Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Battle Scars of a Daddy

Your eyes are red from the tears you cry, that nobody sees.
Your knees are worn from the hours you spend in prayer for the precious children you love.
Your ears are strained from listening for the sounds that your children make. Laughter, shock, sometimes fear, and the always wonderful "I love you Daddy".
Your hands are worn from the work you do to take care of those you love.
Your back is bent from the weight a man carries who has children in this world. But it's "straight as a sawlog" (Thank you Pastor Paul Walters!) because you will never waiver under the burden of doing what you have to do for them.
Your mind is whirling from the constant thinking and planning and hoping and dreaming. The constant observing to spot trouble before it pounces. And your mind is full of memories that get you through those long days between seeing your children.
Your face gets sore from the smiles they bring.
Your soul is racing with the dreams you dream for them, and the hopes you have for them, the fears that make you sleepless, and the strength that tells you that you are bigger than whatever comes their way.
Your heart is broken as they grow, warmed as they love you, saddened when you think of the time when they'll fly on their own, and...hopefully...at peace when they become who and what God placed them here to become. Because ultimately...He is their Father.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Purpose, Goals, and the things you leave behind.

I am writing from a motel room in Houston TX. I have been in the process of relocating here since this spring. It's a long process because I haven't had the money to do it the right way, so I come here and train for the new job, then go back to Nashville for a few days to see Morgan or go to Philly for a few weeks to work and pick up some cash. Then I come back here and train on the job again. Ideally I would just come here and stay and probably be farther along on the ladder of success right now. But I don't have that option.
Many of you know my story so I won't repeat it. The highlights are I divorced in 1999. I have not remarried. I have one child, a daughter. I adore her. She is the axis upon which my world spins. I was a mortgage banker for 10 years and in 2007 I lost my home when the industry collapsed. By 2008 I was homeless, and sleeping in my car. I could have left Nashville and moved home to Philly or to some ranch in Wyoming or some chicken processing plant in Iowa, but I stayed in Nashville because that's where my daughter is. I can't imagine her growing up without her dad so I endured homelessness for 15 of the last 36 months. Actually I have been homeless for that entire time but sometimes I had a place to stay.
Now I am in Houston because Nashville holds no promise anymore and I can't stay and watch another year slip away. She'll want to go to college in a few years and I need to provide that. I have lost my wife, my home, my career, and most of the time I spent with my daughter. When you have no home you have no where to spend the night with your child. You have no stove to cook strawberry pancakes on. You can't lay on the couch and watch Cartoon Network. You can't tuck her in. You have to give away your pets. You lose everything you lived for. You run out of motivation.
I am running on shear stubbornness and will. The people I loved and the people I still love...the people who motivated me to keep going and keep getting on my feet are gone. Gone totally (in the case of my ex wife) or almost gone, in the case of my daughter.
I think most divorced men go through this from time to time. Divorce removes our motivation and our purpose. And let me tell you, paying child support is NOT the same as coming home at night to your family and budgeting out the money. Writing a support check is not the same as sitting at the kitchen table with the love of your life and planning the future. It isn't even close. Child support feels like baby-rent. Like this is the price I pay for my 5 days a month. It removes a man from the feeling of fatherhood. Yes you need to pay it...I'm not debating that. But it damages your soul. Because you really do feel like you are paying a fee to be the daddy that you dreamed of being. I know there are bad dads out there, but most are not. There are bad moms too but they don't get press.
Remove a man's loves and you remove his passion. Remove his passion and you remove his purpose. Remove that purpose and you have a robot. A robot won't go on forever.
I am a robot, sitting in a motel in Houston. I make myself do the things I have to do because I have to. It's that or fade away altogether. I miss the things I've lost. Every heartbeat hurts. My daughters face is the ever present picture in my mind. There is great fulfillment in your job if you have a family. There is great fulfillment in your hobbies or your dreams or anything else in your life, as long as the people and things that drove you to dream them are still around. Take away the inspiration...or severely limit your access to it...and you extinguish a life, a breath at a time.
Moms feel this too when they are away from their kids. It's not just a dad thing. "God hates divorce" the Bible tells us and the preachers love repeating it. God hates it because of the toll it extracts and the damage it does.
There are a lot of dads reading this right now and wiping away tears of agreement. Press on...that's all I can say...press on.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Long time...new thoughts

