Friday, May 12, 2006

WORD TO YOU FATHERS....A Message to the Absent Dads

Lately, something's been on my mind. For some time now, I've wanted to say things to my son's father that I have never had the opportunity to say. Unlike many former couples who have a child they created together, my son's father and I have no relationship.....I mean, no hostility, and no friendship, no relationship at all. This is because my son and his father have no relationship....a situation that is the result of his father's choice not to be involved, and which I have tried repeatedly to change to no avail. Though an unfortunate reality for my son which he deals with utilizing a maturity far beyond his years, for most of his life this has not been a problem for me. As a matter of fact, there have been many times [as I listened to the changes that some of my friends who also happen to be single mothers go through with the fathers of their children who remain involved in their children's lives], when I actually felt that I was lucky. Lucky that I did not have to consult with him about decisions regarding my son. Lucky that I did not have to deal with the "If Mom says no, ask Dad" syndrome, as for my son, there was no Dad available, only Mom. Lucky that I could bring up my son as I saw fit and not be worried that his other parent would be looking over my shoulder, critiquing my every move. There was definitely a time when I found that there was indeed a silver lining even in this cloud.

Then, in 2003 and 2004, two things happened to change my mind. First, back in October 2003, my family decided to take a cruise to Ocho Rios, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel. Being a bordering country, Mexico has strict laws about bringing minor children into the country in the absence of a parent; these laws were designed to control parental kidnappers who might flee into Mexico. Thus, it was necessary that I literally get my son's absent father's permission to take him on vacation. Mexico required a notarized statement from his father before we would be allowed to be in the country for more than 24 hours. IMAGINE, having to have the permission of a man who had not seen my son in 12 years and thus would not be able to identify my son if ever there was a need. I was outdone.

In 2004, my son graduated from the eighth grade and decided he wanted to invite his father [who he had not seen since before he turned two years old] to the ceremony. I told my son I'd think about it and let him know, intending to ask his father without my son knowing in the event his father declined attending. When asked, he did indeed agree to come to the ceremony, but not trusting him to follow-through and not wanting my son to be disappointed I decided to let his attendance be a surprise if indeed he did show up. He did NOT come to the ceremony.

Typically, women in my situation have a lot to say to the absent father and not much if any of it good. Though there have been two occasions over the years since my son's birth that I have been so frustrated and angry that I did contact his father in anger, I find at this point in time, I feel a very different emotion. This is what I want to say:

In your decision to distance yourself from your son's life, you have cheated him. You have cheated him out of knowing what an intelligent, charismatic, and personable man you are. He, unlike me, never got the opportunity to know your love of music which he seems to have inherited. He has never seen you swipe your hand across your face in the same manner that he does when stunned; obviously a consequence of genetics as he has not spent adequate time in your presence to pick up your mannerisms. A good athlete, he has no idea that his father loves sports and could probably give him immense insight on how he might improve his athletic abilities. You have not allowed him the same luxury you enjoyed [as you shared with me back when we were dating] of having had the security of your relationship with your own father to help you navigate the course from boyhood to manhood. YOU HAVE CHEATED HIM.

In making this same decision, you have cheated me as well. You have cheated me out of a lot. By not being involved in his life, you have left me to do it all alone. You have forced me by your very absence to play a much larger role in my son's life than I ever should have been required to play. You have altered my perspective and approach to every situation by essentially designating me as my son's only viable parent, and as such much more critically important in his life. While all of these things have significance for me, the one truly painful thing you cheated me out of, was the opportunity to share, enjoy, and beam with pride over my son and his achievements with the person who helped me create him. You and I have been able to be beyond civil to each other, nice even, so surely we could have managed joint parenting if you were of a mind, even though we never intended to marry each other. YOU HAVE CHEATED ME.

Most of all, you have cheated yourself. You have missed out on being a witness to the life of one of the most phenomenal people ever born. The last time I was really angry with you was on Labor Day 2004 as I sat and watched our son practice with his high school football team. At 6 feet tall and 245 pounds, he was by far the biggest and strongest freshman on the team. In that moment, I replayed his life from the moment he was born to now and felt overcome with pride. Then, I was overcome with anger because I had never truly had anyone to share this exhileration with who could truly appreciate the moment in the way that only a parent can. I called you that day as I sat there alone watching our son, and gave you a not-so-nice piece of my mind. Now I know that the anger that surfaced that day was the precursor to the sadness and disappointment that I now feel as my son moves closer and closer to manhood, still without a relationship with the man who fathered him. Your choice means that you may never get the chance to know the best thing you ever helped create. It means that you may never understand the privelege being part of this young man's life has been. It means that you may never know the power of the most all-encompassing love I have ever experienced. It means you may have missed out on the single greatest opportunity of your life. YOU HAVE CHEATED YOURSELF.

