Andy Lax understands the need some dads have to move away from their kids. Here is his argument as to why they need to stay, at all costs.
Before becoming a disappearing dad, going on paternal leave away from your family, consider the joys and blessings of fatherhood
An Internal War With Possible Collateral Damage
There is an unspoken internal war that many men face, especially if their families are in crisis: to remain steadfast at home and actively parent, run for perceived greener hills while trying to maintain a relationship with their children, or say goodbye to an unsatisfactory life and completely detach themselves physically and emotionally from their children
This is the classic “man vs. self” conflict. The purpose of this article is to illuminate often overlooked considerations when resolving this internal struggle should it ever arise.
Which path will you choose … the one leading towards home, or the one that ushers you away, and whom are you thinking of leaving behind?
Dads Never Really Go Away
My fellow country music fans may remember a popular song, “Grandpa (Tell Me ‘Bout the Good Ol’ Days),” sung by the Judds. The tune reflected on today’s topsy-turvy world, broaching the question as to whether the old-fashioned values of love, family, religion, and ethics, truly existed in a bygone era. The obvious message: Such core values are missing in present-day life.
Here is one of the lines that caught my attention, “Did families really bow their heads to pray, did daddies really never go away?” Sociologists, psychologists, and researchers have evaluated the seeming disintegration of the nuclear family for several decades, and its waning religious and spiritual convictions.
Of course, any assessment of the frayed family fabric must start with fathers. Indeed, their growing absence from the household, and distance in their childrens’ lives, can easily have negative repercussions on their fledglings. One can just place oneself in a child’s position and see how possible issues of abandonment and betrayal play out.
Similarly, ejecting themselves from the family can be self-injurious to dads. Those who absolve themselves of interactions with their children may suffer a tremendous amount of regret and guilt. A multitude of “What-ifs” can emanate years down the line as a result of choosing to sever ties with kids. Dads may wonder, for example, whether their children would have had a much happier childhood and life had they remained.
Fatherlessness is a quality of life issue, and deserves reflection. But my purpose is not to step on a soapbox, assign blame, and appeal to conscience so dads will choose to remain a central figure in their kids’ lives. No, I choose to appeal to reason and I’m directly communicating with other dads—particularly those who are on the fence, debating the pros and cons of flying the coup and going solo.
Moreover, special focus should be given to dads of special needs kids as these children may need fatherly guidance and direction the most. As a father of a son on the autism spectrum, it’s alarming to see such high divorce rates in the autism community (some assert that it is as high as 80%, depending on the study conducted), and the millions of dads who exercise a “hands off’ approach.
To those dads who are looking for a totally new life, devoid of family-related problems and responsibilities, you may choose to weigh these considerations:
A Father’s Blessing
“You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you.” – Actor Hugh Jackson
We need to pay tribute to the most important people in our lives, particularly our children. When my son was much younger in the deepest throes of autism, I fantasized about running away at times. The incessant screaming and crying, the endless tantrums, and his inability to communicate. left me enervated, shattered, and hopeless. I thought that I was being punished by a supreme power, seeking vengeance for some crime I had unwittingly committed.
After several years of mental anguish (which I was unleashing on myself), I had fleeting thoughts of leaving—fleeing from a life seemingly devoid of happiness and joy. In my fantasy, I could get peace of mind by escaping to a far off land, and avoid seeing my fragile son in such a state of distress, torment, and misery.
After one particularly emotionally brutal day, I tucked my son into bed, and he fell asleep almost instantaneously. I marveled at the sudden change from fussiness and discomfort to one of sweet calm and serenity. As he experienced peaceful slumber, tears cascaded down my face, as I wished he could feel this composed and settled awake.
And then it dawned on me that I need to feel these same emotions which was in my power to do so. I really saw my son for the first time that night, in all his innocence and vulnerability. I finally realized that he could be my teacher—leading me to a place of even greater patience, compassion, and deeper connection to all.
Many people had told me that I must be a special person for God to give me such a special son. That night, I finally believed it … embracing the fact that I was worthy of such a compliment and then acknowledging that my son truly is spectacularly special.
I whispered to the heavens above that I would never leave him.
Regardless of age, there are lessons to be learned. Our kids can teach us about ourselves if we’re open to it, and bring out our best qualities. There is a fine line between curses and blessings, and with a shift of mindset, you’ll be able to see the divine in all.
Photo: Flickr/Christine Mahler