“It all begins with forgiveness, because to heal the world, we first have to heal ourselves. And to heal the kids, we first have to heal the child within, each and every one of us,” Michael Jackson
I know it may surprise some of you to see me write a column that is “touchy feely” or emotional, but I am human and I bleed. So here goes.
Isn’t it amazing how at times we may be living our normal every day helter skelter life when one smell, one song or one word may trigger a memory that has long been locked behind the hidden doors of our minds? And when those doors get cracked, the ghosts of our past still pounce and try to torment us all over again.
The ghosts that I speak of are very real battle scars, bloody wounds that when they flood our minds, seem every bit as real and current as they were before.
Fortunately, when despair and fear grip my heart I am able to remind myself that it is only a mirage. I’m no longer going through those pains. I’m not still under attack. I’m safe and I can breathe. Maybe some day I will be able to forgive others completely, but first…I must forgive myself.
Enough with vagueness and ambiguity, I am speaking of divorce and having my precious daughters ripped from my life and stolen away to another portion of the country…twice.
I am a firm believer that what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger. I also believe that our biggest trials can be our biggest trophies. In fact I have a few trophies on my shelf, but I am a long, long way from being entirely healthy and whole. The more recent of the two traumas that I speak of happened in 2001 and the other was in 1992. So, you would think that I’d be entirely over it by now. Sorry to disappoint.
I want to share a few things I have learned from my experiences for those that are going through the same thing now. Then again, maybe I’m just encouraging myself and allowing you to read the conversation.
First, fatherhood comes from God and no judge, no court, no ex-wife; NO ONE can take that away. I will always be the father of my children. So I love them, pray for them, do what I can to be reconciled to them and to be there for them upon their call (not upon my convenience). I am a father.
I will absolutely explode if I do not allow the “father side” of me to come out. Therefore, in the absence of my own biological children, I have adopted many surrogate “children” to invest into. They have taken the form of stepchildren, my past employees, younger students that I went to college with and simply young people that need love and mentorship. But above all, I will be available, if and when my own daughters call.
My identity and value can never come from or be changed be some frail, imperfect, limited judge. My value is based upon truth, not evidence or argument.
I have also learned that children are children and take quite a while to fully mature, so their memories are not our memories. In fact, many times they are not actual memories at all, but a repetition of what they were told by others. So, I cherish the wonderful memories I have of holding my daughters, teaching the alphabet, brushing their hair, playing games and those wonderful baby kisses. But they don’t remember them, so those memories are for me. Therefore, I must work at creating new memories for “us”.
I have learned that I have to be sure to never encourage or even allow my child to cast off their other parent. Hiding my passions, I must do all I can to encourage both parents to be in their lives. I don’t have to be in my ex’s life, but my daughters needs to be.
Also, I have to be very careful to not punish my child when I see my ex in her. She is a product of us both, that’s just the fact of life.
My oldest is almost 26 and we’ve had zero contact since she was almost two and ripped from my life. My youngest was six and is now 21, but we finally have a wonderful long-distance relationship. So that just proves that it is never too late to begin again with your children. At some point, they will approach you and want to get to know you…it will most likely occur when they are in need or when they are angry with your ex. Open your door and heart to them, but don’t let them cast off their other parent. If you do, then you are no better than your ex was.
Judges, be very cautious when making custody rulings. Each case is life changing for the children, the parents and the extended family…and they are all unique. Take your time and PRAY about every case. It is more important than just about anything you will ever do, so get those decisions right. And their continuing relationship with both parents is the primary thing, not child support!
I have gotten so very angry, when I’ve seen parents take their children for granted or mistreat/ignore them. I get so very angry when I hear parents talk about how inconvenient or difficult it is to have children – let me have them! I want to punch someone when I hear custodial parents talk about how they should hold their child back from their other parent for any reason, especially over money or control.
I also, honestly, can’t help but get angry when I hear non-custodial parents complain about their part-time existence with their children…when they should be thanking God that they have had at least some time with them. I didn’t.
Parents stop right now and thank God for what He has given you and custodial parents, do everything you can to encourage your child to get involved with your ex.
So…I am a father. I am a good father and I love both of my daughters. It has nothing to do with what they do or how well they treat me. I pray for them and I will always have an open door for them…because I am their dad!