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.