Fathers Day should be a celebration of paternalism and love, but for me it’s a day where I am filled with a hollow sadness and an uncomfortable ache. It’s a stark reminder that my inability to manage a broken relationship has terrible consequences.
Divorces are tough sons of bitches, but divorces with children…now that’s the toughest of them all. One day they are there and the next they are gone. It’s the small things that produce the most damaging shards. The silence around the house, the omission of the once-in-a-while glimpse as they run into the kitchen for food and drink before once again disappearing in their bedroom; the bedtime ritual of storytelling, hugs and kisses and the morning ritual of the second kiss – the one where you pause momentarily to take in the beauty, where you tell yourself “I created that,” before kissing him softly on his forehead so you are careful not to wake him.
Fathers Day was nothing to me until I became a father. I didn’t have that bond with my Dad. It was an automatic response to buy him a card, write something about love on the inside and then buy him a packet of cigarettes to help him to continue his slide into the abyss. I don’t think it meant anything to him either.
But when I became a Dad that all changed. My ex-wife would make sure it was a special occasion. She would help my son to buy me a card and suitable gifts. I would be treated like a king for the day. Everyone would bow down to the mighty father of the household and I could do anything that I wanted. This started with my breakfast in bed and a day full of lots of hugs and kisses.
Today, I open my card some 4-5,000 miles away from where he is playing with his friends. I don’t even know if he is thinking about me?
“For my brilliant Dad from your Son. You’re the very, very best Dad.”
Really? I don’t feel like the very, very best Dad in the world – far from it – my eyes sting and I feel lost without him then lost when I am with him. My time spent with him is akin to watching a great movie. You hire it for a few days, feel the emotions of laughter, tears and sadness and then you return it for someone else to have the same experience followed by a feeling of emptiness. The silence returns and the ache takes its rightful place inside of my tummy.
So if this is how I feel, how does this affect a 10-year old child? My role as a parent is to protect my child. When he was first born I was bombarded with thoughts of him falling out of trees or getting a good hiding in the schoolyard. I had an intense fear that I wouldn’t always be there to protect him and I would close my eyes and hope that no harm would come to him. My biggest fear was always that some bastard would hurt him and I wouldn’t be there to protect him. How ironic that I became that bastard and have hurt my son more than anyone alive on this planet.
I’m sorry son I really am.
There are a few changes people can make in their lives to prevent this pain. The first is to not take parenthood for granted. Do not treat the birth of the child in the same way as owning an iPad. It’s not cool to be a parent. It’s utterly selfish and immoral to become a parent when you are not ready. Nobody understands the commitment that you are going to undertake until you take it. Too many idiots have unprotected sex and wonder how they managed to end up with a child? Often the child is the by-product of lust and not love. The parents break up quickly and the child lives the rest of his life in a state of ever-changing relationships.
You should work harder on your relationship with your partner and children than anything else in your life. People take things for granted and those closest to their heart feel the brunt of this behaviour. Just as smokers and drinkers never think they are going to die, so people in relationships never think they are going to end. By constantly learning about how relationships work and what your partner values in life, you can avoid the pitfalls of broken love. The divorce rates are so high because we are not given the skills to cope when we are younger. It is a perpetual loop where children of broken marriages learn that broken marriages are acceptable. Read anything and everything you can about relationships. Give everything and anything you can to your wife, husband and child. Go to counselling even if there is nothing wrong with your relationship. Don’t wait for the first cracks to appear before you start scrambling around for the glue, because if this breaks…if this falls to pieces in your clumsy hands…you will be screwed.
Finally, a lesson that I have had to learn the hard way; if you have screwed it up…or have tried your best and realise that you and your partner were not destined to be together forever, then you need to allow your child to be a child. It’s all too easy for you to feel sorry for yourself and revert into child mode. The net result sees your child turn revert to parent mode. This is not right. You need to show your children you are there for them. Even if this is a series of endless text messages telling them that you love them; and continue to do this even if they never reciprocate. Understand that if this is hard for you then it is twice as hard for them.
Being a father is THE most responsible job in the world. I used to think that days like today were nonsense. Just more marketing drivel that forces people to dig deep into their pockets and spend their hard earned cash on crap. But today I have a different view. For me it’s a time of remembrance. A time for the fathers of the world to pull their shit together and take stock of how they are performing. They need to remember that in order to be a good father they also have to be a good partner.
Sorry…I’ve got to go.
My son has just sent me a message on Skype. It’s a man showing his arse followed by the cuddly teddy bear. I guess he was thinking about me after all.