I feel like a fraud when I say I’m a dad. When I hear “Good Dad” or similar coinage, I cringe—there are times I feel like I will never be able to use that term to describe myself. The hypocrisy feels like it weighs more than my conscience can support. Yes, I am fully there for my daughters, good or bad, but my sons have fallen to the wayside. This time of year (Father’s Day this way comes) always makes me even more disgusted with this situation, and as much as I enjoy the recognition and gifts from my loving wife and daughters, I can’t help but think I am still a failure at fatherhood.
I hate it.
Divorce is an extraordinarily difficult and trying event. Having children only complicates the issue. Trying to be a good, engaged father to the children after the divorce is not the easiest task either. It would be, if it was just the kids to manage, but like it or not, you are forever obligated to contend with the other parent and their family. For better or worse, indeed.
My former marriage should have never happened, but being in my early twenties and still immature, I couldn’t be told anything. I was happy to be out of my parent’s house and having a great time in college. I was the master of my own destiny, bulletproof, and best of all, free. I took full advantage of everything I could afford—short of study hall, anyway.
During my sophomore year I was suffering the consequences of my poor study habits and in danger of losing my student loans. Adding to that stress, the girl I was dating at the time was quickly showing that she was not ‘the one.’ Making things worse, she started getting sick a lot, clingy, and very needy. I couldn’t take it anymore and I broke off the relationship. A few weeks later, the reason for her sudden illness came to light—she was pregnant.
I don’t know how to categorize my mother’s beliefs, but I do know that the phrase I heard stated to the men in my family from puberty on was:
If you dip your stick, you pay the consequences.
As eloquent as that sounds, it was also the end of the discussion. She offered no other advice or explanation, so I assumed that she meant very simply, you stay and deal with the situation, get married and accept your fate. In short, my ‘fun time’ had come to an end.
I tried to stick it out. We got back together, but I already resented being with this girl, and now I had her parents to deal with. I was the typical long-haired, tattooed thug that all parents strive to keep their daughters away from. Oh, and I was the sole cause of the pregnancy. ‘Their baby’ (who, mind you, had been caught with a boy in her room a few years earlier—in her parent’s house) was the innocent victim in this ordeal. The nonstop looks and snide comments were getting to be too much. I knew what they (mostly her dad and brother) wanted, and that was me out of the picture.