Wednesday, June 13, 2007

More of What Dads Do

Here is a short list of what I do.
1. I do work every day, I am a military member
2. I spend time with my children every day that I can
3. At the end of each day, I bathe my 2 youngest boys
4. I take my sons to do things they want to do, such as go to baseball games, races etc
5. Many days, I am the one who makes dinner in my home
6. I coach my 5 year old's T-ball team.
7. This same 5 year old was "kidnapped"(in quotes because I can't legally say that due to her being the biological mother, but when you have no contact with your son for 19 months, what other word is there?) I now have care, custody and control of him and he is much better off for it.
8. In addition, my current wife does not work. Not a problem for me because that is what is best for my boys.

There is another side of fatherhood/dad hood that most people are missing. When my parents divorced, many of the men in the neighborhood came by and told me that even though my father was gone, I had all of them to call on. They ranged from the neighborhood alcoholic to a Tuskegee Airman. They were in my corner for the rest of my life. In fact, there were few words spoken between me and my new dads. But I often heard that discretely they were always checking up on me. On the other hand I would just watch these men work hard not for themselves but their families. There was no bravado. They just got the job done. In fact they were so humble; I did not know that some had PhDs and law degrees. They showed a boy how to be a man.

My father was not a deadbeat. In fact he offered to continue to pay for my high school (approx 7k a year, in the late 1970s). This was in addition to child support. But for better or worse, I had learned self determination and work ethic from him. Hence I quit school. I took a job and put myself through college ( bs. Applied math/physics and grad school (Ms. Computer Science). My mother knew from day one, she could not be both mother and father. She would just smile with a few tears in her eyes that I had become a man. She was very thankful for the guidance that I received from the men in my neighborhood. No matter how much I resented my father for leaving, I do thank him for giving me the work ethic and drive that separates many men from boys. unfortunately this is often lost on women that say she was both your mother and father. It dishonors the dads who made me the person I am today.

Today I am the proud dad to two boys. They may live with their grand mother but I am there every day, emotionally and financially. Their mother chose to have children by men that were not interested in families. For some reason stable men did not appeal to her. She chose guys that chose not to be involved with their first families. Unfortunately she died two weeks after the youngest was born. Hence at 29 I cut my career short and became a dad. I am not alone in my choice. I have come across men that have taken on raising children by themselves. Others are changing career paths to spend more time with their children. The reason why you don't hear or read about us is that we are not a part of the social services system. Social services are a system designed to deal with society's maladies. If you are a man doing right you are not counted. There is no MIC. (Men, infants and children), so many of us go it alone. It may be an up hill struggle. But we are up to the challenge, thanks to our dads we will make it.

I have only my own experiences, education and observations to pass along on What Dads Do. By example and by lecture we teach our children how to be responsible, how
to take ownership of their own actions, how to take care of themselves and how to take care of those that they love. The world is a hard place. It is unfair; it is corrupt, and will eat you up and spit you out bleeding on the sidewalk if you are not prepared. There is a time for talking, a time for fighting, a time to keep silent, and a time to walk away. Dads teach their children these things and we must teach them in a thousand little ways in daily life that it creates a pattern of
understanding and behavior.

Dads teach their children to fight for their beliefs and be fair to others in an assertive manner. Dads teach their children how to cope with an unfair situation, and how to hold your head high when you lose and how to be graceful when you win. We teach our children how to work hard, how to take pride in what they do, how to be more than their work, their family, and their relationships. In short we teach them how to create and maintain their sense of self, and self worth. And we help fortify that sense of self with purpose and context. We teach our children how to live, live well, live well with others, and how to cope with the world that is at best
confusing, and at worst, dangerous.

Ours is a thankless job. We are maligned, misinterpreted, and assailed by those that are compelled to point out our failures; real and imagined. Yet for all of that, we are still just Dad.

My Story:

The topic of this letter is to let you know what Dads do, specifically what I do as a father. In order to understand this, context must be provided. My first wife and I divorced years ago, and we had two children, who are now 19 and 14. The divorce was her idea, she decided that she did not want to be married any more after I found out that she had been concealing for five months her pregnancy with her second child. I moved out, she retained everything except for my clothes, including half of the company we had started and worked together on. We maintained a positive and close relationship for about two years. I was present for the birth of my second
son, paid child support on a regular basis, took both boys weekly.

After we sold our company and went our separate ways things began to change radically and for the worse. After we sold the company, I went back to college, she went to work for the new owners of our company. She got involved with an ex-con, and lost her job by spending an overt amount of time trying to keep him out of incarceration in another state.

