DRIVEL: Opinions and Reviews

copywriter toronto
What’s up, dad?
(Buddy, can you spare a decade?)
©2004

Dedicated to Roberta James & Hazel Prosser

A divorced mother of four said to me, “Sometimes I wish I could just leave the kids and their schedules on his doorstep.”  When I said, “Why don’t you?” – she gave me a blank then pitying smile at my witlessness.   She knew the earth was flat and the edge was right in front of his driveway.

Now we're provoked into thinking about why she believed that—because this educated and sophisticated woman had never questioned the flat earth theory.

If stats are to be believed, 99.9% of divorced dads are incompetent parents.  Cuz they aren’t raising their kids.  But does anyone really believe this?  No, no one believes this.  Then why such passive acceptance of competent, absent parents?

Why aren’t divorced dads sharing in child raising?  Only three reasons exist:
They don’t want to;
they aren’t allowed to;
they’re incompetent.

The first group is hard to pin down; they’re rather quiet cuz they don’t want the bad PR.  The second group includes the first group plus those who really want to, in an incalculable mix.  The third group is partly real and partly using "unable" to cover for "hell, no!--are you crazy?"

Result:  99.9% of divorced kids end up seeing good old dad—as nice as he may be—as dispensable.  An option.  A sperm donor with a heart. That guy with the movie tickets—or Playdium™ tickets, or Chuck E Cheese’s™ tickets, or at least a TV Guide™—in his hand, and the Kraft Dinner™ on the stove.  (And maybe a condo swimming pool for the kids, where he does his best to look warmly devoted but eligible.)

The kids become adults without knowing who this guy really is and why he was a Runner Up parent.  Either he wasn’t smart enough to handle it, or he wasn’t ambitious enough to try it.  Again, does anyone believe this?  Neither is very flattering to the, um, sterner sex.  (Men should be marching in the streets over this. Why aren’t they? Go ask your dad.)

So why are so few divorced men on-duty dads?  Could it be because their former wives won’t share?  Yup.  Damn right they won’t.  And why won’t they share?  It’s cuz they’re vengeful bitches, right?  Nope.  And it sure as hell ain’t because they don’t need a partner, thanks.  (That is, after all, why the species evolved to raise kids in pairs, if I remember correctly.)  Nope, it ain’t because the single moms don’t need a hand; they’re dying for a hand, every one of them.

Why no sharing, then?  It’s because they don’t need the contempt.

The women would rather labour alone, live thousands of days as weary as a rag on a stick, struggle financially, struggle professionally, struggle socially, struggle emotionally, push the boulder up the hill alone—than shoulder the weight of the scorn.

"Your mother and I are feeling overwhelmed, so you'll have to bring yourselves up."
What happens currently?  Divorced men opt out of child raising, contempt-free, suddenly confessing that it was really that Flower of Divine Womanhood who was in charge of the kids all along, so really it's only right that the kids be with the more experienced, knowledgeable, responsive parent.  Yeah, that’s it.

(Dad, ya wanna watch you don’t step in that on yer way out.  The spectre of single parenthood is beyond all our comprehension; it’s so daunting that it makes us all sick with apprehension; it’s not just you, big guy.)

Why the rush to retroactively claim that Dad was never more than a factotum around the home, the mailroom guy of parenthood?—just a blundering gomer who hadn’t mastered Stove-Knobs 101 and would surely send the kids off to college with brains stunted by Kraft Dinner™ and tube-shaped pig remains...

Where did the idea come from that divorced kids need something they never needed before: Only one parent?  Is it so unnatural then, this partnership that parents promise kids when they conceive and emit them? 

Hey, if the parents need new sex partners, kewl.  That’s between them and their various mates and realtors.  But that’s irrelevant to the deal they made with their kids.  No one gets to break that deal.

Women would all dearly love to share parenting 50/50 with their men—if they knew they wouldn’t be pilloried for it.  (And of course, if Dad isn’t a truly lethal liability whose after-school snack plan is booze and a smoke.)

I’ve been asked a couple of times, by educated people, how I could ‘give my children up’ – to their own dad.  Last time I checked, children who were with their parents weren’t given up at all.  Anymore than I ‘gave them up’ when I left them with their dad—or he left them with me—for any amount of time when we were married.  He is their parent. They are his kids.  (Anything new or incomprehensible here, campers?)

We forget this.  We reflexively think that poor old dad reverts to his lower primate bachelor status and is suddenly purged of all parenting skills upon Decree Absolute.  And we think that if mom offers him a chance to strut his parenting stuff, it’s because she’s a hooker or addict or inmate, and the poor guy ‘has no choice.’   When the guy moved out, was he a hooker, addict, or inmate?—or just exercising his option?

Did my daughters’ dad ‘give them up’ when he asked me to look after them, without him?  Did he really?  Did he cower under a load of contempt?  Nope.  He was protected by the mantle of ‘generosity’ and 'recognition of my superior fitness for the job.'  (Is anyone really fit for three shifts a day?  Superior fitness for stoopwork is wickedly crafty praise.  Again, the sterner sex should be outraged by this—as it's tantamount to admitting that those P90-X™ biceps would tremble under the weight of a dustpan full of Cheerios™.)

