Making sense of the unknown leap into fatherhood

Fatherhood; arguably the most important job in the world

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Friday, 29 June 2018

In A World Preoccupied With Equality, Why Are We So Blind When It Comes To Our Children?



Seeing the media coverage over the past two weeks of children brought to tears, the fear in their voices, and their trembling tiny little limbs as they are separated from their parents on the American border, brought me to tears.  I find that more and more frequently adult decisions are impacting on the lives and happiness of innocent children who have not chosen their geographical birthplace, whether or not their parents’ marriage will be a success or whether their parents were or were not bonded in union.  There are too many tears, there are too many broken fragile hearts and it’s heart-breaking.  Being a strong advocate of solid, proactive patenting and an active father, I follow many different groups on social media – breastfeeding groups, education groups, groups which promote the importance of fathers, groups which promote the importance of mothers, and even those groups consisting of fun individuals who dress their kids up in silly costumes so that we can have an aaah cute moment.

Whilst scrolling this morning, I had the misfortune (or fortune) of seeing a video where the caption read “dad was awarded custody in 2010 after the mother was incarcerated, as soon as she was released, the judge ordered that the child be returned to her”.  The video shows a dejected father, sitting, slumped up against a car door whilst the child pleads and cries, holding onto his father, exhaustedly repeating the phrase “no, I don’t want to go”.  Unfortunately this is not an isolated incident (read here to see how the impact of being separated from your children can lead to suicide).

We are shocked and outraged by the images seen this week – and I strongly feel that the media have done an incredible job on reporting the atrocities happening on the American border – yet we seem to overlook that this is going on all over the world within our borders; and apparently more frequently than we would have ourselves believe.

As a Western society we are constantly seeking out equality.  Pride Week is fast approaching, recognising the equality of sexual orientation and Women’s Rights and equal pay are hot on the list, but are we not in danger of moving beyond equality in the opposite direction?  Surely equality means just that – and nothing sits closer on my heart than equality for parents when it comes to loving their little ones and having unlimited access to them (unless of course there are legitimate safety concerns).  Equality doesn’t seem to open its arms and embrace the many parents who are desperately fighting to be a part of their children’s lives.  Unfortunately it seems to be the fathers who find themselves in this horrid nightmare far more often than mothers.  The fact that I might fall prey to sardonicism doesn’t escape me; I am aware that this post would carry greater gravitas if I were a mother writing this, but the fact is I’m not a mother, and I’m not rallying the troops in support of mothers or fathers, but purely intending on commenting on something which is a grave shame.

The disgusting ploy to alienate children based the fact that their parents might be trying to cross borders illegally (in a desperate attempt to find a better life for their children) or where one parent despises the other and indulges in a game of chess where children are pawns, is harmful and irresponsible (often leading to Parental Alienation Syndrome).  How can we be so blinded by hate that the lives of fragile little souls are put into jeopardy?  When did society deem it ok for children to be taken from their parents?  When did it become ok for governments to decide that children go one way whilst their parents are ushered in the opposite direction?  When did it become ok for courts and government agencies to indirectly prolong parental alienation, hiding behind red tape and workloads?  When did the children stop mattering?  The domino effect is frightening.  Do we never stop to think where these children will be in ten, fifteen, twenty years’ time?  We are looking at a future where orphans in fact have parents, but were once displaced, moved around, shunted here and there to suit government policy or to satisfy the needs of a delusional mother or father.  I’m afraid to live in this world.  I’m afraid to live in a world where one person can make a claim or a decision, whether that be the President of the United States, or a parent hell-bent on punishing an ex by using their children as leverage.  It’s disenchanting.  We as supposedly “mature” adults are creating a rod for our own backs.  Children need mothers and fathers.  They need love and security.  Mothers and fathers bring with them their own unique influences on the children they have brought into this world; if we want a world of equality, then let us stop over-compensating for perceived or actual past injustices and focus on creating a world where children know their mothers and know their fathers despite geographical orientation or the breakdown of adult relationships. 
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Friday, 20 October 2017

The Expendables – This Is Not a Movie Review

Like much of the UK, I too have been gripped by the BBC drama series Dr Foster. That dinner scene…pure television gold! The overtly voyeuristic invitation into the collapse of a pretty dysfunctional marriage sees the writers and the cast shove the ripple effect of marital breakdown so deeply down the throats of their audience. No other series which I have ever watched so blatantly, and with such escalating vulgarity, screams the collateral damage of the children affected by parents who will violently stop at nothing to strip one another of their dignity, worth, and ultimately any chance of recovering financially, and in many cases, emotionally.

Recent experiences have taught me that we as individuals are expendable. We are expendable in our jobs and the people we work for, expendable in romantic relationships and even expendable in friendships. Sometimes the world has a pretty sobering way of telling you that you just don’t matter. The ripple effect of decisions made by others are often overlooked or blatantly ignored so that the comfort of their echo chamber provides an invisible barrier which allows them to just “not go there”. It’s the ostrich burying its head in the sand. It is you and I making a decision but not wanting to face the reality of the damage caused to those we no longer hold any regard for…or those we love most in this world.

