Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the category “Adoption”

Not Kids Anymore


Happy Halloween everyone.  It seems like all my friends are recognizing today not as the sweet and tasty, fun holiday that we once grew up with, but instead, remembering how this day changed for us many years ago.  And just like my friends, my daughters are now “too old” to dress up and go knocking door to door, offering tricks if treats are not bestowed.

But it is not just Halloween that has changed for us.  My daughters are in the later stage of their childhood, which means it is now time to talk about other things besides Dora The Explorer or going to the beach.  My daughters know the trove of memories I have to always cherish their childhood.

No, today, our conversations are geared more toward the adulthood, rapidly approaching.  From their interests, continuing education, where to live, the questions are coming out, “Dad, how did you decide…?”

The cool thing is that both kind of have an idea of what they want to do.  Like all children, their minds have changed frequently.  But now they select courses in school, which pertain to their interests.  They realize that a part of deciding what they want to do, is where, and will it be something they can do for the rest of their lives.

Two years ago, my oldest actually hit me with this question out of the blue, “Dad, is $55,000 a good salary?”  And just recently, my youngest asked a similar question, “Dad, how do you decide where to live and how much money is enough to make?”

Yep, I am done reading bed time stories, singing lullabies.  It is time to get serious because the things they learn now will impact them the rest of their lives.  More than half-way through my life, I have a pretty good grasp on what should be really important in life, and how to have the best opportunity to be happy.  A lot of mistakes were made along the way, but I feel I have the right words for my daughters.

“Whatever you do, do not plan your future on how much money you will make.  Money is not everything.  And it is true, money does not buy happiness.  Being irresponsible with money decisions can actually be devastating if you are not responsible with your decisions.  Learn that there is a difference between “need” and “want.”  Take care of the things you need first.  But before you can earn any income, you need to find the career that you will not only be happy with, but passionate about.  Because that is where you will truly enjoy your life, doing what you enjoy doing.  If you go to work everyday, doing something you had not intended on doing in your life, it is going to be a chore.  But find something to do, that you are not only good at, but enjoy, and every day you will be happy to go to work.  In fact, it seems almost hard to call it work when you enjoy it so much.”

My younger daughters showed me a tool that is available to kids today, through the federal government, that actually shows career prospects for the future, and geographically where specific jobs will be the most in demand.  Of course, back in the 1980’s, I never had this resource.  I explained to both of my daughters, use this tool to decide where you will eventually choose to live, based on what you will want to do with your life.  And then, depending on where you choose to live, the cost of living will determine their necessary salary.

But I stressed to both, it is important to not be “married” to their job.  Simply put, live within your means.  Do not put yourself in a position, where your employer knows you have no choices available.  It is this pressure, such as buying a house that you cannot afford, spending frivolously that can turn a job you enjoy doing, into a ball and chain, making you dread each walking day.

From there, the conversation continues about money and how to handle it.  It is important that they do not make the mistakes that I made.  As they are both quick to point out, “the whole reason of studying history is not to repeat it.  So they are learning that while credit is a necessary evil, I am trying to get it across to them, to only use credit what they have cash to pay off right away.  That credit is not to be used, with the exception of a car or house, to purchase things just because you want them and do not have the cash to pay for them.  This mentality leads to disaster, and often, repeated.

I can tell that they understand.  I wanted to have our financial issues straightened out before they grew older, but this was a constant struggle.  My hopes are that they learn from my examples and remember the things that I have told them, so that they can do better with their financial future.

Boy I sure do miss those chilly Trick-or-treat nights.  They sure were much more fun than all this serious talk.

Happy Halloween everyone.

Father/Daughter Moments


I am truly blessed.  And in spite of all the health issues I deal with, I have gotten to enjoy so many things with my daughters throughout their childhood.

From reading to both of them, learning to walk and ride bicycles, and helping with homework, I have so many memories us, and how they have grown.  Both enjoyed sitting on my lap, while I read to them.  Once they realized the world that awaited them, by standing on their feet, they quickly learned the importance of putting one foot in front of the other.  They learned balance from learning to ride a bicycle.  I am proud to say that both have now reached a part of their education, where it is not so easy anymore for me to help with their homework not only because of what they are learning, but how.  Both enjoy the challenge of their education and do not look for the easy A’s.

