I have been having an exciting exchange with my nineteen-year-old son, who’s off to his second semester at college. We’re talking about music, and guitars, and how I can help him. It’s a welcome connection. And today as I was giving him some encouragements, I was conscious of ways that I can love and encourage him in ways his mother will never be able to. In the nine years since my divorce, I’ve lost over 2,000 days with my son and daughter.
You Cannot Change the Past
I could get bitter and sad about this loss (and sometimes I do) or I can continue to take action towards the loving care of my children, regardless of my divorce decree. And in one more year, the restraints are off. When my daughter turns 18 I will finally get clear of the financial burden that was levied on me while I was working a big job at Dell Computer. I have never made that much money again. And the two times I tried to modify my child support payments, my ex-wife interrupted the process. The second time, she simply didn’t show up to the meeting. I could’ve filed again, and brought her ass into court to answer for her indifference. Of course, I did not.
I cannot make up for the lost 2,000+ days that I did not see my kids. I cannot go back and give them one more hug, one more “I love you.” I gave them everything I had. I gave them all the love I could figure out how to pack into my 985 days. I’m still doing the same thing.
Your Job As a Single Parent
My primary responsibility is for my attachment and encouragement of my children. Sure, my career, happiness, and relationships, are important. But nothing trumps your children. Ever.
AND, as a non-custodial dad I’ve had to squeeze my love and desire into smaller and smaller segments of time. When the kids got their cars, they made the decision to “stop switching houses.” I had to roll with the request. “It’s fine,” I said. It was not fine. So you can take several hundred more days off my calendar. And the effect was to motivate me EVEN MORE to offer connective events and encouragements to my children.
There’s a gift within the loss of being a non-custodial parent. Since I am not responsible for the daily discipline and governance of my children, my relationship can be oriented around YESES rather than NOS. I am not a Disneyland dad, but I am a full-invested dad, who gives 110% of my attention and care to my children, regardless of how they are treating me. I have to keep asking for the “join” with them. And 90% of the time I get indifference or “sorry, I didn’t check my phone all weekend.” But guess what, it’s hard to get a teenager to respond to your text, period. It’s not me. It’s their lives, their priorities, their friends, their agenda.
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Get Your Agenda Out of Your Kid’s Lives
My agenda with my kids is to be together and to show my undeniable love and support.
I have plenty of options, even as a non-custodial parent, to offer connections to my children. Yes, they still have to be the ones to pick up the offer, but I can keep them coming. “Can I take you to see Billie Eilish when she comes through town?” I’m guessing that’s going to get a “Sure!” It may not come today. It may not come next week. But at some point both of my children say “Yes, that sounds great.”
Parenting wins, are moments when you can celebrate your children. Sometimes you can do it with them. “Hey that was so amazing when you spent Christmas Eve with us.” Often you will do it alone. “Oh my goodness, my daughter is coming for Christmas.”
It’s a loss that I cannot celebrate my children with their mother. She has taken a divergent path. In the same manner that she didn’t talk to me about going to see a divorce attorney, BEFORE SHE GOT THEIR OFFER, she’s not interested in having anything but a logistical relationship with me. She’s remarried. She’s busy. And she’s too busy to deal with any of my requests or offers. So, she’s effectively ended the possibility of parenting joins together. “Wow, just imagine our first grandkid, we’re so lucky. Look at the good we did.”
She won’t allow that shared love to happen. I think I understand why. She’d have to acknowledge how she treated me unfairly. She’d have to admit that her divorce strategy was all about HER and not about what’s “in the best interest of the kids.” She’d have to apologize. That’s not ever going to happen. Even when she lied to me and was caught, she didn’t ever apologize. It’s as if, saying “I’m sorry,” means something more shameful. (I’m done taking her inventory.)
Dads Will Love You Forever
Dear Kids, I fought to say in the marriage and was denied by your mom. I fought for 50/50 custody so I could be your dad as much as I possibly could. I was denied by your mom and the state of Texas. Today, I want you to know, I did not give up on you, I did not escape into some other life without you. I have strived to be your loving father since the moment I pulled each of you from the womb. I have never let go of your hands. I was not given the opportunities to be there as often as I would’ve liked. For that, I am sorry. The choice was not mine.
Today, I renew my faith in our love and appreciation. I will continue to offer ideas for us to be together in celebration of our relationship. I look forward to so many more moments with both of you. Know this: your father is out here, rooting for you with everything I’ve got. And if you need me, I will do almost anything to support you.
And, that’s the best a dad can do.
More articles from The Whole Parent:
- Dad’s Divorce Journey: 9-years Later I Still Feel the Loss of Kid-time
- Heal Your Heart from the Fear and Loss by Opening with Vulnerability
- Self-Care and Appreciation: Can I Love All of Myself Right Now?
- 3 Required Traits for Building a Lasting Relationship
- The Big Three Marriage Issues and the Hope of Counseling
- 8 Lessons from My First 2 Divorces