The Things You Lose
fa?ther?hood ? ? (f伩mg align="ABSBOTTOM" border="0" src="http://us.i1.yimg.com/us.yimg.com/i/edu/ref/ahd/s/prime.gif"> r-h d ) KEY ?
1. The state of being a father.
2. The qualities of a father.
3. Fathers considered as a group.
I wasn’t even going to put the official definition for fatherhood on this post.
But in keeping with the previous entries I did so.
I’m glad I did. According to this definition, you can have the qualities of a father and that constitutes fatherhood. And you can possess the "state of being a father" (you fathered a child) and that also defines fatherhood. But I find it interesting that you can be the former without the latter. You can father a child and not have any of the qualities of a father. Conversely, you can have wonderful fatherly qualities and not have any offspring, or you can demonstrate fatherly qualities to children other than your own.
Today’s thoughts are about something else you lose in your divorce…fatherhood.
Now, right up front let me say that you don’t really lose your fatherhood from the perspective of it being taken from you or you not actually being your kid’s dad. That only happens when a man abdicates his position as daddy, either by his actions or his attitude.
Just as you can be a wonderful dad who sees his children on a limited basis because of visitation arrangements, so to a man can see his kids every day and fail miserably as a father. Being a Dad is not positional…it is earned and kept. Any man with working plumbing can father a child, but a dad is something different.
Even in this day and age of 50/50 parenting plans, a divorced dad still loses much of his fatherhood, in the tangible sense. I am a daddy 24 hours a day 7 days a week. But I only see my daughter on my assigned days. I get a phone call or two during the week and I try to go to her school at least once a week to have lunch with her, to give us more time.
But I will tell you this…regardless of how much time I see her each week it is never enough. It is not enough because it is controlled and measured. I have almost no spontaneity available to me. I can’t just walk in the door and say, “Hey let’s go to dinner tonight and then go for a walk by the river” I can’t just wake up on a Saturday morning and decide to take a trip to the lake, on a whim. I can’t play hooky from work and keep her out of school for a day and go to the zoo. I don’t have the chance to help her with her homework or take some Tae Kwan Do classes with her. I only get to tuck her in 4 times a month. (Just seeing that statement in writing brings tears to my eyes…4 times per month!) Only hear her bedtime prayers on those four nights each month. Yet my heart yearns to hear them everyday. Each night around her bedtime I try to make it a point to be praying for her and I imagine kneeling by her bed. You never lose your daddy heart, but you can lose the chance to function as a dad. I never stop worrying but I don’t have the chance to check on her and make sure she is okay. I wonder how she is doing in school but I don’t get to help with her homework. That is how a man loses his fatherhood in a divorce. He loses the exercise of his fatherhood. I have lain awake at night while a thunderstorms rages outside and tornado warnings are flashing on the TV screen and not been able to protect her and gather her into my arms. I have worried about her when the news reports another abducted child or a traffic accident claims the life of a girl her age. I have sat in church by myself on “Family Sunday” and worried about her spiritual health, and how am I going to influence her relationship to Christ in our limited time together. She went through a phase recently where she was rather self conscious about her need for braces and her glasses and I worried that she needed some extra reassurance from her daddy and I could only provide it on certain days. There are moments where she will be sitting next to me watching TV or reading a book and I will silently turn my attention to her. Just looking at her, noticing little things like the shape of her nose or the look of concentration on her face when she reads a good book or the way she laughs at cartoons. I commit as much about her as I can to memory, in storage for those days when she is not with me. Any dad worth his salt has looked at his children in wide eyed wonder and been amazed at the privilege of being their daddy. That doesn't end when your child isn't with you. You remember it and long for it.
Your fatherhood never ceases simply because you are precluded from living with your children. If you have a father’s heart, you are never not a dad.
I’ve heard stories of men who lose a limb in a war or an accident and get “phantom sensations” and reach to scratch an itch that only exists in their heads. Their minds tell them something exists that in reality is no longer there. In divorce, fatherhood can sometimes have the same cruel, phantom effect on you. You occasionally have moments that make you think of your kids and you might even reach for them or catch yourself almost calling out their name to show them something you think might interest them.
Then you remember they aren’t there.
You are trying to be a daddy and your little person isn’t there to receive your gift of fatherly affection.
Divorce strips away so many important moments of contact and influence and bonding. Things are gone that you can’t get back. In those ways…you lose your fatherhood when you lose your marriage.