Making sense of the unknown leap into fatherhood

Fatherhood; arguably the most important job in the world

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Monday, 24 December 2018

Mistakes & the Opportunity for Growth

With the new year fast approaching, I guess like most, it’s a time of reflection and re-evaluation. Soon after the family affairs are finished and the tinsel is taken down, we are forced to look the new year in the face with a shadow cast on the outgoing year as we look ahead. Christmas will bring with it celebration, but also remembering who we no longer have, either through loss, relationship breakdown or moving away. We have such an emotional tie to Christmas that our memory (known as a flashbulb memory) won’t allow us to forget where we were this time last year and who we were with - in person or in spirit. We look at our lives and realise the love lost or those who are no longer with us leave a teardrop on our hearts. As parents we play the role of Santa and ensure that it’ll be the best Christmas yet, despite what we may truly feel inside. Social media will no doubt remind us just how different our lives are because everybody else, seemingly, has the perfect family with the perfect partners and perfect kids - we will no doubt sell that image to convince others that all’s well - perhaps it is, but perhaps it’s not.

As parents, we take little time to reflect, because often, we just don’t have the luxury of time to actually evaluate how things have gone over the past year. We’ve made some good choices and we’ve, no doubt, made some bad choices. Mistakes. Miss takes which are born from our actions or those around us. We have, in a sense, given birth to this thing we now get to call “a mistake” once we have had the opportunity to reflect. Mistakes which we no longer wish to have present in this world or in our life, but we are forced to - we can’t very well give them back, so where to from here? For the most part, our little ones are resilient and often very forgiving. They view the world in black and white, with the luxury of innocence. What is broken can be fixed, it is as simple as that. We fix it because we need them to be okay. We work tirelessly, forced to deal with any errors with rapid pace to ensure that Christmas and the year ahead will, in fact, be the best one yet.

As parents, and in life in general, we make mistakes. Sometimes the same ones more than once, more than twice even. Some are big in that they carry regret, yet some, not so much and they flutter by. I carry my mistakes, I carry their weight, I carry their load. It’s an odd concept, but without me, they wouldn’t even exist. Funny that, I’ve brought mistakes into this world, and now I have to nurture them and their damage. I have to look at them, some with regret, some with anger, some with nothing but a passing thought. I have to own them, with reluctance and I have to accept them with open arms despite not wanting  them. 

Despite the apparent doom and gloom, there is one silver lining; mistakes carry with them an opportunity for growth. It is in this realisation that we can experience freedom from accepting and owning the adversities and learning from the damage caused - or if we lucky, the near misses. We can be so harsh and critical of ourselves as parents (and human beings in general) that it’s easy to wallow in the pain of regret, all the while robbing ourselves of the present, and it’s in this moment where we can find the choice to actively be there or not to be there. Because between stimulus and response, lies a space, “this moment in time”, and it’s in that space where we have the power to choose our response. It is in that space, gradually and day-by-day, where growth and freedom lies. Herein lies the truth, that this moment is not all moments and even the most difficult of feelings have a beginning and an end. Such is our love for our little ones, that when love is real, it WILL find a way. So no matter how much we deviate, no matter how much we want to punish ourselves or chastise our mistakes, we are still the hero. We are still the pillar. We are still someone’s whole entire world. It is what we do after the reflection that counts. It may not heal wounds and the damage may be irreversible, but the lesson learnt will hold value (even though it won’t necessarily outweigh the suffering caused), and it’s there that growth can begin, ensuring that future mistakes are minimised or realised before the would-be repercussions. 

Have a blessed Christmas dear readers and a more forgiving 2019 if 2018 has knocked the wind out of your sails.


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. 

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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