We are coming around the homestretch of their childhood now.  And there are two things that are coming to the front where my input as their father is going to play a vital role, boyfriends and continuing their education after college.

As much as I cringe when the thoughts of dating come up, I believe I have given them not only a good example of how they should be respected by someone interested in them, but I believe that they both have the firmness to stand up for how they want to be treated.  They have had a few other good role models in baby sitters when they were younger who demonstrated the importance of focusing on their education and their values.  I have heard the “boyfriend” word mentioned a couple times so far already, and I have taken it in stride.

But an even bigger decision is coming right at them, very quickly.  And that is what to do after high school.  Sure I am biased and will say that both have a bright future ahead of them.  It is one thing to say that I will support whatever they want to do after high school.  It is another to make sure that they have the opportunity and guidance to do that.

Making those decisions is not something that can be done last minute either.  But once an idea is thought of as far as future, then I have figure how to get there.  Both have pretty good ideas of what they want to do, and each will have their distinct way of getting there.  One’s talent may take her as far as she wants to go depending on the balance between natural ability and what is expected.  She is an artist after all, and does not like being told what to do with her talent.

But my other daughter is expected to take a different route.  And I remember as a teen myself, when it came to figuring what I wanted to do when I grew up, we either had the idea, or maybe our guidance counselor at school might get involved.

The other day, she showed me just how much thought is going to go into, to prepare her for what she wants to do, even as far as specializing.  And to help her with that, something we did not have way back, besides the internet, is a web site for the Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov).  This by far is one of the best tools to help a parent and child figure out what is going to be required to achieve their future occupational goals.

The web page not only lists the type of job, but the average salary, the entry level of education, and as you go further into it, descriptions of the work environment, how to get hired, state and area requirements (some vary from state to state), education required, as well as other resources of who to contact for more information.  Also just as important, the job outlook for the particular field.

My daughters do not use me much for homework anymore, except when it comes to the occasional need for proof reading things.  And as I have stressed to them, paperwork completed from now on, needs to be the best they can submit.  They see the difference that their decisions and actions will make.

I wish I could keep them young, but that would only satisfy my selfish happiness.  I enjoy being their father.  I am proud to be their father.  And I cannot wait to see what lies ahead for them as I am counting on being there when it happens.

Another Heart Broken


As usual with this subject of the post, I must offer the following disclaimer due to trolls that stalk my page…

THE FOLLOWING POST IS NOT ABOUT MY OWN DIVORCE AND CUSTODY!!!!!!

I think I made this perfectly clear.

In divorce, there are two types of parents when it comes to custody.  Parents who want to be in their child’s lives, and those who do not.  And while statistics may show an overwhelming bias against one parent over another, the critical point remains that a child who starts off with two parents, needs both of those parents, regardless of gender, even after divorce.  This post is not about a mother or father who does not care.

As an adult child of divorce, I am especially sensitive to the relationships between children and parents during a divorce.  And having been divorced, I must deal with issues as the parent, as well as memories of my childhood, or lack of.  So the things I say, I do not take lightly, but most certainly, take sincerely.

Today, I received an email from a reader, who happens to be a father.  Like the majority of my followers here, I do not know identities (except for some of the trolls that I have figured out).  Given the details of the email, I know this email is the real deal.  An email such as this will end one of two ways, the parent is given some additional support to see things can get better, perhaps a direction how.  The other result, as far as I am concerned, 100% unacceptable, the loss of the parent from the child’s life.  This occurs most likely through either suicide, or surrendering their rights as a parent.  In either way, the system clearly fails if this is how not just this father’s story ends, but any parent.

Ask any parent whose child has passed away due to either illness or accident, the hole left if their heart will never heal.  And though the situation is different, constructing a narrative that causes the destruction between a parent and their child, even though both remain physically alive, creates a similar feeling of loss.  Some may recover from this neglectful and abusive behavior.  For some, this ends up as permanent, as if the child had actually died.

