How do I protect my daughter from her father?

Modern Parent

My daughter is 6, and her dad and I have been divorced since she was 2. Officially we had about a 60/40 split in time with her, but over the years his commitment level has dropped… And dropped… And dropped. Now he takes his time with her every other weekend, maybe, for less than 48 hours. The decline has been gradual so she hasn’t actually noticed, or at least she hasn’t verbalized it to me.

I just got a message from her dad, he has an upset stomach and is cancelling his weekend with her. He is in Canton Ohio. Oh well. But like. When I’m sick, I don’t cancel my time with her. She’s not an event to stay home from. She’s part of my life. He hasn’t seen her in almost a month, and a bad night in the bathroom was enough for him to call off another visit.

He usually picks her up Friday after dinner, so that he can pick her up on the way from dropping off his wife’s kids at their dad’s. Like she’s an errand. He won’t come earlier because it’s a “wasted trip.”

She is showing signs of anxiety and self-esteem issues. Pandemic and social isolation have wreaked havoc on her already. Her dad’s house sucks, she doesn’t have a bedroom door, her room is also the laundry room, and she tells me she hides in her closet because she gets scared of one of her dad’s wife’s boys (he is autistic and acts out in apparently frightening ways). But she loves her dad. She wants time with him. She wanted to go the Football Hall of Fame with him but he is in Cleveland and doesn't want to make the drive over.

I don’t know how to protect my kiddo. I know it’s not my job to make sure she has a perfect childhood, but things just suck. I also don’t want to keep her from her dad but at what point do you say, the cost outweighs the benefit! She’s stressed while she’s there, and every other week is an emotional rollercoaster of will he cancel or not? I feel like I have no choice but to let her get hurt by him (emotionally) until she’s old enough to decide whether it’s worth it or not.

I am thinking about therapy for her. Is that an overreaction? I don’t want my own feelings toward her dad to cloud my involvement in their relationship, but with every stupid excuse for a missed visit it gets harder to remain lovingly neutral. I want to tell her, this is not OK! Hold the men in your life to a higher standard! But she’s 6 and still hero-worships her dad.

I know this is all over the place. Thanks for reading. I don’t think there’s anything I can do to influence the situation, but venting to strangers on the internet is helpful…

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