That night was the worst of my life. I had an accident in which I totaled my car, broke my arm in three pieces and destroyed my life. That night was like many nights I lived after my divorce.
That night I started drinking right after work, it was a Friday night, and happy hour was an excellent excuse to numb my pain with alcohol. Several beers later, I felt like things were getting out of hand, stopped drinking for a couple hours and then decided to go home.
On my way home, I fell asleep at the wheel and crashed my car into one of the pillars that support a major bridge in the city of Miami. A couple of days later–after having surgery to repair my arm–I was waking up in pain in a hospital bed, and the first thought that came to my mind was my daughter.
The first couple of years after my divorce, my ex-wife and I had a very friendly, respectful relationship. We made the conscious decision to put our daughter Sophia above our personal interests and differences. We use to manage the relationship in a way that was compassionate and amicable. Sometime after that, we both got involved with other people, she moved on and started a new relationship.
I have to admit this bothered me; this created in me an internal conflict because at that moment I knew somebody else was going to raise my only daughter. It ‘s hard to accept that another man is going to be present most of the time in your daughter’s life.
In addition to the painful experience that is a divorce, there is an added element when children are involved. I started drinking heavily; I gained a lot of weight, I had issues at home, work, and my life, in general, was a mess. I could not come to terms with the fact that I was out of my daughter’s life.
Life has a subtle way to teach you lessons; it forces you to lose all the superficial things that you think are important for your ego. It forces you to drop your superficial identity to reconnect with your essence. I thought for many years advancing my career and making a lot of money were equal to living with purpose, but that day in that hospital bed, none of those things mattered.
Not even the loneliness or the physical pain of my broken arm after surgery was comparable to the pain of losing my daughter. At that moment, I made a promise to reconnect with my daughter and find a way to make our relationship work. I made a promise that even if the relationship with her mom was not meant to be, I was going to give one hundred percent to make sure that my relationship with my daughter was at the top of my priorities.
In the process of repairing my relationship with my daughter, I learned a few lessons:
- I am not the perfect father, and I no longer expect to be the perfect father. My primary goal is to be a consistent, meaningful presence in my daughter’s life. In many occasions, I didn’t know how to deal with the fact that we were separated. It was difficult to deal with the long distance communication, and I missed many school plays, birthday parties, etc… But, so far, I have found ways to make it work because my daughter needs me, and I need her presence in my life.
- Don’t strive for perfection, strive for meaningful consistency. Trust your heart, and let love lead your actions. At that time in my life, I was more focused on making money and advancing my career that I was about the emotional well-being of my daughter. As a consequence of these actions, I ended up losing the bond, the connection with my child. It took me losing everything: my job, my car, my savings, my health, in essence, to hit rock bottom, to get my priorities straight. I finally realized the definition of true love: “to put the needs of the other person ahead of your own”.
- Never give up, never, ever give up on your children. It does not matter how long or how difficult it is to repair the relationship; it is always worth it to take the necessary steps to connect and show affection.
- It is not about gifts or money; it is about quality time. In several occasions, I decided to send my daughter expensive gifts and neglected to be present to share the moments that were important to her. Do not confuse giving gifts with loving your children, they are not the same. The best gift that a father can give is to be present and to make quality time with his children an absolute priority in his life.
- Pay child support. As a man, taking care of your children creates a positive energy in your life. The opposite is truth if you neglect to care for them. I am not going to lie or pretend that there were times in my life when I could not pay on time. But, as soon as I got back on my feet, I made it a priority to get up to date on my payments. To take care of your children financially, emotionally and to show that you truly care, will only bring more abundance to your life.
Always remember that whatever happened between you and your spouse, is independent of your relationship with your children. Their well-being is more important than your differences and your reasons to not be together. Your children expect and deserve the best from you. Step up to the plate and make it happen. It is your duty, your mission and part of your purpose in life.
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Photo: Flickr/ Daniel Burgui Iguzkiza