I’m a single dad, not a freak of nature

At the school talent show a few years ago, I walk in with my kids, sit down, and immediately feel the stares of nearly every mom in the room. I couldn’t hear what the were saying to each other in hushed whispers, but from the looks I was getting, you’d think I was a bug-eyed Martian who just stepped out of a UFO, only to randomly wander into the High School cafeteria.

From the age of 23, I was a single dad, raising three young boys under the age of 4. This is the result of finding all of my stuff and the boys stuff packed up, sitting on the front porch when I arrived home from work. Their mother basically told me to go, take the boys, and leave because she needed a break. That break turned out to be several years long, much of which involved little to no contact or visitation between mother and children. To say this was strange is putting it lightly. In the early 90’s, father’s don’t have custody of their children, let alone be raising them. Other than a few years during their early teens when they lived with their mother, I had physical custody of my boys up until they turned 18. Was it easy? Absolutely not. Would I change anything? Absolutely not. 

Fast forward to 2014. Having remarried to a lady having three small children under the age of 5 in 2005, I found myself once again single. This time, the children I had raised as my own, the only father the 2 youngest had ever known, were suddenly taken away as a means of sticking it to me. Knowing I still wanted to he a part of their life, even if their mother and I were not going to be together, the easiest way to get back at me, hurt me, or manipulate me to do something I didn’t want to do, was to threaten to keep me away from them. 

Fast forward to the second half of the year, and I am called by Child Protective Services. Am I interested in taking in the three children I had raised and been a father (stepfather) to? Absolutely! Could I come pick them up? Absolutely! From this point, the court became involved and I eventually received my foster care license and I fostered the three of them until 2016 when I was granted permanent guardianship. 

So, it was during this time that we went to the talent show at the High School, mentioned above. In 2015, what is so strange about a man raising children on his own? Why were there the odd stares, the hushed whispers, and the sense that I was out of place? I am normally the last person to pick up on subtle hints. Come on, I’m a guy. We need it spelled out, diagramed, and given strict instructions or we just don’t pick up on signals from women.

It’s hard enough trying to be a dad, let alone having to fill both roles to teenagers. It’s even more difficult when the 16 year old, the oldest, is a daughter, better yet, a young lady. You mother’s know what you’ve had to do, those trips to the pharmacy for “products”, the shopping trip because the undergarments are too small and need to be replaced, or the conversations that you’ve had about boys and dating. 

You know how hard it was to get parents to allow their young daughter to spend the night with my daughter, once they found out there wasn’t going to an adult female there? I watched her reaction when her friends said they couldn’t stay the night, or the other parents who were more than happy to have her come to their house, but she couldn’t experience that same feeling. 

What is the big deal? Why do the children have to suffer for the reasons outside of their control? Yes, I’m a single dad. But, I’m not a freak of nature and my children are not strange because they live with their dad. If same sex couples can raise happy and healthy children, if single ladies can raise happy and healthy children, then single men can raise happy and healthy children.

So, the next time you see a dad with children, don’t assume the mom is just busy, don’t think the mother had to be a criminal for the dad to have custody, and most importantly, do not treat the kids as if they’re damaged, simply because they are being raised by Dad.

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