Sorry guys...I promised in February that I'd be posting more often and here it is June. I will do better from here forward.
I wanted to say a few words about consistency and resilience. I have been divorced for almost 12 years now. My daughter has been with her mom for the majority of those years because Tennessee adhered to the age-old "tender years" policy until very recently. To be very honest...I understand it in hindsight better than I did when we got divorced. I was hurt, confused, afraid that my daughter would just "X" me out of her life. I learned that you earn the title of  "Daddy" and it is very hard to lose...almost impossible. I see that my daughter needed to spend more time with her mom during the first formative years. She was 18 months when we divorced. But where I differed from many men is that I refused to accept the time away as defining of my fatherhood. So may men give up because, let's be very honest...it hurts. It hurts to miss your kids and it hurts to watch yourself be reduced to nothing but a "wallet" who matters only when child support is due and who should be pilloried if child support becomes a burden bigger than you can bear. It hurts to see the fatherhood you treasure given a dollar value, and to be made to feel like you "get to" see your kids. For the record, I know there are women who endure this demeaning treatment as well so please don't read misogyny into my comments. 
My daughter turned 13 recently. She has made the decision to move with me to a new town. In TN she can make that determination on her own at age 12. I won't go into any reasons, but it is time. It is time her dad gets to influence her and to take care of her and help her on the road to adulthood. And it is time for me to finally feel like a real dad. I've waited 11 years for this. I stayed when I could have ran. I fought when I could have quit. I never stopped loving her and never failed to show it and say it. My daughter wants to be with me. This isn't one of those "If you don't straighten up you're going to go live with your dad" threats that came true. She is a great kid, stays out of trouble, does excellent work in school, is active in church. This is a decision based on who she is and where she is. And it's based on my being consistently in her life no matter what it took. Those of you who are familiar, know I paid a high price to remain in Nashville and stay in her world. I wouldn't have it any other way. I had no promise this day would come and it would pay off...I did it because it was right. I resisted the urge to speak ill of her mom, as so often happens. I resisted the urge to load my car up in the middle of the night and just disappear. I stayed and I showed her I loved her more than any circumstance could ever affect. I stayed because I love her. She sees it...she knows it.
Men...(and women) please...don't become the cartoon version of divorced parents. Don't hate. Don't use your kids to hurt your ex spouse, as I am watching happen to a friend. Hold it in. Suck it up. Be bigger. Be fair and just. Let go of bitterness as much as you can. Show your kids that happiness is still possible after all this. And most of all...don't quit. I have a friend going through a hellish divorce right now. This friend is being bullied and beaten by the spouse and the only thing that keeps my friend going is the amazing love this person has for her children. That is a fuel that never runs out. It is a power that never fades away. It keeps you fighting for your kids when everything and everybody tells you to quit.
Don't quit.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Dads and our stories...what 2011 will bring to this site

Hello men. It's been a while since I've posted here. I have had a lot going on and it's been difficult making time to write anything at all. However, I recognize the need to get this site back to it's former position and so there are plans underway to do exactly that.
First off, let me express my sincere thanks to those of you who have written me, thanking me for this site and for the book. It is dear to my heart and will remain so. I have some exciting ideas going forward and you guys who have shared your heart with me are at the center.
In the future I am looking at:
* a revised version of "Sometimes Daddies Cry", my book which spawned this site. It needs to be updated and revised and I am going to try to accomplish that this year.
* The addition of a few guest contributors to this site. I need the help with the burden of maintaining four blogs and a writing schedule. I have several friends who are quite insightful in their own journey through divorce and they would make excellent contributors.
* The launch of a call-in internet radio show just for divorced dads and the topics we deal with. Guests, friends, advice, a listening ear. This is a very exciting part of the future for this site.
* a weekly podcast for encouragement and counsel for divorced dads.
There is more on the horizon but details are being worked out.
Writing will resume shortly here men. In the meantime, keep your chin up and stay on the high road!