These are the things I would say to my son's father if I could. They are not said in anger. They are not said with hostility. They are said in the hope that one day he or some other absent Dad will read them and re-think their decision to remain absent; and believe me regardless of all the rationalizing, it is a decision that they made. When my son and I speak of his father,[which happens relatively frequently when one of his favorite songs from back in the day is on or my son does something that reminds me of his Dad], it is always with a positive slant. My son is a part of me AND a part of his father, and as such, I would never want him to believe that his father is "bad, undesirable, or any other negative thing", as I don't want my son to believe that any part of himself is negative. Regarding his father's absence from his life, I simply tell my son that just as he is sometimes irresponsible about his obligations like we all can be, his father for some reason that has nothing to do with his son, is being irresponsible. I assure my son that since his father doesn't really even know him, it can't be a reflection of his "not liking him".

The long and short of it is that absenteeism goes deeper than we typically believe. Its affects are different at different times in the lives of each of the involved parties. Though we most often focus on the anger created by these situations, the fact is that even more than anger, there is significant pain that accompanies the anger. My son feels this pain, I as his single mother feel this pain, and I'm sure that on some level at some time in his life if he does not already, his father will one day feel this pain as well. I'm an optimist as you all know, and as such I believe that it is never too late to change. Though I have given up trying to influence my son's father to make this change, I still believe and hope that one day he will reach out to my son as even now, I still think of him as one of the most interesting people I've ever met. Additionally, the optimist that is me hopes that some other absentee Dad might read this and realize that all the negative portrayals of strong, neck-rolling sistas talking about "how they've got this....and don't need any damned baby-daddy to handle their business" is just the side being shown to the world in their attempt to be strong. In reality, we all dreamed of having complete families with Mommies and Daddies, and even when it can't be as we dreamed, someone to share the burden as well as the joy of parenting with is still something most of us desire. So if you are, or have been an absentee Dad, suck it up, paddle through the crap of your failed relationship and establish a partnership with you child(ren's) mother, be a man, and be the best damn Dad you possibly can be; our children deserve at least that much.

20 comments:

chele said...

Here we go with one more thing in common ...

I have absolutely no relationship with my first husband/my son's father. I don't know where he is and I'm sure he doesn't know where we are. After I had the marriage annulled I wanted absolutely nothing to do with him. Yeah, I was one of those neck-rolling sistas.

When my son was two I moved out of the state with my 2nd husband and he has always raised my son as his own. Even though that marriage was also unsuccessful my 2nd husband is the only father my son knows. They both seem to prefer it that way.

As my child gets older he reminds me more and more of his biological father. I've asked my son if he would like for me to find him (it wouldn't be difficult) but he consistently declines my offer. He's curious about him though. He feels cheated because he knows he has other siblings but doesn't know them. That makes him sad. Consequently, his sadness makes me sad. It is my hope that my son does express a desire to meet his father one day ...

Serenity23 said...

I was kind of nervous to read this post. I've been dealing with my own emotions regarding my son's absent father. Like you, I don't have any emotion for him one way or the other. However, from the time Tyler was a baby, I was (and this might not make sense to others) happy to not have to share him with anyone. I was free to make decisions about his life on my own. I didn't have to worry with him traveling to Texas as a small child to spend summers or holidays with his dad. Can you imagine how sad I would be sitting here on Christmas without my baby? My son is still to young to ask about him and that is partly b/c while I was pregnant I started dating another man and that is the only father my son has ever known. He never steps in to tell me how to do things or what to do, but he does offer assistance when I need it. So I guess I'm allowed to have my cake and eat it too. When I think back to all of the milestones like Tyler getting his hair cut for the first time, his first b-day or when he took his first steps, I am sort of sad that his dad missed out on all of that. However, the other male was there for all of it. Even though we have ended, he continues to want to be there for all of the important things. Unlike you, I dread the day when his dad will walk back into his life. I can't imagine raising Tyler to be this successful black man and his father walking back in at 18 and acting as if it were a piece of cake for me to raise him. I recently spoke to him, prior to that I had no way of contacting him and he had no way of contacting us. Something he said really shocked the hell out of me. He told me that "You chose to cut me out of both of your lives." Something tells me that his recollection and my recollection on the events were not the same. All I know is that when Tyler is of age and wants to know what happened, I don't want to ever give him an opportunity to somehow blame this on me. I will not bad mouth him nor will I glorify him. I just hope that whenever the time does come, I will have prayed enough to be able to handle it gracefully.

