Monday, April 11, 2011

You're not the trophy dad you think you are

I have to warn you before you start reading. It's rather long and it's one of my rants slash soap box writings. In light of some recent events that I have grown fed up with I thought I might as well share my thoughts here. I  hope you make it through to the end. I would be even more grateful if you would comment.

"They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind. The stalk has no head, it will produce no flour"... Hosea 8:7

In the beginning of my hopes as a father I had dreams of seeing my children leave my home sometime in the future. Just not as close to the future as I had hoped for. What I was looking for was something more of sometime after they graduated high school and maybe off to college or just venturing out on their own in responsibility. But that wasn't the case.

What the case was, was them being taken by mother and moving almost 100 miles away and me being able to do nothing about it, leaving me at me the time alienated from my children. A far cry from my hopes and dreams being fulfilled. Dreams of having a day to day relationship. Dreams of raising my children into responsible adults. Instead I became a "weekend-dad."

Trying to be a father to my own children and my step-kids, within boundaries but even that's questionable, is literally the hardest thing I've set out to do. No matter what I do, each day I continue to feel I have never done enough. Everyday I'm without my kids I think about wanting to be with them. Each day I am with them I think how I don't want it to end. But I'm always reminded they are just visiting. I hate that word.

I know a man, the very man who accused me of child abuse for his child custody case against my wife, who has pushed his 12 year old son away from him. I wondered how long it would take before the boy had finally had enough. His own patience began growing thin. I could tell within the last year the number of second chances he was giving his dad was taking its toll on him and probably wouldn't last much longer......

......his dad father is a weekend father and step-dad just like me dad. I'm not about to claim I'm a great dad and how perfect or how I never lose my temper or claim I make Ward Clever and Mike Brady look like intimidating child beaters. The point of this blog is for one, it has to do the heart of a child breaking, let alone at the hands of their parent. Two, he's a father who wants all the privilege and honor of standing as a dad, but without doing the work. That really irks me. No, that's not right. It downright infuriates me. It pisses me off! He tried to help my ex-wife take my children away from me. And three, what really makes me angry about it, is that when he messes up or when his messes causes problems, he blames other people; mostly his ex-wife, my wife. Things are never his fault.

A few weekends ago it was supposed to be this his weekend visitation. I can't remember what exactly occurred for this son to finally reach the point where he did not want to go, but it did. He had enough of his own father's actions. Actually now, I do think it had something to with his father calling his sister but not talking to him and a couple of other things. In any case he made his decision and his father refuses to see the truth. Refuse to see his own pattern of behavior.

He never calls his children. Doesn't even take them the bare minimum. Even that is a stretch. Is not reliable on his word when he makes promises to his kids. Most of his visitations the kids spend much of the time with their grandmother. When my step-son goes to his father's house, this father spends most of the time doing his own thing. He screams and yells directly in his children's faces.

I've come to see this guy as a bully. That's exactly what he is. A bully. An angry insecure bully who is not afraid to blame anyone for his shortcomings. Not even his children are excluded. While I've never known of him to blame them for anything they pay prices in broken promises.

One of the many things I've learned from the last 5 years of events, is that being a dad is a matter of choice. I'm sure we've all heard the cliché "Any man can be a father, but it takes a real man to be a dad." Other than the fact that I hate clichés in and of themselves, this one in particular I've never really cared for. It doesn't define, "any man" or "real man." If we're gonna put it in a cliché then how about this one? "Fathering a child is not difficult, being a father is, and any man can do it."  Ask any number of people and you're never going to reach a conclusion of a "real" man. Yet there are great fathers from all walks of life, class, education, economic status, etc.

Because get real, no matter how street smart or book smart a man is and no matter how easy they are able to apply them to child rearing, every child is different, every day is different and every situation comes with its own bag of difficulties. No matter how uneducated a man is, or lack of, skills a man has, it means nothing if his heart and attitude is only towards his own wants and needs.

I don't know what's worse, a "deadbeat dad" or a man (or woman) that uses a child to look like that all-American parent and brag about the bare minimum things they do even though they are truly grumbling about it all. With gifts and activities his father and step-mom have been buying his children for years. His son grew tired of it.

So he refused to go to his father's which made his father angry. Not angry that he didn't get to see his son, but instead angry at his son's mother blaming her accusing her of keeping him from him. Rather than talk to his own son and listen to what he has been trying to tell him, his father remains deaf to his own son's hurt and disappointments because his pride was hurt.

This man's pride knows no bounds by refusing to see his son the next weekend. I don't know this man's reason why other than a response of sticking to the visitation schedule. And because his father didn't want to spend the weekend with him he now is refusing to return to this father's.

Each time I encounter this man I tend to wonder if he ever feels the anguish of his children being absent. He never calls his children, but does he ever think about or does he really refuse to because he would have ask for them by talking to their mother like I've heard? I wonder why he doesn't take his kids during the week like his visitation schedule says he can since he only wants to follow it so much? I wonder why he doesn't play Lego's or army men or Littlest Pet Shop. I wonder if his two weeks are as long as my two weeks. I wonder if his weekends are as short as my weekends. Maybe his own pride exceeds far more than any form of emotional pain and sense of loss. Maybe there never was a form of attachment. Whatever the reasons, he keeps making the same choices.

Each time this man pulls some kind of stunt that leaves his kids disappointed and hurt I want to confront him and remind him of why he tried to take his children away from their mother and help take my children away from me and then ask, "If you're such a great dad then why do I have to pick up the pieces you break?"

Way to go prideful father! One down, one to go.

