I sent the following email to F:
"I mentioned to Lily this morning that it would be a good idea if she could chat with you about the holidays and how she’s feeling. This might be the best way forwards given that she is growing up and has to learn to express her wishes and feelings even when it feels awkward. I can’t always be in this position - where she wants me to protect her from doing what she feels she can’t manage, especially given there is a court order. Until this morning she would not budge from her position of no more than 4 nights. It would be good if you could hear it from her. But she may not want to bring it up directly with you so perhaps you can if she doesn’t and I’d be grateful for feedback as to how the conversation goes?
I have explained clearly to Lily what is expected to happen at Easter. She knows about the court order because Lisa told her about it and I have told her that the court order says a week. I have told her that the court order is to make things fair and that because you love her very much you want holiday time with her, too. I am sure that a child of Lily’s age will always feel a bit apprehensive about longer stays away and I have tried my best. I am hoping that it is the thought that she is afraid of, more than the reality, and that when the time comes she will not miss home as much as she thinks.
I am sure you are correct and that Lily does indeed say one thing to you and another to me when it comes to these new situations for her. But this doesn’t mean that what she is saying to you is correct. Maybe she gets bound into a surrounding enthusiasm and excitement when with you, Jodie, Spike and Billie, which at the time makes it difficult for her to say or even feel differently to the rest of you. And she hasn’t asked you any details - for example, she has told me that she did say she would like to go camping, but that she said she thought it was to France or Germany, not France and Germany. Nor have you given her details re the length of stay e.g. she didn’t know that camping in the summer would be more than 4 nights.
I have explained to Lily about how holidays are important with you as well as me and I have tried to find out why she feels the way she does - She can’t give a clear reason - just that she would want to come home after that amount of time. I presume it’s just a feeling she has that she herself doesn’t understand. Anyway, I have told her that if she is unhappy and missing mummy, she only has to tell you and you will bring her home. Given her feelings, I suggest you give her the chance to return after 5 days, as this seems the best way forward for the child.
As for the summer two weeks, when I mentioned this she threatened to run away. I am sure that, in theory, she should be ready for a summer holiday abroad but I really think we need to see how Easter goes. If Lily herself sees that, despite what she has told me about not being able to spend more than 4 nights at Easter, that when it came to it, she was fine and happy, she herself will be able to envisage the summer holidays more positively.
Re the mini mile - Lily has told me she wants to do it. I notice it is on the last weekend of the holidays so can we just say that she will do it, I will make sure she is with you for that day if it is that week I am down to have her? I haven’t made any plans yet for Easter but don’t intend to go away, so have no personal preferences about weeks. However, given my suggestion that you offer Lily the opportunity to see me for a bit, or come home, after 5 days, why don’t you have her the first week, and then should she have taken you up on the offer for a night or two (on your days 6 and 7), we could make up for this in the second week of Easter."
I then sent a quick email to him the day after asking if he had talked to L about the holidays. I got a "No, I haven't" back.
I feel insulted because I am putting in so much thought and can't help feeling emotional about all this. It seems to me that the best thing for Lily is to talk to her Dad. Maybe she would feel much more comfortable about going away for a week or two weeks if it came from him and I wasn't there. Surely this is in his interests, too - to prepare her for a long time away from me and explain where they would go and what it would be like, so that she feels more comfortable with it.
I am so drained after three and a half years of a legal battle. I spent two and a half of them raising L without him, thinking he would be found guilty, living the nightmare of being the mother of a sexually abused child. He has now completed a 30 week programme called Living without Violence through the LA. In it he identified many of his abusive behaviours towards me and his other, older, child. I know this through the woman's safety worker attached to the programme. I am traumatised, but am having counselling, which has identified just how totally traumatised I am. Not just by my daughter's disclosure and all that resulted from it but by the fact that the Judge let F off for some unknown reason and refused to even accept the evidence of an expert witness child psychologist. I will move in about 6 months, but not so far away that it will affect contact. I want a more peaceful life and I thought that asking F to talk to Lily about the holidays, rather than me doing it, and then possibly projecting my own anxieties onto her, would be the best way forward. Now and in the future. So I am very disappointed.
First thing this morning I got a phone call from Lily on F's phone asking if she could stay another night. I would have been OK with this but we had a three way conversation because F was in the car with her and F and I agreed that it was not going to be possible due to F's work, but it was a really positive exchange with a positive result where we worked together to try and accomodate Lily's wishes. So, when I got the "No, I haven't" my heart sank. I felt angry and then reminded the mind games he used to play. However, in his Living Without Violence, one of the things F identified was that the more I asked for something or expressed a need for something, the more this made him want to not do it. I hope so much that he won't continue to do this but fear that he will. He has not done one thing just because I asked him to, that I can recall. He is a mean, rational, calculated and bitter person. I am a soft, kind, emotional, warm and open person.
Do you have any advice on how to handle this holiday contact business form here on? I think I need to protect myself from him. But I wanted to hear that he would talk to Lily so that all the burden is not on me to find out her wishes and feelings about going away for a long period without me.And to hear that he had done that involved further communication with him.