What happened when I returned the favour of sharing my kids with ex-dad?  All I can say is the assumption that he was generous in giving them to me, was served back in my direction as the assumption that I’m a felon, an addict, or a sex-worker--and that he's been "forced" to do "my" job by rare and fatal character flaws in the female soul.  (Such a shmancy thought!--all tricked out in Gerry Springer values and trashy leering.)

I’m none of the above.  I shared my beautiful daughters with their conception-worthy dad for all the right reasons.  Why would I have children with this man, if he weren’t capable of first-class parenting?  My First Shift was nine years; his Second Shift will be roughly the same.  First Shift was handled mostly alone and during the diapers-and-no-sleep decade.  His shift includes a partner and the "parents suck" decade. It’s a macro-scale 50/50 split and my heart's at peace over it.

But it's tedious listening to the question What Happened? i.e. how did you "lose" your kids to the Bumbling Dad?  Are women just assumed to be not smart enough to figure this out, is that it?  Is worshipfulness toward the mothering instinct just intended to keep women from saying to Dad, "Oh gosh hon, you're just as good, really you are!"

The peace comes from this deciding factor:  Were either of my daughters in my position, what would I have them do?  Breathe the fetid air of dead-end destiny—or try for a little dignity for all?

Expect a dad raising kids to be alternately proud and enraged; a chameleon on a checkered cloth.  His culture allows him no other response.  He’s proud that he has his children, enraged that he ‘had no choice.’  It wasn’t his idea. 

The fact that it was I who initiated the sharing has left a deep ambivalence:  That made me a Terrible Mom, right?  If my dad-type generosity made me a terrible mom, does his anger make him a terrible dad?  "What kind of mother could do this?" [equals] "What kind of father could be angry?"

The logic will sprain your brain as you ponder these one-way ideas on a two-way street.  To wit:  A terrible parent is one who gives the children to their other parent, true?  Nope, divorced dads set that precedent by the multi-millions. Ok, then a terrible parent is one who gives the children to the witless, penis-bearing parent, true?  Nope, how dare anyone assert this about the fathers of the world?

Fact:  The same kind of woman gives her children to their dad as the 99.9% of men who assume that their humanity will not be called into question if they generously allow their former spouses to take all the childraising joys for themselves.

Moms, your kids’ dads are still and always fathers.  And you will not suffer for sharing with him.  The kids need him and he needs a daily, hands-on grasp of the two decades following conception—for the good of his soul and the growth of your kids.  And you need the same, humane, breathe-and-recover stage that he claimed when he moved out.  Think about it: If you could have that minus the contempt, would you accept it?  Better yet, if you could have that with respect, would you accept it?

If you have daughters, live what you'd want them to live, if they were you.  Don't consign them to three single-mom shifts a day if you know you're steadily perishing in the same role.  Your daughters are not prey, to be gnawed to the bone by a thoughtless culture.  Your sons are not witless sperm donors, to be pardoned for bolting from the fruit of their loins.  It takes two decades to raise a child.  One way or the other.  By one parent or the other.  In tandem, or sequentially.

After I tell this whole tale to divorced moms, I see a light dawning in their eyes as the truth claws through the dirt from way, way underground where it was buried alive:  “I-don’t-know-how-I-could-see-my-children-half-time,”  they chant automatically, before this becomes the less noble, more tentative, "Anyway, he’d never go for it”,  and before that becomes,  “Um, how did he get the option to never go for it?”  

They’re not sure how they could "see their children less," because the idea has never had a home in their reality; never materialized for a moment in the category of Possible.  Never.  They can't even speak it, let alone live it.  So the light that goes on is the same one that dawned on us all long ago when the earth was no longer flat.  Hey, the edge is not in front of his driveway!  

Now what?

The illuminated moms regard me with a mix of admiration and fear and envy: "Was this evil woman actually allowed to live?" Yup. They're oddly surprised and mildly disappointed—even the compassionate ones—that I'm not covered in boils and they step back to avoid the imminent shower of frogs and locusts.  My only punishment is to hang out with a crew of divorced dads, figuring out how to make weekend parenting less embarrassing to the species and more dignified for the children. 

The weekend dads have their own squirmy responses to me.  They know why they don't have their kids; it's cuz the-bitch-wouldn't-let-them—so their true feelings about the gig need never come to light.  They also know why I don't have my kids: It's cuz the bitch would let them [go to their very own dad].  They get chills of apprehension wondering if their ex-wives might catch what I've got and turn their lives upside down and perturb their girlfriends who haven't yet been baptized by preschooler puke at 3 a.m. on a Wednesday.

It's all a very earthy and complex business and we'd do well to roll up sleeves and scoop away the prose and posturing for some clarity.  I ain't afraid of telling the truth; to date, I'm happy to report that I'm locust-free.

The Frankenfamily is weird and clumsy enough, without losing half the team--dads--to false modesty and the other half--moms--to false martyrdom.

--end--

[All cartoons from www.cartoonbank.com]

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MUSINGS. . .


If you have
a big mouth,
use it to shed light.

YONI

Drivel archives:

Cars and Blenders:
Appliances as lifestyle statements

Tears and Money Shots:
The Obscene View of Grief

The Frankenfamily:
Dedicated to
children of divorce

Drama and GPS

Murkin Theology:
The all-you-can-eat-buffet as an altar of worship

SUVs and Pet Rocks: Differently Abled products

Dear Single Men

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