LadyLee said...

Wow...

That's all I can say, Sharon...

Wow.

Jaimie said...

Beautiful, and brutally honest.

I'm in a different situation bc my daughter does have a relationship with her father, except he is not a good influence on her. He is very angry and resentful, but also takes no responsibilty for his behavior. He has said some strange things to her, things that most people wouldn't say (about me and my boyfriend), and she's only 4.

I honestly believe that she (and I) would be better off if he would just disappear. My boyfriend and I will be married next year, so in her eyes, he's already her dad. I am pretty sure that when she is a teenager she will choose to not be around him, as things will become more apparent to her. Until then, I just wait, correct his statements for her, and pray.

Sharon said...

@ Chele,
We really must become acquainted in the real world. We simply have too much in common and even though our perspectives differ only very occasionally, I think there is much we can learn from each other.

Ryan's father actually spoke with him back in August of last year and suggested that they get together. Ryan agreed but then later when I arrived at home, he confided that he would only follow through with this if his father initiated a meeting. Needless to say, he never has yet. Ryan says that as the parent, it is his Dad's responsibility to facilitate their establishing a relationship as he is the reason they are in their current situation. He says though he would like to know his Dad, he simply will not be the one to reach out to him first. He truly does not seem to be distraught over the situation, and appears to take it in stride. I'm so proud of my baby, especially when he talks about what a great Dad he will one day be to his own children. No familial cycles here... :)

@ S23,
Yeah, your situation is very different from mine. I know exactly how you feel about sharing your son, and I was always greatful that I was always able to be with my child on holidays like Christmas. Not having him during those times would have been unbearable. However, since Ryan was just a little older than Tyler, he has occasionally asked about his father [even though my long-time fiancee James who he used to call Dad when he was a baby was in his life from one and a half years old until 14]. I have always told him that if ever he wanted to see or talk to him, he only needed to say the word and I would take him to his home or work. I never wanted him to think that I was the reason he did not have access to his father. Even knowing I could very easily access him, Ryan never asked me to. Even so, I always shared with Ryan, stories about his Dad and I when we were dating and his father's childhood and family as related to me by him. I did this in order to give Ryan some semblance of a history of his father and his family. Be aware that whatever you choose to do relative to Tyler's father, there is the potential to have it backfire so as they say, "Honesty [sweet and simple] is the best policy".

@ OG Ladylee,
I know just what you mean....sometimes, when I go to writing, I am amazed at what comes out of me. I did not set out to write what ended up in this post; but when it was finished, it was exactly what I needed to say.

@ Jaimie,
Your situation is the nightmare that many of my friends deal with. I have seen many of them go through things with the fathers of their children that probably would have had me hiring a hitman [June Bug and Poncho from around the way :)]. I truly feel for you, and just want to commend you on your approach and the way you are handling the situation with "Mini-Mom" as James calls your daughter. I am so happy that you at least have the blessing of James in your lives as he seems to be a great potential hubby and Daddy, and you and your daughter deserve the best. Best wishes and I will keep you all in my prayers.

DJ Diva said...

Hmmm...My girls like Jaimie's little girl have a relationship with their father. I went though high and low to make this possible...even when I wanted to murder him at the sight of him...i still drove them over to him and picked them up for 6 years....Many people told me I was stupid...that my marriage had ended so I should just let him go...I had let him go...but everytime I looked into those 2 faces that looked just like him....i knew they had to be near him....he's an asshole for sure...but I am thankful that he didn't give up on my girls...Now that he's moved down south it is harder on them....we'll be moving closer to him soon and that will make it better...but I have had Christmases and Thankgivings without them...and it hurt like hell.

i feel for you Sharon...I really do..

Chosen said...

