COADD: It's All About the Face-Time, Every Moment Matters
As my marriage was falling apart, I had a dread fear that wife would re-marry and my sons would grow up calling someone else "Daddy."
I would think about it as I drove in my car and tears would well up in my eyes.
I would think about it while arguing with my wife and it would fuel my rage.
But while I was wallowing in self pity and worrying about how a breakup would effect MY emotions, i was failing to focus on being the best dad i could be every day and making the most of the time i had while i still lived with my boys.
This reality came crashing down on me just after my wife's car pulled away from our apartment, headed to their new place.
A reality suddenly struck me with blunt force trauma -- my sons would NEVER be home, waiting for me when I got home from work.
Never again would I get out of my car, look up to the living room window of our second-floor apartment and see Paddy, my four-year-old, looking down at me and waving with a huge grin on his face.
Never again, as I came through the door, would KJ, my two-year-old, run in from the kitchen, yelling "Hi Daddy!"
It was in that moment I realized how much I had taken my time with my children for granted. It was also at that moment that I swore it would never happen again.
On the day my ex left, I'd spent the day with the boys. We went to the train yard and the airport to watch the planes and the trains. We had lunch at a diner.
The one thing i saids to them ... as much as they were able to understand ... was that even though i would not be living with them everyday, I was still going to be their dad every day.
Back at home, I began brainstorming ways in which I could see my sons and spend time with them as much as possible. Not to irk my ex, she had nothing to do with it. This was about keeping things as normal as possible for the kids and participating in the things that actually mattered to them in their lives. These were activities that I would need to be as involved with as possible in order to be the best father I could be.
Here is some of the list I came up with:
Youth sports games
Youth sports practices
Cub scout meetings
First Day of School
Daily phone calls.
When we went to court, I did not challenge child support or visitation times (every other weekend and one day a week). But I did make sure we had joint legal custody (hugely important) as it kept me directly involved in schooling and medical decisions. And I made sure that I could call the boys any time I wanted to, as long as it was before bed time.
During those phone calls, i told bedtime stories, sang songs with them and we prayed.
As for the activities i listed, I made the needed adjustments to my work schedule to get to as many of those things as possible.
100 percent? Of course not. No parent can ever get to all the activities their children are involved with. But I got to as many as possible.
My little boys knew, from the very beginning, that while I might be a divorced dad, I was not going to be a "part-time dad."
Everyone's divorce is different. Everyone's relationship with their ex is different. And everyone's job circumstance is different. But my encouragement for all you divorced parents out there is to make the effort. This is NOT about your ex. It's about your children feeling safe and secure in your love for them. And the way you make that happen is to be visible to them and be there for the events that matter to them.