This father writes me, to mention that he has decided to surrender his parental rights, no longer able to sustain the fight for his children, financially, emotionally, or physically.  As is often the case, custody cases can easily approach six figures, emotions can take one step forward only to take two steps backward, and the wear and tear on the body from the stress may never be able to recover from.  Clearly to this father, and he did not state which of the three factors, or a combination of all of them, led him to this point.

As I said, I will not discuss my own custody issues, but I do what I can to encourage others, both mothers and fathers to work things out, for the sake of children.  And I do this not as a divorced father, but as I mentioned, as an adult child of divorce.  It is a relatively new concept, or concern, because all of this time, attention has always been paid to the lives of the children, assuming that once in adulthood, all would be good.  Well, except for the glaring statistic of divorce rates of children from divorced families.

In communicating with this father, I found myself dealing with a new issue, that even through my own situation, I never recognized as an option.  But I was going to convey it to this father, the decision he wanted to make was going to be a huge mistake to not only him, but to his children.

My father made decisions that he made in my young childhood.  I had always made it a point to not know what happened between he and my mother, because whatever happened between them, should have made no difference to me.  In the end, it did, because my father would eventually make the decision to “disappear.”  He never surrendered his rights to me.  But even with an ultimatum leveled on him at my high school graduation, he still made his decision, and it was one that could never be taken back.

Now, obviously, the picture above, clearly shows that my dad and I did eventually make up.  We had a very special relationship, the rebuild caused by a tragic event.  The first half of my life with, rather, without my father, was gone.  There was no getting any of it back.  But with grandchildren that loved him very much, it gave my father and I a much needed opportunity to heal.  And in the end, I forgave my father, and loved him for doing what he could for his grandchildren.  All these years later, I still do not know, why things happened the way that they did.

I have several friends who were divorced, and now have grown children.  I have heard their stories of those who gave up, and those who fought, and fought, and fought.  And the only true regret that I have ever heard,  was from those who did “walk away.”

And then I felt myself dealing with a new issue, that I had never felt before.  And this emotion would be the catalyst for how I would encourage this father, do not give up.  Though I got the opportunity to make amends with my father, and spend some valuable time and memories, there was one issue that was never, and will never get the chance to be cleared up.  And it is something that will last me, as long as I live, because he is no longer here to defend himself.

From the time my children were adopted, through the beginning of the divorce, to today, my children know me as the loving father I have always been.  As of late, geographically things are not convenient, but my children know that I will always be there for them and will do everything I can to help them, no matter where I am.

And here was the new issue.  My father did not.  And he lived less than twenty minutes from me growing up.  He not only was responsible for the decision to spend time with me or not, but he also chose not to fight for that right either.  And this is now the issue I struggle with.  It is one thing for me to be able to proclaim that I will never give up my rights as father to my children, it is another that my Father did not.  And for that, I cannot forgive him.

And that is what I tried to get across to this father.  Giving up must never be an option.  I get it.  Our bodies take a horrible beating from the stress and financial toll of this fight.  But that does not even compare to a child will never forgive you for “giving up.”

Should we have to fight til our last heartbeat for our children?  No.  And fortunately, states are now realizing the relationships between parents and their children need help, and are changing the law to allow these changes to take place.  It is a slow process, but it is happening.

I do not know the age of this man’s children, but they sound young.  He has lost everything in fighting for his custody, and likely will not recover any time soon.  But the ultimate loss will come if he stops fighting for his children.  I have no idea how my father felt making the decision that he did.  But I do know that I did not want this father to find out either.

As I wrote this post, I received an email from someone else.  And this father had just won his custody fight, a very long one.  It turns out, that he was good at documenting, and presented the judge with an overwhelming amount of documentation that showed how relentless the other parent was, in trying to take the kids away from him, no intention of co-parenting, or even letting the children be in his life.  Seriously, if you have to try this hard to prevent your children from seeing their other parent, you are using your children as pawns or weapons.  Shame on you.  And you need to know, it will never be the other parent that will pay for that, it will be the offending parent that is despised by the child, no matter how much the denial.  It will happen.

I asked the email owner if I could forward it to the other writer, who could definitely use some encouragement.

Look, if you walk away from your child, know that is something you will never get back.  But if you truly love your children, you do not ever give up any fight for them.  Giving up is never an option.

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