Humans have a predisposition for species preservation. We must reproduce! Women quip that they don’t need men; they just need a petri dish. However, men contain the other half of the equation for that petri dish. The testicles house the all powerful, life initiating, spermatozoon! With great power comes great responsibility. These little critters so strongly desire to fertilize an egg that they can cut off a man’s rationale mind and cause him to do impulsive, stupid actions popularly known as "thinking with the little head." At some point there will be a successful fertilization leading the man to say "you missed what?" followed by "you mean this does something more than just feel good?" and finally coming to the conclusion "so for the next 9 months we don’t have to worry about protection?"
Raising children is perhaps one of the most challenging and rewarding purposes in life. Children bring joy and pain and fear and self-doubt…oh the self-doubt!…and fulfillment! Influencing a life and leaving a legacy is amazing. It is immortality as a piece of you lives on in your children. Parenting a child comes with the responsibility to impart morals and a belief system upon the child. [s.b. pe]
I have never understood divorce. When I was 13, I was certain my parents were going to divorce and I was horrified. I always thought marriage was "til death do us part" but I am not a stranger to divorce as my first marriage, without children, failed. I also know the divorce rate is something like 50 percent (80 percent for families of children with special needs) right now which is sad. I still believe that many of those marriages could be saved with counseling.
"Research shows that couples show up in counseling on average five years after they should," the doctor said. "Couples should pay attention to some warning flags and start addressing problems before the relationship is highly damaged." [T]here are four warning flags that de-stabilize a marriage: criticism, contempt, stonewalling and defensiveness. When these characteristics are consistently present in a relationship, they lead to divorce 95 percent of the time… [Source]
When a divorce involves children, awkwardness ensues particularly when remarriage occurs. We all want to be married to our spouses but none of us want a relationship with our spouses’ ex although I suppose there are cases where the new and old spouse might really get along. Everybody’s divorce is unique with its own custody issues and legal arrangements. In some cases the ex stays in town and in others the ex moves far away. In either case, the ex has to make a decision about how involved to be in the children’s lives.
My wife also had a starter marriage. In her case, the ex moved 1000 miles away. Noah, now ten years old, was then one year old. I entered the picture two years later. It took several years for Noah to understand roles in a family because of living a few years in his grandfather’s house, "that daddy guy" calling occasionally and visiting twice a year, and then having me in the picture. For awhile, any male figure would easily substitute for "dad" and the reaching out for a father figure was seen in the various ways Noah clung to soccer coaches and other males in his life. Eventually biodad’s calls became less frequent, sometimes with gaps of months at a time, and visits reduced, by his choice, to once a year (or less). He visited this weekend for the first time in over a year and spent 45 hours with the older three children.
Noah gets excited about the fun they will have but afterward is always reserved as if depressed or in deep thought although it could just be overtired. This morning he definitely had a sadness about him. Tommy gets so nervous and giddy that he almost needs tranquilizers. He has not come to terms with the divorce yet and fears scaring biodad away so there is great pressure to please. Even after Cathy and I married, Tommy thought biodad and Cathy would remarry. It does not help that biodad has lied about the nature of the divorce blaming Cathy. Just before the visit, I asked Tommy, "Why are you so nervous?" He replied, "Imagine if you had a relative that visited only once a year.." I interrupted with "I’d be mad." And Tommy went blank as if the thought had never occurred to him. Sarah is bitter. None the less, the girl that refuses to say "I love you" to any of her relatives, avoids hugs and touches, and frequently refuses biodad’s phone calls, gave a long, endearing, goodbye hug to biodad. After the visit, the children are always out of sorts and crotchety.
This visit made me think more than any of the previous visits. Biodad has become a total stranger to these children yet, without question, we send them off to a Motel 6 for a weekend of less than quality parenting and supervision. Tommy came home Sunday in the same clothing that he put on Friday morning. Noah didn’t bathe once. Games included unsupervised silly string wars on the balcony. Sarah and Tommy were left alone at a Motel 6 while biodad and Noah went shopping. During the visit the children do not feel comfortable talking to their mother on the phone, do not say "I love you" and, in Sarah’s case, only talk when biodad is out of the room. Sarah is coming of age and has developed into a shapely young woman. Prior to this visit, I had never questioned the sleeping arrangements but I made issue of it this time! Turns out, in the past, Sarah has slept in a chair. I would not hand my children over to a total stranger but without question we hand our children over to someone that we only know of his past. We know nothing of what this person has become except that his belief system, morals, and choices do not coincide with ours. He is their biological father, the sperm donor, but he is not a father to the children; he does not choose to take an active role in their lives although he could.
There is no question that this situation is confusing to the children. It even brings turmoil to Amy. And I feel it emphasizes the difference between the children instead of uniting them as the brothers and sisters that they are. Is there a point at which you become so uninvolved in your own children’s lives that for the sake of their mental health and well-being that you should just step out of the picture? Is there a point at which we are acting irresponsibly to not change the nature of the visits to a supervised situation? Truly, what are the rights and responsibilities of impregnating an egg? Legally you have to provide monetary support but does that give you ownership and entitle you to some perverted display of dad greatness so that your ego feels you have fulfilled your fatherly duties by spending 45 hours out of the year with the children? 45 hours is half of one percent. If you were expressing it as fractions of a dollar, you would have to saw a penny in two. I cannot fathom being separated from my children. I am not in his situation. I cannot begin to guess what goes through his mind but it seems to me that either you want to be involved or not and to have such a tenuous holding on does not seem healthy for biodad or the children.
Ultimately, I imagine the children will make their choices and come to terms with biodad. I suspect that Sarah is not far from her reckoning. Noah will follow in due time. Tommy may never get there.