Frank Sinatra’s Daughter Wished Her Mother Was Less Forgiving to the Singer

Frank Sinatra and his first wife separated early in his daughter Tina’s life. Despite this, Sinatra frequently came to his ex-wife’s home to visit his children and have family dinners. The children eagerly anticipated his visits and were sometimes disappointed when he canceled at the last minute. Tina wished that her mother had been more demanding on the singer when this happened.

Frank Sinatra’s daughter said her parents had different approaches to parenting

Tina and her siblings spent most of their time at their mother’s home. She shared that much of the difficult work of disciplining the children fell on her mother, Nancy Barbato.

“My mother was always the disciplinarian,” she told the National Post in 2000. “He was never good that way. He wouldn’t ground you, he’d reason with you, he’d make you think about what you did so you could feel really stupid about it. He was very gentle with his wisdom.”

She explained that Sinatra was a devoted father but was probably better as a friend than a parent.

“He was a wonderful friend to people,” she explained, “at times, probably a better friend than parent. He could be more available to friends than to a little kid … But that happens with parents who are gone a lot. And he was gone a lot.”

She doesn’t think her mother was hard enough on her father

His frequent absences made his visits all the more exciting. Tina explained what it was like when Sinatra came to the house in her book My Father’s Daughter: A Memoir.

“Each of Dad’s visits was an emotional parabola: the eager anticipation of his arrival; the giddy joy of his company; a swelling apprehension as his departure drew near; the dull aching void he left in his wake,” she wrote. “When I summon the image of that needy little girl in that abandoned room, I feel just the same today.” 

She explained that sometimes the void of disappointment came before a visit even happened. On occasion, he canceled at the last minute. Tina shared that she thought Barbato was too lenient with him when he did.

“I felt Mom was being too flexible, too quick to make excuses,” she said. “I’d be thinking, ‘No, you get him back on the phone and tell him that he should be here.’”

Frank Sinatra’s daughter briefly cut off communication with him

Despite the early frustration, Tina said she generally got along with her father. This changed when he married his fourth wife, Barbara. She felt that Barbara didn’t want to share Sinatra’s attention with his children. Tensions came to a head because of Sinatra’s 80th birthday party. Barbara did not invite the children. In response, Tina cut off communication with her father, knowing it was a risk because of his declining health.

“I was prepared to do that. That’s how desperate I was. I also believed it was better for him … I just prayed for nothing fatal,” she explained, adding, “I knew it would take something drastic to put us back together.”

After Sinatra had a heart attack, Tina resumed communication with him, and they remained close until his death in 1998.

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