I’ve spent the morning trying not to feel my feelings. My feelings hurt.
I put down my guitar and broke down after playing the song, It’s Been A While, by Staind. If I had to pick a favorite song, it would be my choice. A stanza within the lyrics speaks to me each time I hear it whether from the voice of the band or from my own utterance…
“And everything I can’t remember
As f*cked up as it all may seem
I cannot blame this on my father
He did the best he could for me”
As both a son and a father, I feel the words each time I listen. I am doing the best that I can trying to raise my son and daughter.
I urge you, the reader, to refrain from self-appointment as judge and jury, for you know not the intricate details of why I am in this place. And I am not offering a plea, for this is not an exercise of self-defense. The case has been closed for some time. I simply wish to feel my feelings and express them as I process them and write them down so that I can be reminded of why I feel as I do today.
I am sad today because I miss my children. I am sad because of the reality that I cannot see them despite the fact that they live only a few miles away. I recognize this as a part of the fallout of divorce. Though I need not be reminded, I am constantly slammed with this fact by my children’s mother. Despite the fact that I long to be present in my children’s life at every opportunity possible, I am held at bay by the berating comments and verbal tirades I endure each time I request to spend time with them…a bitter reminder of why I am where I am today.
“In the absence of mutual agreement” is the dominating line of our decree. Because of the unwillingness to own equal parts of the deterioration of the marriage and subsequent divorce, sadly, co-parenting is not an option. Thus we are left to the confines of the Standard Possession Order. Mutual agreement is almost non-existent and when it occurs, it is with a price…the cost of my well-being, the same being I had to preserve in the first place, which has left me where I am today. Extreme bitterness on her part for my decision to file for divorce lingers despite the fact that almost three years have passed and despite the fact we are both remarried. There exists no distinction between the adults and the children. In her perspective, I left her and the children, a decision that in her perception was born of selfishness. I am reminded of this repeatedly such as when I asked to simply have dinner with my children one evening for a few hours after having been apart for two weeks. The response, “I am not going to fall to your level of selfishness,” only solidifies her position. She maintains to this day that I divorced them as well and ascertains that I gave up my parental rights. “You gave away your rights to be fulltime in their lives…I don't really care if your missing them or not. This is the sacrifices you chose. You deal with your not being able to access them anytime you feel like it.” It matters not that I’ve maintained a steady, consistent, and healthy, loving relationship with my children…within the confines of the Standard Possession Order since we live in the absence of mutual agreement based solely upon past hurts.
Perhaps my exasperation stems from her relentless need for penance in light of other’s stories of fathers who choose to be absent. I recently sat with my wife’s grandmother, the woman who raised her and the one whom she credits for all of her positive attributes. She told me of how my wife’s own father lived blocks from her and yet rebuffed offers to spend time with his children. I’ve heard colleagues begrudgingly speak of ex-husbands who promised to pick their children up for the weekend only to be a no-show. I’ve also listened to stories of others whose exes lived within the same city and yet never made the effort to visit or call. I understand because of the failures of many, I am susceptible to a label. I am not a “dead beat dad.” Perhaps they too know the excruciating pain of recognizing their failure or perhaps it is far too difficult to push for what is best for their children by sacrificing their own mental faculties at the hands of one who intends to remind them of their shortcomings regardless of the reason. I am empathetic. It is difficult, but despite the price, in my estimation, the cost of not doing so is far more exorbitant.
I wish it was not this way. It doesn’t have to be this way. I wish that she would recognize the importance of the role I play in the lives of my children and the fact that they need me and I need them. I wish the restraints of her bitterness did not rule my world. I wish I believed that one day the chains of her bondage would release the resentful feelings she steadfastly clings allowing us to truly co-parent without the need for punishment.
In the meantime, I pray that my children will one day fully recognize that “he did the best he could for me” given the circumstances that they may never fully grasp.