I’m supposed to be working tonight but it’s hard to concentrate.

My daughter is 31 and lives on the opposite coast. She has historically been bad at keeping in touch with her parents. About five years ago neither I nor her father and stepmother had heard from her for a few months, despite our attempts to get in touch, and it got to where her stepmother called her then boyfriend’s house at 2 am on a Saturday morning to track her down. It did emerge (from the boyfriend I think) that she got anxious about calling us/not calling us. She still didn’t call me after that, and eventually I decided that to maintain our relationship I would need to visit her, which I have done three times in three successive years, and we always get along great in person. This year she had said she would visit me in the summer, but the time period of said visit came and went, and the last time I had any contact with her was in August when I texted her about my engagement (and I was half surprised when she responded then). She might return about a quarter of my texts, and I don’t text her that often; I gave up on calling her a couple of years ago since she never answered (though when she did used to pick up we had pleasant conversations). But, seriously, we do get along well in person, and she has sent me lovely surprising gifts a couple of times over the past several years (I usually, but not always, get her something for her birthday and for Hanukkah, but we are not really heavy into gift giving in our family) - maybe a gift certificate or some little stuff (like, last year, a T-shirt of a book she liked and a neck wrap that another friend liked for motorcycling). That’s what parents do, right?

So I texted her the day after Thanksgiving to check if her address was the same so I could send her a few items. I have heard nothing. So I texted her dad to see if he had heard from her. He said his wife had on Thanksgiving, so I asked if there was news. He called me this evening and I learned that

  • yes, she has moved
  • her job is stable through the spring (she works in the film industry and those jobs tend to be off and on)
  • she does talk to other people (they pay her phone bill) but not so much to her parents; however
  • she picks up the phone when he calls

So, and this is humiliating, I actually broke down and said to her dad, “I feel like she hates me.” He doesn’t think she does, just that she’s bad at communicating. (And in his younger days he would have let it slip if he thought she did.) Cronyboy thinks she picks up when her dad calls because he pays the phone bill. It’s hard to talk to him about how I feel because he doesn’t have kids so I don’t think he can relate.

I have a great relationship with her brother - not that we are always on the phone, but we do see each other about twice a year, it was his idea to travel with me to South America, and he asked to visit over winter break for 8-10 days (I was expecting a week). He is three years younger, and he is not close with her either. She had an older brother, who died by suicide at 17, and who before he died was pretty awful to his brother and sister. Her father and I did our best as parents, but I feel like I could do so much better with the knowledge I have now . . . Anyway, every time I read about someone’s horrifying toxic parents here I ask myself, did I do that? And the answer is no, I can’t even fucking imagine doing that. But mother-daughter relationships are so fraught anyway? I guess? I mean, who knows how she interprets any word I might say. She was always independent and more into her friends than her family (I’ve heard that is characteristic of middle children). But, apparently she is doing well and I should just be happy about that, right? I love and admire her and I approve of her life choices (not that I’m particular about life choices as long as they don’t involve meanness or major crime), except for the one where she chooses not to communicate with me.

I know most of you are closer to her age than mine so I thought I’d throw this out here and maybe you can let me know what I’m not seeing. Anyway, thanks for reading.