How have I started to fail at fatherhood, when it is the one thing I cherish the most, the one thing I have been doing the longest, the one thing that makes sense?
Today is an especially difficult one for me. It is my oldest son’s 19th birthday. It has been a really difficult year for the relationship between us, as well as for me and my other children. I was my son’s age when I met and fell in love with his mother and last year, I made the choice to leave a relationship that I had been in for my entire adult life. But the difficulty of today has little to do with the fact that my relationship did not work. It is difficult because for the past year, I have been failing at one of the things I very much have cherished over the last 19 years. Fatherhood!!!
I was a pretty active dad. It was what I knew and I did it well. I picked-up and dropped-off, did homework, hosted play dates and sleepovers. I cooked, played, talked, chilled and gamed. I did all of the stuff that realdads do. When you live with someone, spending time with them is a matter of course. Engaging and interacting with them takes little thought or preparation. But when you pack your shit and move across town in search of something different for yourself, one of the things you realize is just how fleeting time is. Suddenly, you have to make time for the things that used to be a part of everyday life. Ultimately, relationships get strained. When I lived in the same house with my children, no matter how busy my day was, they were always at the beginning and the end of it. Now, most days end with me and my work and thoughts of what and how my children are doing, tinged with the fear of interrupting their lives with an unsolicited phone call. Most days end now with moments when I look into the mirror to ask myself, “Why are you not doing better when you know better?”
Fear and guilt can be paralyzing. I have not made time the way I should. I have not seen or spoken to my children as much as I should have this past year (as if there could be a number that was enough). My mother offers me her tough love advice: Suck it up and get through whatever stops me from reaching out.That, Mom, is easier said than done. Every time we talk, she asks me, “How are the kids?” It is her way of checking to see if I have been courageous enough to communicate. Far too many times, I have not.
Being away from people you love is hard enough. If at all possible, make sure that you communicate with them on a regular basis. If there are barriers in the way, get around, through, and over them. ‘Cause on the other side of that barrier is a connection to someone you love and someone that loves you.
Originally appeared at Love, Sex and Communication. Reprinted with permission.
Photo credit: David Anthony Geary