Like I said, I'm not about to claim to be a perfect dad. I try hard each day because I feel in many ways I've failed hard as a result of how I handled those child abuse allegations. But what's great about it is that I have the choice to make a difference; a difference in myself and in my children's lives.

Surely we dads can find at least 20-30 mins to play with our children every single day. We have absolutely no clue how much a child measures trust by on whether or not their dad plays with them and how involved he is when he plays. And how damaging it is when we do not play with our child every day. Grant it that this will change as a child grows. But think about it, if we're a divorced dad, remember how it felt towards the dissolution of our marriage and our spouse began spending less and less time with us? Who knows, you might look pretty good with pink nails and a tiara or learn battle tactics from army men and Starship Troopers.

Do you realize that your child needs to feel your skin? And how powerful of a bond it will give you? I'm sure you would find out if your spouse stopped. Simple gestures of stroking your child's hair or rubbing their back conveys more of a powerful message than any words you could ever say. It conveys a bond of trust and security. It enforces those positive words we say. Should being saying.

Wanna piss me off? Do you not realize that a child IS what you tell them they are? Almost always people become what they are labeled. Children especially become self-fulfilling prophecies. Was whatever your child just did really the, "dumbest thing you've ever seen somebody do?" Was it really the, "most ridiculous thing they ever could have done?" Do you really believe that your child is an idiot? No one believes you more than your own child. Growing up is a learning process. A "learn from your mistakes" kinda thing. Hey wake up father! I've got news for you, so is parenting! If you're entitled to your mistakes then shouldn't your child be allowed theirs? Repeats are one thing, mistakes are another.

I saw the step-sons brokenness when I told him his father wouldn't be taking him for the weekend. He had been hoping for it. I doubted it was going to happen based on past patterns but I didn't say anything. There's not much a step-father can do when a father hurts a child other than be there and listen if they have something to say.

What is wrong with some of you fathers? Are you blind, deaf and dumb? Our children are precious. They have been placed into our care. They do not belong to us. They are fragile...breakable and sensitive. There is absolutely not one thing we fathers cannot say or do that will not impact their ability, success, and happiness for their entire lives. You need to recognize when something isn't right. Even if you do see that something isn't right, have the guts to put your pride aside and get the facts before you start barking.

It's one thing for fathers to slack in an intact family, but when it comes to a father and his children after divorce you would think this would be enough to initiate a desire in him to pursue his children even more. Sadly in our world today this is far from the truth. That bitterness and anger you hold onto towards your children's mother does not affect her. It hurts the children instead, and they are not stupid or naive.

God says:
They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind. The stalk has no head, it will produce no flour... Hosea 8:7

Today I see the fruits of my ex-wife and my wife's ex-husband labor coming back to haunt them. They are reaping what they have sown. He went to great trouble and expense of sowing his lies and anger with no regard to who he hurt or what damage it may cause in expectation of reaping some advantage from it, a selfish gain. But it was like sowing the wind, in vain. He sat his eyes on what is not. He helped make a big a noise, but had nothing substantial in it. Instead he is bringing ruin upon himself. He is reaping a whirlwind. He may have his deceit and pride for him, he also the truth against him. As a man sows, so shall he reap. And I see this man reaping what he has sown with his son.

I guess what God wouldn't let you and your conspirer's rip apart and tear out of mine and my wife's arms, you and them are now pushing away right underneath your blind eyes.

Being a weekend dad is tough. You deal with emotions and thoughts that are painfully draining. You face situations when you have to just throw your pride out the window. When you're a weekend dad with step-kids your challenges and emotional turmoil's only double.

Fathering is supposed to be a joy and a privilege. Not for the ego and a trophy. And definitely not a burden. Nor are they your friends. Father's, and I'm mainly speaking to weekend dads and to be better dads and get our priorities straight. Show your kids you love them. Words mean nothing without action. We need to see the influence we have when we say one thing, but our children see us living something else. We need to wake up and realize we don't teach our children how to think. As fathers we are suppose to teach them to think correctly but when we're disengaged we leave them to think anything.

Dad, God didn't loan those children to you just to see what you would do with them; especially to be your emotional drain. Your children have every right to ask questions and make requests without being broken. Just because you are a coward that doesn't give you the right to make him cower when he is wanting a hero. You are a small, small man. A real dad would love his children more than his television or guitar. A real dad wouldn't dump his children on other family members but instead take every possible means to spend time with them.

I used to think like everyone else, that it took a real man to be a real dad. That suggests that a man is not at fault if he fails at fatherhood. A man can't use the excuse that he was raised by a bad father or no father at all therefore he is subject to his environment. But a man has no one to blame but himself. Fatherhood is a choice.

I think some fathers don't deserve to be dads.

I think some fathers do more harm than good.

I think some fathers don't deserve their kids, because kids don't deserve those kinds of fathers.

So it is for my heated rant on my soapbox. I warned it was long. And it may even jump around. That's beyond the point for this one.

Please tell me what you think whether good or bad. Does anything stand out? In light of this post share some positive stories about any kind of father role in your life.

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Where my inspiration comes from

A Recycled-Dad with Bipolar & Parkinson's, reflections on fathering and family life and other stuff thrown in'll love my Soap Box Rants

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Why I call myself a Recycled Dad

I call myself a Recycled Dad because of the struggles with remarriage and being a step-parent and weekend dad. This is also about my life living with bipolar and how it affects me personally, my family and my job. It also reflects on the grace God has poured out on me throughout recovery from alcohol and an eating disorder. Recycled Dad is about my reflections on the wisdom God teaches daily on fatherhood and being a better husband in spite of being bipolar.

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