The legal bias and the complex problems single fathers face as a result are beyond human understanding. Sadly, we just do not have the resources, or the knowledge, to properly help them.
What we do try to do is listen. Just being listened to is so important. There is great healing in just being heard. We also provide phone numbers of those who can help more than we can.
Many times, these calls can be quite emotional for all concerned. Men list their many regrets and failures as a father. Others feel crushed by the process of the family law meat grinder and feel it’s better to withdraw from their children’s lives rather than keep struggling to see them. I always say to them, “Don’t do it!”
Children need their dad, even if the system or the mother doesn’t think so. One day, they will want to know that Dad did his very best to see them. I always say to these men,
“Keep a diary of your experiences. Keep the returned birthday cards and the presents, because one day your children will need to know you tried.”
This is not about proving someone else wrong, but about proving, on an historical basis, that you, their father, loved them. This is something that every child needs to know, will need to know and has the right to know.
Listening to such heartbroken men share their regrets is challenging for me. You might think that I am a really good father. Sadly, this is just not the case. My three sons with children are, I believe, already better fathers than I ever was. For this I am truly glad, but it is a sobering thing for me to accept, and also very humbling as well.
I regret that I didn’t change more nappies and get more involved in the caring and bathing of my children, that little bit more than I was. My goal as a father and husband is to be honest about my mistakes and make amends where I can, but especially to concentrate on changing the future, not fretting about the past.
You cannot change yesterday, but you can change tomorrow, today.
The other danger we face, both with myself and others, with too much introspection, is the danger of condemning yourself for your children’s current mistakes. Yes, we know that there are negative documented effects of father absence on our children, but there is another side to the coin.
Some dads come to me and bemoan the things they didn’t do for their children. That’s when I think of my own shortcomings as a father and some of the not-so-great decisions my adult children have made. I can hear the loop in my head repeating the assertion that my own shortcomings as a father might have contributed to some of their not-so-great decisions.
At such times I have to listen to the advice I give to the dads I counsel, who are being far too introspective for their own good.
“You can’t change yesterday, but you can change tomorrow by changing who you are as a father, and as a husband today.”
We are about to enter the New Year and yes, it is a time when we think about our goals, our dreams, our family and what we can do better.
Goals are important and writing them down is critical. Mark Victor Hansen said,
“By recording your dreams and goals on paper, you set in motion the process of becoming the person you most want to be. Put your future in good hands — your own.”
Remember, you cannot change yesterday, but you can change tomorrow by changing who you are today.
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