DEAR ABBY: I have never written to a newspaper before, but when I saw the letter from the 12-year-old girl, "Mad at Dad in Virginia," who doesn't want to invite her "cheating" father to her wedding or have him walk her down the aisle when she marries, I knew I had to.
It takes two to make a marriage, and it takes a lot of pressure to break one up. My parents also divorced when I was a child. (My dad ran around, too.) Both of them remarried, and I had wonderful stepparents and wonderful stepsiblings. When I married, my stepdad urged me to have my father walk me down the aisle, but I listened to others in my family and excluded my father and his family from my wedding. My brother gave me away. BIG MISTAKE. Eventually I regretted I didn't have my father at my wedding.
I later realized that my father loved me as much as my mother did -- they just couldn't make their marriage work. Twenty-five years ago, I divorced my first husband and was married a second time. You guessed it. My father walked proudly beside me as I went down the aisle.
I hope when the girl gets older she will forgive her father and love him for who he is. -- BEEN THERE IN BUFFALO, N.Y.
DEAR BEEN THERE: I hope so, too. He didn't divorce his daughter; he divorced her mother. Thank you for sharing what you learned from experience. I advised the girl that although her anger at her dad and her protectiveness toward her mother were understandable, she should make no hard-and-fast decisions at this time. I also told her that when she is older she will better understand the reasons her parents' marriage had failed. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: When I was in my early 20s, my mother confided to me that my father had at one time cheated on her. (They are still married.) I was shocked and disappointed.
After thinking about it overnight, I decided that what happened between him and Mother didn't change what a terrific father he had always been to me. It takes two to tango, and my mother was wrong to share something so intimate with me. I believe the reason she did it was to show me he wasn't the perfect man I thought he was.
My advice to that little girl is to recognize that sometimes adults behave like children. Some parents who divorce want their child to take their side and selfishly try to get the child to love them best. Whatever the reasons the parents had for divorcing, the intimate details should be left to the adults.
I'm sure the father hasn't told his daughter why he strayed. I agree with you that she shouldn't rush to judgment about her father. -- DADDY'S GIRL, MONROE, GA.
DEAR DADDY'S GIRL: Divorce is usually painful for all concerned, and many times things are said in the heat of anger without considering what the consequences might be. A mother who is tempted to dump the dirty details of her husband's infidelities on her impressionable daughter should remember that a little girl's first love is her daddy. And the impression she has of him -- for better or worse -- may color her expectations of men for the rest of her life.