No other instance is so grossly untoward as that of children caught in the crossfire of those so blinded by their own agenda, their own deceit, their detest and their anger. In the series, the son is caught in the crossfire of his parent’s marital demise, so much so that he slowly wilts from the violent reverberations of the by-product of two, clearly, dysfunctional parents. All too often there is a winner and a loser; children become pawns in a game of chess where the king seldom wins and the paradox of the queen shouting “check mate!” deafens the young ears in her wake.  Watching Dr Foster highlighted the fact that the eventual outcome in martial failure is ultimately the same, but there are numerous roads one can travel to get there.  I’m not siding with either character, but a post I recently read summed it up perfectly. It reads: “I’m not against moms or dads. I’m against a**holes who use their children to hurt the other parent.”



This past week brought with it the most difficult experience I have had as a father to date. Holding my 7-year-old daughter in my arms as she sobbed, begging me for us to be a family again. I cried with her. I reassured her that all will be ok, and in her wisdom, she reassured me.  There we were, crying at the fact that our little family was no more…and hasn’t been for some time. Part of the solution was to call her mother, there and then, and over a speaker phone, the two adults reassured the thing they loved most in this world that she was loved and that neither her mom nor her dad will ever leave her just because the union of her parents did not work out. It was our choice to bring her into this world (with God’s grace and mercy) and our decision to separate; she did not ask for this, and that, in no uncertain terms, means that neither mother nor father should ever be expendable. I appreciate that not all relationship breakdowns can be amicable and harmonious; however I do believe that placing one’s children at the centre of one’s focus may realign what is most important when considering the possible collateral damage and the effect of those affecting ripples.    


  
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Sunday, 4 September 2016

Fear & Love

I recently found myself lost in a local forest and I loved it!  An hour of climbing over fallen trees, ducking under low-lying branches and being sporadically poked by stinging nettles.  Unfortunately, with tingling skin and sweat on my brow, I decided to incorporate some modern technology.  Out came the iPhone and Goolge Maps was quickly consulted.  If I didn't need to be somewhere else within the hour, I would have played all day.




Whilst in the forest, I felt a sense a freedom, one which I haven't experienced since childhood.  I ran, I walked, I ducked, I climbed.  I was that very character which John Eldredge describes in his 2001 book, Wild at Heart.  Strangely, in my solitude, came a real sense of belonging.  At that time, in that moment, I was exactly where I wanted to be; in fact, I was exactly where I needed to be.  The words LOVE and FEAR kept playing over and over in my mind.  There was an element of danger in what I was doing, and the more fear whispered hints of caution into my conscious mind, the more I loved it.  A pretty feeble rush for those who find pleasure and leisure in extreme sports, but it was more than just a "rush", it was exhilarating and refreshing.



Many years ago, one of my oldest and most dearest friends, (let's call him Sean because that is actually his real name - insert smiley emojicon here!), said to me that the only two real emotions are love and fear.  I cannot remember the context of the conversation, and in all honesty, this type of conversation was not the norm - we never spent hours engaging in philosophical debates, it was always as simple as some girl he or I liked and whether she had smiled at us at school that day - but I somehow remember that it was Sean who said it and at the time I was studying my undergraduate in Psychology.  

I guess this idea has been swirling in my head ever since.  At the time I wanted to prove this notion false given that I was studying human behaviour after all.  One element in all of this which kept reoccurring, was that no matter how hard I tried, I continued to draw the same conclusion; I always came back to the same outcome - at the root of every emotion lies love and fear.

That was 18 years ago and there I was, 18 years later, lost in a forest, reciting the two words over and over again.



Is it really true that we are almost always driven by either fear or love?  I want to achieve something with my life, but fear tells me I'm not smart enough, good looking enough, brave enough, strong enough...and so apathy sets in and mediocrity becomes my mundane reality (thanks FEAR!!).  Or how about passion?  I love doing this or that and so I am driven to discover more, learn more, engage more (thanks LOVE).  

Racism, hatred, ethnocentrism, apathy, disinterest, loneliness, lethargy, stoicism, etc, etc, etc - FEAR FEAR FEAR!

Passion, wonder, exploration, interest, kindness, joy, discovery, etc, etc, etc - LOVE LOVE LOVE.

I am so hard pressed to find Sean wrong.  Eighteen years of studying people and their emotions, eighteen years of engaging, discovering, learning, asking, telling, advising, being advised, counselling and being counselled, and all I can come up with is LOVE and FEAR.  And you know what?  That's fine!  I like it like that...in fact, I love it like that.

Fear cripples me whilst love drives me forward.  Fear restricts me whilst love lends a hand at discovery.

Bringing a child into this world is both utterly terrifying and with it, so wonderfully joyous.  We react our of fear.  Fear of what they will turn out to be.  Fear of whether we are doing right by them.  Fear of failing.  Fear of falling short.  Fear of not meeting expectations as a parent.  And underneath all that fear, thankfully, lies love.  We are terrified because we love.  We are concerned because we love. We want to do right because we love.  We don't want to fall short because we love.  We want to meet expectations because we love.

Fear can drive love but it can also cripple.  The beauty in this, is that we have a choice.



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