Soon thereafter the new boyfriend started sending harassing letters, took over the relationship between myself and my ex-wife, and then began a pattern of abusive behavior by both my ex-wife and this boyfriend towards myself and the children. The abuse was mostly verbal and emotional. Several times it verged on Physical, at times he tried to pick fights with me in front of the children. Once in a school parking lot when I was delivering the boys to an after hours school event.

I would receive horrific letters, ranting, threatening, and insulting and they would make the boys read them before they sent them out. I was the basis of all of the evils in their world, because I did or did not do something, usually involving their lack of money. The Boyfriend had an issue keeping jobs for longer than a few months, and they were constantly in financial trouble.

My ex-wife insisted I take the children every weekend. I had to drive 80% of the way to get them, and they almost always were dressed in almost their underwear; no coats, no additional clothing. I had to purchase clothing, in addition to pay child support. The next week, they would show up in underwear again, and I got smart in that I purchased clothing and kept it at my home so that they had clothes to wear when they lived with me.

During the summer it was for over two months. Gifts, from birthdays and Christmas
were all sold and the money used in part to fund a move from Oregon to New Mexico, and some of it was gambled away as they passed Las Vegas.

Five months later during a Christmas visit I was informed that the boys would stay with me for a few months, as their luck had run bad. I had a day to enroll them in school and make life work. I still paid child support during this time, and I lost hundreds on a pair of unused plane tickets.

After college I moved to a close metropolitan area to seek work. The boys and their mom and boyfriend lived in a small rural community 250 miles away. I drove 200 miles round trip twice in a weekend every month to spend time with them. This even had to be enforced by a contempt of court charge against my ex-wife who did not want to drive 50 miles to meet me at a neutral location. Despite that, I still often had to make the entire trip on a Friday and again that Sunday to spend those precious hours with my sons.

I paid the state ordered child support, never missed a monthly payment even when I was in College (at times it was over 100% of what I make working part time and going to school). Yet the boys were constantly told that I never paid child support, I was a "Deadbeat Dad" and dozens of character assassinating stories designed to cover their own poor choices in life. The boys were encouraged not to use my last name, but the name of their step-father (the boyfriend). School records were sometimes in this name. Especially for my younger son when this started when he was in the second

When they decided to move to Southern California 6 years ago, my oldest son decided to live with me. In the next two years, they would have moved 5 more times finally settling in a new small community in Oregon. My oldest son who came to live with me was wary and withdrawn. For two years he refused to put any decoration in his room. He had a hard time talking about anything and after years of reaching out, working with him, teaching him to think critically he has finally come to the realization that everything that was told to him by his mother was distorted, twisted and untrue. It has damaged their relationship permanently I am afraid. He
now has had some counseling and seems to be leading a productive and healthy life.

My second son, has no physical attributes that can be identified as my own. He has been trained to think of my current wife as an enemy and disrespects her constantly. My current wife is convinced that he is not mine. In retrospect, after years of thinking about those last months of my first marriage, the concealing of her pregnancy, and the lack of physical intimacy for many months before our breakup, I am fairly convinced that this child is likely not fathered by myself, but the result of an affair she had with a close friend; a close friend whom after the birth of our son, my ex-wife then went to live with for a while before he suddenly quit his job and moved across the country. I have never breathed a word or indicated
anywhere that this is the case. I will conceal this from my younger son until and if
he is old enough to explore this potentially devastating information.

There is more to the story, all along this same flavor and theme, but I believe you get the gist of the situation. You ask what Fathers do. I absorb abuse, doubt, misinformation, slander and outright lies to be a father to my sons. In order to help them be the best that they can be in this world, I have to ignore that my younger son is not likely my biological son.

I do not fight back, I do not reply to these terrible letters lest my children be in the middle of a war in which there will not be a winner, only the children as losers. I learned long ago that she will sacrifice the welfare of the children to cause me problems. I will and have, at every opportunity tired to put the children first, even at my own mental, physical and financial expense. I have sought help from professionals, both with lawyers who inform me that unless the children are in immediate physical danger I will never gain custody, and from conflict mediation
specialists who tell me that there is no winning scenario that all these letters and
issues are all just aimed at punishing me, not to resolve problems.

You ask what Dads Do? How to you quantify a scenario like this? We do the best we can. I teach my children that life sometimes is not fair. I show them by example that you must carry on despite the situation. I teach them that the measure of a person is not just carrying out your responsibilities, but by how you do so.

Thanks for letting me vent. I am a supporter of your cause, and believe strongly that you voice matters as the representation of the silent enduring fathers of this nation.

I'm not a dad, but because I have 2nd cousins that have a deadbeat for a dad I fill that role, and it's a role that I take VERY seriously, I love these kids beyond measure, and with all my heart, they know that and it comforts them, I play with them, I help them with their homework, I go to all their school functions and I support them no matter what, and by the way, did I mention that I love these kids with all my heart?

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