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.