This post rings in my ears because my oldest 2 children are children I had in my teenage years. I came out of an abusive relationship,as a teenager with my oldest son and I was just so happy to be free from it.
I too, was happy that he wouldn't be around when my baby finally came. But after I had him and I held him in my arms it broke me for about 3 days every time I saw him. I had promised myself that I would not do that to my children and looking at him, I knew that had allowed the same curse to latch onto him. It caused great depression for months after I had him, though I didn't even realize that's what it was. One day I just woke up realized that I had to forgive myself for having him (and later them) minus a husband because that did not guarantee success. I look at him now going through that phase where he wants to be "hard" and he has chosen friends who are not who I want for him nor are they good for him--and though I know that they are just somebody else's poor misguided children who think gang life will be "an adventure"--I am still angry that they have influenced my son to think so also.
My husband has been the best father he knew how to be to him but unfortunately it was never enough. He craved his daddy. When he was 11,my mother decided to find him and he called him and made promised "lies" to him. I gave him hope finally. But it never happened and it left him very hurt and angry. I understand that the root behind all rebellion is anger. I know this is a phase. Somehow though he thinks that this is my fault. I didn't wait on his father and then I got married. So this child lives with my mother whom he chosen over me.
It's funny because my daughter's father has always had access yet he dismisses the opportunity to spend time with her. He has another daughter that he drives to see whenever possible--thing is, he has to pass our house to get to her house! He won't see my daughter for months and then his other daughter will say he's been to see her every weekend. So I have it from both sides. I watch my daughter come home from time with him angry and hurt because he has either ignored her or said something to hurt her feelings. I have cussed him out and I have prayed for him. Prayed that he would grow up and be the man that she needed him to be.The father that she deserves. I told her she never has to talk to him if she doesn't want to. Each time she spends with them, he has said something to cause her to reevaluate who my husband and I have raised her to understand that she is. I have left all contact in her hands. He's been in korea for 6 months now and my daughter has talked to him once. He has e-mail, cell phone, etc and is still ignoring her. But she has decided that this time was a test. What she comes up with will be completely up to her.
I was just telling my daughter all the things that you have on your list to tell his father in the car last weekend. I really feel sorry for absent fathers. They never got to experience the joys of "firsts"--words, smiles, steps, school days. Kissing them while they sleep, caring for them when they are sick... They miss all the funny things that children can catch you off guard saying. The sad thing is that in the losing, neither party can ever recover their losses.

Sharon said...

@ DJ Diva
I hear what you say about doing all you could to keep your girls' father in their life. I agree with you that if that can happen, it can be for the best. However, the father must want to be involved. In the case of Ryan's father, short of dropping Ryan in his lap, there did not seem to be a way to make him follow through. I truly wish I could have because I believe they would have had a beautiful relationship as they have many similar interests, and the same quirky sense of humor. But alas, as they say in fairy tales I guess it just wasn't meant to be.

@ Chosen,
Your story is so very sad. As much as I would have liked for my son's father to be a part of his life, I have always insisted that unless he could be consistent that he should just remain gone. I am very protective of Ryan as I am sure you are with your children, and if his father were a part of his life and treated him in the manner you daughter's father has treated her, I don't know what I would do. I can assure you though that it would not be pretty. I will pray that your daughter hears and internalizes all that you are instilling in her about her value as a person. I will also pray that both your children's fathers figure out the damage they are causing these young people before it is too late and either change their ways, or just leave them the hell alone. My best to you and your family.

Dee said...

WOW!!! I 2 have been cheated!!!!!

My ex has the NAVY as his excuse but i'm not buying it!!!!!

He has been in Italy for the past 2 years but he managed 2 get his mom dad aunt and his new woman out there when he made CHIEF but he couldn't arrange 2 get his sons on a M.A.C. flight.....whatever!!!!!!

When i lost my job a few months ago do you think he sent me $5 extra??????

I would just like a thanks thats all!!!!

I never bad mouth him 2 the boys though i just let them see for themselves!!!!!

Dee said...

great post!!!!!! Happy belated mommas day!!!!! How have you been????? Let me go catch up!!!!

DJ Diva said...

Honestly Sharon...I now wonder if it was all worth it...the hostility and anger that I endured for those 6 years from him and his now wife...I truly wonder if it was worth it....

Sharon said...

