This piece by our friend Doug Mead deserves repeating.
Column sparks ire of many
IMAGINE A little girl growing up without her dad. She misses him. She wonders why he doesn't come by anymore. There is a longing in her heart that won't go away. She cries herself to sleep at night.
Imagine the dad, a good and loving dad, wanting to see his daughter grow up. But he can't, for various reasons. There is a longing in his heart that won't go away. He cries himself to sleep at night.
Imagine the mom, who is angry and bitter at the dad for whatever reason and uses the court system to keep him away. Maybe he was an abusive husband once, or he cheated on her while they were married. Maybe she's just angry at the world and takes it out on her daughter's father.
The mom uses their daughter as a pawn. Not only does dad lose out, but so does the daughter. She needs him. It isn't fair.
Two weeks ago, I wrote a fictitious letter (based on real-life situations) from a little girl writing her dad, asking him to come back into her life. The response from readers was overwhelming, from men and women alike. Some shared similar situations to the composite letter, but mostly I heard from people telling me I was full of ... you know. They insisted that either the ex-spouse and/or the courts are responsible for keeping them from their children.
The men who responded say they want to be a part of their children's lives but face obstacles. Surprisingly, I heard from many women who disagreed with the column, mostly partners and relatives who have seen devastation from divorce up close.
I heard from dads who say they sold their houses to pay for legal costs. One dad said he has spent more than $100,000 in attorney fees trying to see his kids. Several dads said they had to fight false accusations of abuse in court.
One dad shared a letter he'd like to send to his daughter, now a teenager, if only her mother would let her read it.
Here's an excerpt:
I am writing to you today because I saw you waiting for the bus after school. I really did want to stop and say hello, just to hear your voice, but I know you would have to tell your mother about it. Remember, when she yells at you for talking to me, she is only mad at me.
The court said that I would be able to see you every other weekend, but I understand how things just get in the way.
I got the 30 boxes of Girl Scout cookies I ordered from you, thank your mother for delivering them to me, and tell her the rain didn't mess them up all that much.
I have followed your every life event, sweet daughter of mine.
I have written you several letters a week since the divorce but only wish I knew you received them, I hope you do. I will never abandon you, no court on this earth could accomplish that which your mother has achieved by telling you lies about me. I only wish the courts would enforce their own orders.
I never left you, that is one reason I live so close to you. I was unable to handle your mother's new love relationship.
I am just putting the few extra dollars I have left over into a bank account for your use when you turn of age. I am saving so much money by riding a bike and actually love the exercise I get.
I wish I could have been there at those times the last couple of years when you needed me. I wish I could have been there for your school play, the awards you received for your science project. I wish I could have been there when your mother forgot you were at school and you had to walk home in the rain.
My door is open to you no matter how long it takes or how long it seems, you're forever welcome in my life.
In my 11 years as a single parent, I've met mostly dedicated single parents.
I've also met my share of moms and dads who didn't participate in their children's lives, and I couldn't even be friends with them. I've heard countless stories of outright abandonment, but also heartfelt stories such as the letter above. When one parent puts up visitation obstacles out of spite, it only hurts the kids.
In the end, it is the children who suffer. The social cost is immeasurable. As parents, we choose to make sacrifices for our kids. Any men who are being unfairly kept from their children deserve medals for persevering.
If you're a single parent, I urge you not to use your child as a pawn. That doesn't mean you stop protecting them or forgetting past hurts. It means forgiving and moving on. It means negotiating and communicating with someone with whom you may not want to communicate. Every day.
It's for your kids.
April 3, 2005
Doug Mead has been a single parent for 11 years. He and his teenage son live in the East Bay. You can e-mail him at email@example.com.
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