That is always a tough one and one to where, it seems, we tend to draw criticism towards other parents. We state, well at least we don’t do that. Or at least I always do this. Or at least I am the ‘better’ parent. I’d like to say that each comment for critique is always in an attempt to make yourself better than someone else. Parents that bring up topics about how the kids come first, still yell, still put pressure on themselves to work, to provide a good life (with whatever definition that may be). There’s so much more to being a parent. Some children need constant attention, some need space in order to learn how to work through problems, while others would do better without their parents.
The main thing is that a parent’s role is incredibly important. I’m a single mother and I see in my daughter’s eyes the joy she has in learning new things, going off to camp, and telling me stories. Some of the best stories come from her various trips without me. Some of the troubling stories I hear are also without me. All that I can do, is to listen, and to help her to grow.
Her father has a visitation schedule and will on occasion request time that fits without the standard agreement other times he gives very little warning that he will not be showing up for his scheduled time. His choices and decisions to be in her life have a direct impact on her. Neither parent is better, neither parent deserves to have time, it’s always weighed against, what is the best thing for her? We have differing opinions and differing ways to make this happen.
All I can say is what I see and what I wish I could do for her. I want to not make her life easy, but to help her keep her innocence as long as possible. Once it is gone, it’s gone. It can never come back. I have seen it chipped away from her at a very young age when her father wouldn’t call. When she would come home because Daddy slept all day and went out with his friends at night and she was home with her paternal Grandmother. The anger and the wish he’d show up. The no longer sad face on her birthday with the absent calls, because it doesn’t matter. The hassle of arranging a meet-up for him to show up late and to be crying because, “where’s my Dad?”
Yet, to be called the bad person and why would I not understand his hardships and pain? You’re right, I don’t know how hard things are or when you’re depressed it’s too difficult to call. That is something I cannot possibly understand. Sometimes I have to work late and I am grumpy or I have to fly to another state for work and I cannot call her nor see her until I am back home. It kills me, so maybe I do understand. I just can’t do it for more than a few days and all I want to do is be home.
Being a parent is more than just the biology. It’s the lasting effect that we leave on our children. The imprint we leave, that mark. Every call, every missed birthday, every attempt to spend time together, and every ER visit – the mark gets left. People can think whatever they want of me and whatever they want as my daughter’s father, what will matter to me is what she thinks of us and my hope that she sees that I did everything that I could to provide a better life for her. Not necessarily with things, but with the fact that it was a safe home to live. I have to work in order to put food on the table and I will never understand someone’s one-sided mindset of what they are entitled to. God gave you life, you are entitled to nothing, He can take it all from you, and he’ll still expect you to stand up for yourself and do what you’re supposed to do.
The choice to not call her, to not show-up, to not acknowledge her birthday, to take her on an expensive trip because someone else is paying for it, for all of what will be going on, I’ll never understand. I hope that she will become a beautiful young woman that expects more from a man than her own father. She is lucky, as she has two Dads now and to say that one over the other has any more significant impact on her would be false. They each have their own unique and equal impact. One calls her every day, listens to her stories, knows who her friends are, has bought her food, taken her and spent time with her biological father – at the same time – and yet it still doesn’t change anything. I hope that she will be a whole person and she is forever shaped by the experiences she has. I wish to protect her from the, inevitable, loss of innocence, but to also work with her on the development of how to deal with the pain. That yes, it sucks, Mom is here and it’s okay to cry, it’s okay to scream it out, it’s also okay to be brave and strong. What you feel is correct for you and that it is okay.
The brightness in her eyes, in looking at her Dad, it’s a sight I haven’t seen since her biological Dad moved away. The way G, her sister, looks at me. It’s hard and the other biological parents have a role and yes, I wish I could shake them, sometimes, over the pain that they cause my children by not being around. If only that would get them to see what we see. The marks are there and they are forever shaping our children. Whether you are away, whether you show up every day, how you interact with your children creates them into who they are as adults. I pray to God they are confident, charismatic, intelligent and altogether good people. I don’t say happy, because you won’t always be happy, you won’t always have it easy, you won’t always be able to achieve your goals, but to be a good person. THAT’s the goal.
As a parent, I matter to the extent that I set the example of how I expect my children to act. I have to be their mirror, until they are old enough to know better. I’ll show up every day that I can, I’ll teach them the skills they need to learn. I will not be a vacation parent, I’ll be the one they talk to every day, about any problem, about anything. If you don’t pay attention and listen when they’re younger, they won’t come to you when they are older. I hope one day they look back and see how hard I tried, how I felt bad about my mistakes, about everything. I hope they remember who showed up and I hope they will find, a way, to go forward and find their own way.