I was asked, if I could in just one word, describe what drives me. I am going one better… no words.
As the saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”
Reality is beginning to set in for me. My daughters are growing up. I knew it would happen. I saw it happen to all the kids of my friends. Nobody seems to have been able to stop time so that we can hold on to these childhoods, just a little bit longer.
I do miss the days of Backyardigans and Little Einsteins, messy table settings, and telling bedtime stories and singing lullabies to my daughters.
A promise I made to myself, and I would think every parent would want the same, was to make sure that my children were not only prepared for their future, but would also be given as best an opportunity to get there. We should always want better for our children. I know that I do.
In recent years, homework assignments have become much more serious, and detailed. Social and recreational activities soon needed to be scheduled. And of course, shopping for clothing is no longer done at the Children’s Place or Justice.
The reality of growing up occurred recently as I took my daughters clothing shopping, partly to see if they could spend their Christmas gift cards, the other, with a specific task of choosing a dress for a school dance. I, as well as my opinion, have been replaced by sibling support. I get to participate only as a witness, only as a courtesy. Together, the two sisters decided which looks best on who. I am just driving them from store to store.
With both daughters in the final quarter of their secondary education, they are encouraged to begin to consider the direction in life that they want to take. My daughters are sisters, both are intelligent, and other than those facts, any comparison of the two is completely unfair to both. The ideas that both are considering for their futures could not be any more different from achieving higher education to job selection. How both get to their goals ultimately will be up to each of themselves. It is my job as their father, to make sure that they have the opportunities, and to help figure out how to get there. And I want only for them to have that success. And other than my health issues, it is the futures of my daughters that consume my time.
As both continue to progress, and earn their own individual accolades and achievements, I offer nothing less than praise and congratulations. Like any proud parent, admittedly I probably go overboard with the amount of “I am proud of you” I give to each of my daughters. Again, they are each their own person, their own personality, their own style, and their own future. But they are sisters. Most importantly, their achievements, have been because of their own hard work.
I should not be shocked by where I am at right now in parenthood. It is what drives me every day. My doctors have told me, together they will make sure that in spite of my health issues, I will get to see my daughters grow old. And in order to get there, that means accepting they are getting older as well.
I miss those younger years. But man… the memories I am making today are so worth it.
A family, when including both a mother and father, untouched by divorce, have routines for their children following the holidays, getting back to the normal day-to-day activities of school, work, and things around the home that need to be done. Moms and Dads seemingly pick up, right where things leave off.
But for families who have gone through divorce, have a different process to go through, because there is a process called “custody”, normally dictated by a court though sometimes simply agreed on by both mothers and fathers. This means, that following the holiday, one parent will continue to pick up the activities of the children as mentioned above, for others, it is just so quiet.
I do not talk about my own specific details of my divorce for many reasons that I will not get into. I will clearly specify when things pertain to another family. But for the purposes of this post, I am simply talking about an emotion.
During custodial periods, especially during a holiday period, for however long that period lasts, the non-custodial parent gets to enjoy the quality of time with his or her children, like that which once was uninterrupted and filled with tradition and lots of fun. There are increased bathroom routines under the roof with the additional family. Though meal times may remain relatively unaffected, bed times are often extended either out of pure excitement, or the difference of the times between homes. The mornings can be just as upside down and staggered causing all kinds of adjustments to be made to the day. And this will go on for every day of the custodial visit.
The parent who normally spends the majority of their time alone, perhaps with a partner is likely to enjoy the return of the activity around the home and the lack of any down time to recover. For the non-custodial parent, the time being spent is not infinite. That particular period does have an end. And that end, is just so quiet.
That first morning after, it is just so quiet. There are no extra breakfasts to make. There are no plans to be made. There are no “chimes” from a text message being received in the bedroom just twenty feet away. There is no random appearance from your child just to say “Hi.”
There were a lot of memories shared during this period. And of course the attention is steered toward the next visit and the activities that await. But for now, it is just so quiet.
When two people make the decision to become parents, it is more than likely, a divorce being in their future is the furthest thing from their mind. But things happen. And though husband and wife divorce, mother and father do not. And regardless of where either parent lives, when two parents are involved, the child has the right to spend time with, be loved by, and love, both parents. Mother and Father do not divorce.
During custodial periods, especially holiday periods, that is when the relationships are not only put to the test, but when allowed to continue naturally, allow everyone to move on in a progression of peace. And the children end up all the better for that.
I relish every moment I get to spend with my daughters. I do not take this for granted. There are too many fathers and mothers who do not get to spend time with their children for any number of reasons. As a child of divorce myself, I know what it was like not to have my father around. I applaud the state of Pennsylvania, as well as others, that have either taken the steps, or are in the process of, enacting legislation to make shared 50-50 custody the presumption when it comes to the children. Pennsylvania house bill HB1397 gives the starting point for both parents, as if they were married, both equal parents. With the exception of domestic violence (or any other criminal act), the children have the right, in their best interest, to relationships and time, with both parents.
It is really common sense when you think about it. If there was nothing wrong in the house between parent and child, why should the parent be penalized with anything less than equal time with their child? If something were to happen to the one parent, without question, the other parent would take full responsibility for the child, rightfully so. So why then, should children be expected, and parents forced to accept, anything less than equal time with both parents?
Sure, there will be some who object to this simple to understand concept, and I will not discuss what I am aware of. But the simple logic, children deserve a relationship with both parents, when there is no recognizable danger to the child.