take a break from him, whether he'd notice or not. Spend your time with your imaginary real dad. And then, in a year or two, if you feel like trying another visit with your DNA father, you can. If you want to.)

Of course you want a daddy. You DESERVE a daddy. You deserve to have had someone caring for you, surprising you with sweet thoughtful presents, protecting you from bullies, lovingly brainstorming your future.

If that's not on offer in the real world, there's no harm in giving yourself the dad you wish you had.

It doesn't pay the rent or the tuition, but it might help the hurt a little.

Here's another hug to go with tel3path's.
posted by kristi at 11:53 AM on February 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

"Also, it's weird that you have come back to the thread repeatedly, and never respond to the suggestions that you may have legal recourse for back child support. Why is this not on your radar?"

Nthing scram. Just because you think you can not sue for back support doesn't mean this is true. Talk to a lawyer. Finding our one way or the other is an important step for you to take and is part of the "letting go." You must follow the process and avoid cutting yourself off from every possibility or possible recourse as you head towards getting "zen" about this situation.

Take positive action on your own behalf. You'll feel better.

Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 3:53 PM on February 5, 2011 [3 favorites]

Make up the dad you wish you had. Give yourself a really terrific pretend father.

Make him whatever you want him to be.

I think this is a beautiful thing, right here. After my mum (who was fairly bad at parenting even while she was alive) died, I found surrogate mothers in books. Colette was my mother; May Sarton was my mother; Juliana of Norwich was my mother; Pema Chodron was my mother.

For years I resisted having female mentors, but then made a wonderful friendship with an amazing lady who was as much like a mother to me as I could stand. My BFF's mother is also very motherly to me.

I have a very motherly therapist as well.

Phalene, I hope you will find really good father figures in your life, whether they be in your imagination or in your professional endeavours or in your circle of friends or indeed be therapists. Please don't look for them in your sexual and romantic partners, though. That is a sure recipe for unhappiness.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:06 PM on February 5, 2011

My father is similar to yours. He would not pay for me to go to college though I had a half-tuition scholarship and great grades. He paid for both of my sisters to complete undergrad, one whose school was twice as costly as mine. I really do not know why he did this though I think he felt abandoned by me (my mother got sick when I was little and I kind of became my father's caretaker). I worked my way through college and then graduate school. I'm now a lawyer. Any time I interact with my father, I come away feeling like I am insane, like my perception of what is right and what is true is completely off-base. For many years, I believed I was mentally ill and I took some awful medications. I have tried for 15 years (I'm 34 now) to understand why I did not/do not get to have my father's support -- emotional or financial. The effort to make sense of it has weighed on me and distracted me from fully living my life. Sometimes I think about who and where I might be if my dad had supported me in my early adulthood. When I do this I become unhappy with my present so I try not to. It is a waste of my personal agency. The last time I spoke with my father was several months ago. I was sad when I spoke with him -- just lonely and missing a recently lost love, just feeling my feelings as every human being must do. My dad told me he thought I should see a psychiatrist who could help me get on some medication so I could enjoy my life more.

If your DNA dad is like mine, and it sounds like he is, I would advise that you take the advice of those above and stop communicating with him. He does not support or love you and the unfairness of that is not something that you should re-experience again and again. One experience of that will generate a lot of anger. Take that anger and go light your fuse with it. You can do great things without his support. From the expressiveness of your post, the clarity and insight of your writing, I suspect you will be very successful in whatever you do.
posted by Ventre Mou at 5:59 PM on February 5, 2011 [3 favorites]

Lawyer up.

There may be a legal aid clinic available at your university where you can ask about suing him for child support.

I understand that any competent divorce lawyer could work with this; it's not a specialized issue.

A lawyer might also be willing to work for you on a contingency basis, where they get a percentage if they win it for you but don't get paid if they don't. A lot of civil suits work this way and a lot of lawyers offer free initial consultations to determine if this all might work. Be aware that your bio-Dad has probably already consulted with a lawyer to make sure he can keep from giving you money. It is not unlikely that the tuition and stipend he is paying you is upon the advice of a lawyer so that he will be able to say he DID pay child support in an amount agreed upon by you.

A quick on-line search on the issue suggests you might be eligible for 15% of his current assets.

The biggest difficulty I see is suing him in the States from Canada. I suggest then that you get him to invite you for a visit and pay your plane tickets and while in the State where he lives drop in to see a civil suit lawyer and explain it to them.

You might also try talking to your grandparents and asking them for advice on the issue of him leaving you without the March rent. Possibly a rocket sent to him from other members of the family will make him pay out more. But the year is enough advanced it is quite likely too late for that.

As soon as you finish university any support he is giving you is likely to end. Factor that into your calculations. He's grudging about university help and he is not considered legally or morally responsible for paying support to adult offspring so once you are out in the world the paternal contact you get will possibly not include supportive gestures of any nature.

I hope these suggestions are not too intrusive.
posted by Jane the Brown at 2:10 PM on February 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Somebody sent me a MeMail about my post above, about making up a great dad, and asked how you do that, when in fact, if there were a good dad present in your life, so much of your earlier life would have turned out different?

I thought I'd share my reply here in case it would be useful to anyone else:
I guess I have a pretty active imagination, and what makes sense to me is to use the imagination to work around whatever doesn't work for you in making up a dad. So, for example, the first big obvious thing comes up, as you point out: "But if I'd HAD a decent dad, my life would have been so different!"

So - hm. What now?

Well, to make things as plausible for yourself as you can, maybe it makes sense to make up a dad who - for whatever reason - couldn't be there with you when you were growing up, but has just reconnected with you now, and is completely ecstatic to be with you NOW, however tragic it is that he couldn't be with you, and be there for you, when you were growing up. Doesn't matter what the reason was (but pick whatever works well for you): he was kidnapped by aliens, he was held in a POW camp, your mom didn't tell him he was the real father and he never knew about you, he was shipwrecked in the tropics, whatever. Indeed, if you can't get past the fact that he's not physically present in your real life, buying you real ice cream and paying for real movie tickets ... well, maybe he's a ghost. Or maybe he's still trapped overseas but has really good cell phone reception.

The important thing is that he's a presence in your life - at least, in the life in your head. The important thing is that, when you're feeling down, or wrestling with a problem, or even when you're feeling good and want someone HEALTHY to share your happiness with - you have an image of someone in your head who says things like:

"Good for you! I knew you could do it!"

"Don't worry. You've made it through worse things before. Let's brainstorm together about what you can do next."

"Wow - your new friend is really great! I'm so glad I got to meet her/him! I love seeing you hang out with people who treat you well!"

"Hey, I know your day sucked. I hate having days like that. What can we do together to make the rest of the day better?"

"Of course you're worth it."

"Of course I love you. More than anything. You're my pride and joy."

You don't get a different self as soon as imaginary ghost dad pops into your life ... but you can move toward a happier, healthier, more confident, more valued self by hanging out with him in your head.

I hope that helps. If it seems like a useful idea, play with it. All that matters is what works for you.
posted by kristi at 8:24 PM on February 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

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