I’ve got a guest post on the blog today – the first ever one I have agreed to publish anonymously – from a father who won’t be able to spend this Sunday with his children. I know he would appreciate your comments.
Father’s Day. A day when children give their fathers hand-made cards, cuddles and another round of unwanted gifts. They do this to let their fathers know how much they are loved and appreciated. Alternatively, it is just a cynical marketing ploy to find another way to guilt consumers into spending money on various assorted tat masquerading as presents.
For some of us though, it is a yearly source of pain or, at best, a reminder of the most precious part of our lives that is missing most of the week. I fall into this camp as I only see my two children one day a week. Their mother asked me for a separation four years ago, we sadly went our different ways and started to think about the future. While I am happy for my ex to have custody during the week since their primary school is a five-minute walk from the matrimonial home, the weekends are still a battleground. Despite my best efforts and appealing to her via mediation, I still only have a limited time with my babies.
In the meantime, every time I walk into a shop from mid-May onwards, I am struck across the face by reminders of this ‘special time’. This year is made even worse as I won’t even get to see my children on Sunday. Thanks to some wonderful planning on the part of the Scouts, my son will be coming home from camp late afternoon on Sunday, which means there is no time for a visit. It is the same story on Friday afternoon, when the packing, checking and general getting ready is happening. On the plus side, my daughter will have me all to herself on Saturday. The time I normally have to split, at times unequally, between the two of them can be lavished just on her.
Supposedly, fathers have an indispensable role to play in the lives of their children. Sadly, that’s not the case for many fathers who face a constant struggle for time with their children. I am not a risk to my children, but have had to resort to the courts to gain time with them where I’m not trying to fit in a meal, a snack, getting them ready to leave, some individual Daddy-time and all of us playing together into an afternoon. I’ve given up trying to include a phone-call to my parents as it isn’t practical and was one of many things – such as going to the park or the cinema – that can’t be achieved in the time we have together. I constantly have to ask for information about what is happening at school – both from my ex and the school itself. This week was a prime example, where only due to the fact of me asking did I learn when Sports Day was. Thankfully I asked in time so I didn’t miss it. Luckily the school remembered I existed the day before my daughter’s P1 induction morning otherwise I would have missed that too. Every Christmas and birthday is a struggle – while I hope we’ll discuss what we’re buying and curb excesses, my ex-wife announces to me what she has bought the children. That leaves me with second choices or creative shopping. Decisions about what activities the children do outwith school do not involve me, as do those made about who looks after them if my ex has a (rare) night out.
I want to be involved but, as happens throughout the country, the children, their lives and their care are used as weapons. I happily, voluntarily and willingly pay more than the Child Support Agency suggests I should pay. I also buy clothes to have at my flat just in case there’s a spillage or some kind of accident. These clothes are usually worn twice at most and every time I package a new lot for donation to a charity shop I look wistfully at them, wondering how my bonny daughter would have looked in this dress or how much my son would have grumped about my choice of T-shirt for him. After every visit I tidy away the books and toys they have scattered around and try not to notice the quiet.
According to the Families Need Fathers’ charter, children should and indeed must feel they have two properly involved parents, with free access to both. The children, it says, should spend enough time with both parents so as to negate any attempts at ‘parental alienation.’ The charter also says that any attempt to deny or obstruct this relationship is unacceptable. Sadly in my case I am having to fight for these basic rights.
I have to wait and see what one of the sheriffs who deal with family law will make of our situation. I wish it hadn’t come to this but every effort I’ve made to discuss contact issues has met with a rebuff. Any attempt at negotiation, mediation or reasoning is met with a firm and stark refusal.
Taking my daughter to her swimming class?
No, she’s happy with things the way they are.
Walking my son home after the school disco, where I’m chaperoning?
No, I’ve made arrangements for that.
Creating a reward chart for when the children are at my house?
They already have one here.
I will spend this Father’s Day on my own, avoiding places where families will be and trying to keep myself busy. Luckily I have a very good and strong circle of friends who will, again, help me through the day. This year’s constant reminders have been easier to deal with. Obviously I am more used to the retail sector’s constant reminders of what I’m missing out on.
For every father reading this who is dreading his over-excited and bubbling children waking him early on Sunday, please spare a thought for those of us who won’t have breakfast in bed served to them. For those of us who will wake up in an empty bed in a quiet house, the last echoes of the day before’s playtime having long since disappeared. Hug your babies tight and kiss their heads, for those of us who are not in a position to do so to their own. Most of all, cherish how beautiful and wonderful they are. I sincerely hope you never have to miss them.
Update on Fathers Day — Sunday June 17th.
WOW! Thank you very much for all your kind comments and best wishes. I really am over-whelmed by it all.
I know I’m not alone, but there are times when it feels like it. Sometimes you don’t want to burden your friends, again, by talking about how much you miss your children, especially those who don’t have any of their own.
I know that there are fathers who complain about their access but don’t make use of the time they do have. I’ve even had the displeasure of meeting a few. Likewise, I’ve looked in amazement at mothers who should not be left alone with their children. Each side of the gender divide includes villains. Despite everything that she’s done, I don’t want my ex to suffer and have the children turn on her, although there are times when I think very uncharitable and cruel thoughts about her. Most of the time I just sit in astonishment at her behaviour and sorrow that she is still so hurt and angry.
Soon Summer will pass and a sheriff will decide what is best for the children in terms of contact with me. I tried to negotiate with my ex but she was not willing to even consider granting me more time. I would say more but am going to go down the path of discretion, just in case.
I loved the comment from @SAHDandproud that “Any day you spend with your children can be Father’s Day.” Today was one of those days. My four-year old daughter took a trip on Daddy Airways, resting on my feet as she ‘flew’ above the bed. We made naan bread from scratch. We cuddled, laughed and made a cave. Even when the balloon she brought along burst there was a silver lining, as she looked on astonished that I had a new one in my sock draw. Lastly, she gave me a cuddle and a kiss when she was in the car, something she rarely does, probably because she doesn’t want to say goodbye. I didn’t spoil her rotten, she did that to me. Despite all the hardship and pain, I’m a lucky man.
For those interested, Families Need Fathers is a charity that seeks to obtain the best possible blend of both parents in the lives of children; where the children have enough time with each to realise that both parents are fully involved in their lives. You can read more about them via their UK site, whose information mainly relates to the situation in England and Wales, or the Scottish site.
Thank you for reading and, again, I really do appreciate your very kind thoughts.