Hey again Diva,
I just happened to be here and up popped your second comment. I can feel the pain you endured in your comment, and I am sorry you had to feel that. I can only hope that at least as far as your beautiful daughters are concerned, the sacrifices you made in their interest has been in their best interest. As it is your plan to move them closer to their father, I can only assume that their interactions with him and his current wife have been and will continue to be positive. I understand your situation, and I will say this much, if I could have provided my son with the father he deserved by enduring similar pain and discomfort, it would have been worth it to me if that father was good for my son. I applaud your efforts, but can't say that I'm surprised by them....after all, I would expect nothing less from as brilliant a mother and woman as you.

Sharon said...

@ Dee
You speak of the exact situation I feel lucky about having avoided. Men who don't make their children a priority but try to give them the image of themselves as great Dads piss me completely off. How dare he know that you are out of work and not step up to the plate to do whatever he could to ensure his sons were still able to enjoy a certain quality of life. I am always amazed by men who separate from their families and then allow their children to live in situations that they themselves would not tolerate. Not that this is the situation for you guys, but he has to know that if you are not working, keeping up the lifestyle you were living might be a bit difficult. How insensitive of him not to offer his assistance. Hang in there girl, I know you got this and I am right there with you!

safa said...

Although my situation is different, I think about this often. I am married and our son is 4. Whenever I get frustrated with my husband, I wonder what my son would go through if we broke up. I have 2 step-daughters who live with us during the week. My husband is so concerned about shortcomings as a dad of divorce that he would be the type to stay married for the sake of the children. When he broke up with his 1st wife, his youngest daughter was less than a year old. Whenever we watch my son do things or reach cetain milestones, she asks him about her early development. He looks so sad when he has to tell her that he wasn't really around her a lot until she was 4 or 5. She looks sad as well and just says, "oh". She is 11 now. I think most absent dads probably are negligent at first because of immaturity and self-centeredness. As the years go by, they are probably ashamed and don't know how to start the dialogue.

Sharon said...

Exactly Safa, my thoughts exactly. It seems your husband is the kind of father every man should strive to be. Even though he couldn't make his first marriage work, at least he lived up to the responsibilities of fatherhood, and in his case it seems in a big way as the girls spend the majority of the time with you all. I don't presume to have all the answers here, but it would seem to me that two people who are adult enough to involve themselves in activities that can potentially result in the birth of a child should be at least adult enough to collaboratively do what is best for that resultant child. Women seem in my opinion a lot more likely to live up to this expectation when you survey the landscape of single parent households which unless I'm mistaken are headed up more often than not by women. Women who are there taking care of business, whether by choice or the circumstances they find themselves left in by default.

I find myself wondering, is there some intrinsic difference between men and women that results in such a huge disparity relative to the level of obligation that compels one gender in disproportionate numbers to live up to their parental obligations while the other gender delivers every rationale but the true one [lack of responsibility] for why they do not. This is such a far-reaching question that transcends the elementary issues of financial responsibility. Even more than their failure in many cases to be financially responsible [which in my case has never been an issue], these absent parents are causing incalculable damage emotionally and spiritually, which will have an on-going and potentially devastating effect on our culture for decades and even centuries to come.

As always, thanks for the comment, I love to hear from people in different circumstances than mine, their perspective on the issues I face :)

K.O. Johnson said...

Fellas, I know you're out there. I've seen your postings here. I don't have children so I can't weigh in, but I really would like to see what the father's have to say. If doing so anonimously helps, then do so. Just let your words ring true, even if what you have to say isn't popular. Trust me all - the #1 Killer in our community is SILENCE.

Rose said...

Sharon you said this so well. Sadly someday your sons' father will realize that he missed out on an opportunity of a lifetime.

I can't believe you had to seedk his signature? That's unbelieveable...

Bushwack said...

Hello, I read you comments on James blog.
I thought I'd stop by and lend my voice to the discussion.
My wife is a pastor and a counselor in the community, I have become more of the neighborhood dad to some of the unfortunate kids that have had to deal with either a Divorce,Abuse or the Absent dad.There are no color lines in this problem we have dealt with White/Black/Mexican worthless men and women. In my view there is no other word to describe a person that has brought life into this world and then leaves. Worthless is the nicest way I could come up with.
In our little world it is by far better to have the absent dad problem than the other two.
In all of the cases the kid or kids involved could only wish they had a mother half as good as you seem to be.

I think if you ever talk to him and you say the things you want to say he, if he is a human would be begging for forgiveness.
keep up the good work with your son.

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