Ask Exene: What happens when your 6-year-old starts asking, via your ex, about your dating life?
Exene Cervenka is a writer, visual artist and punk rock pioneer. The OC transplant is the lead singer for X, the Knitters and Original Sinners. If you want to ask the legendary vocalist for advice, send an email to email@example.com.
I'm a single father with a daughter and an ex-wife who pretty much hates my guts--a common story. Anyway, Our daughter, who is 6, usually comes to stay with me every couple of weeks as part of my court-approved visitation. I've been divorced for about a year, and I seem to have some baby mama drama on my hands now that I'm starting to date again.
Now when my daughter comes to visit me, she'll say things to me such as "Daddy, is it true you never loved Mommy?" or "Daddy, what's a whore? Mama said sometimes they stay over when I'm not here." Stuff like that obviously puts me in a really awkward position, not only as a dad, but also as a man in general. And I've noticed that the comments and questions my daughter asks are getting increasingly more sexual, though she doesn't really understand what she's asking usually.
I won't say that I'm innocent as far as the breakdown in the relationship with my ex (yep, I cheated), but now it seems she's taking her anger at me out on our daughter and ruining my time with her. I've talked to my ex-wife directly about this and we've had our arguments over it, but that still doesn't really help me with the problem of protecting my little girl or giving her advice about how to deal with these sort of comments my wife makes when I'm not around. Any advice on what to tell a 6-year-old when it comes to answering her questions based on inappropriate comments from my ex?
It's more than you in an awkward position. Your child is in a terrible position, and you should do anything and everything rational to help her. Arguing with your ex-wife (arguing in general) solves nothing. Tell your ex what your daughter said. What she's been telling her is long-term, seriously damaging to your daughter. Ask if she will agree to do counseling together with you. And if she says no and doesn't understand, won't listen, yells and screams, you could try to get custody. But I don't see in your letter anything suggesting you want custody. What did you tell your daughter when she asked, "Daddy, what's a whore?" She might ask her friends or her teacher, if she really wants an answer. Really bad news if that happens. You and your ex need to get it together immediately. Maybe you could focus more on your 6-year-old daughter. Cheating and dating aren't as important.