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.

Goodbye old friend

Goodbye

 

You introduced yourself as a friend, there to listen whenever I was alone and depressed. I would spend time with you every now and then, it seemed to help me cope with life for a time. As time went on, you started coming around more often. I liked it because you always listened. As my life turned south and my stress levels began to rise, you were just a quick phone call away.

You began to show up at my home every day and soon you were everywhere I looked. I couldn’t go anywhere that you weren’t there. Night or day, I found you to be a constant friend. Even when my life turned better and I didn’t need your company, you refused to leave. Every morning, I promised myself I was going to ask you to leave. By the time work was over I had changed my mind and there you were, waiting for my when I got home. Well, truth be told, most times you needed a ride so I would stop to pick you up.

The nights I made dinner for my family I skipped eating to hang out with you. Most times we would sing and dance in the kitchen. Many times, the boys would laugh and make fun of us and my wife would just look disappointed. Remember that time we tried to ride the skateboard together; the boys found it funny, but my back is still not right after we fell off backwards onto the driveway. Yes, we laughed together but that was more you than me.

Remember the time we hung out early in the morning before we were supposed to take the dogs to the vet’s office; yeah, I was stupid for listening to you and believing I was in any condition to drive, let alone try to control both dogs. We shared many nights together. Because of our friendship I’ve neglected spending time with my wife and kids.

Do you realize you are the reason my daughter moved out at 17 years old? Did you know our hanging out has made me unable to be a father to my kids? Have you ever considered why my 14-year-old son has a problem with pot? Yeah, it’s you! Hanging out with you has kept me from realizing it has gotten so out of hand that he’s been expelled from school for selling pot AT school?

Just so you know, something has got to change. Our friendship has become toxic. You always wanting to hang out is costing me my health, my family, and could possibly cost me my job unless I change my ways. So, let me break the news to you as eloquently as I can so that you will clearly understand my intent. You may have noticed I haven’t wanted to hangout in over 2 months, 60 days today to be exact.

At first, I really missed you and wanted to hangout, but I had no way of getting in contact with you. This was very scary, I felt alone, like you do when a relationship comes to an end. But, some very kind and loving people, my wife included, took care of me and offered me the help I needed to deal with my separation anxiety. As the days have ticked by, I haven’t missed you quite as much as I expected. Strange thing is, I’ve enjoyed spending time alone without you. I had forgotten how much I could like myself and as with the breakup of a relationship, there are random moments when I think about you, but I don’t miss you anymore.

So, this is farewell. Our friendship is over. I won’t be taking your calls anymore. I won’t be answering your text’s and I’ve blocked your emails. My house is a place where you are no longer welcome. So, in the clearest way I can say it and I hope you hear me loud and clear; Get the Hell out of my life. I don’t want you here no more, you’re not welcome anymore. I have too much to live for and I’m not going to let you ruin my chance for health, happiness, and the love from my wife, my kids, my grandkids, my friends and anyone who cares about me and those I love and care about.

So, this is it….

Alcohol……

Get the Hell out and Stay out!!

Once you face the truth

Growing up, my father often recalled the stories of a childhood filled with homelessness, hunger, and alcohol abuse. This is one of the reasons he worked tirelessly to provide for our family and care for others. He would talk about times he and his siblings would scrounge for change in order to get enough food for the family each day. I believe this is the main reason he left California at 18 years old and never returned. He wanted to separate himself from the life he experienced in the skid row slums of Alameda, CA. He would explain the hardships the family suffered because his father would get a paycheck and drink it all away.

My father passed away in 2011, after my mother passed away in 2007. As their only child, their passing became my nightmare. I will not blame them for what has happened since then. I will reference those pivotal events as the beginning of a downward spiral which has lead me to become what I am today, an addict. That sentence is the hardest I have ever written. I do not write these words, nor do take this fact lightly. Now what?

What started as a casual activity, shared among friends, has transformed into a solitary daily event. Before you think this is a confession that has an overcoming outcome at the end, I must warn you it is not. I have not been delivered, beat the devil, or any other term you want to add. I am an alcoholic. How did I get here? I’m not sure I can point to one event that tipped the iceberg. I don’t have repressed memories of a haunted childhood that have come to light. I have never suffered mental, sexual, or physical abuse that has caused me to seek comfort in a bottle or in pills. I can not blame someone else for this, nor do I want too.

So I have admitted my faults in front of God and anyone else reading this, what now? I could go on and on about what I could do, should do, or will do. I could say this is the first step of recovery or the fight begins now, but that would be a lie. I like drinking. I like the feeling it gives me and the way I can retreat into my own world with my headphones on while I’m drinking. I hate the way it makes those close to me, feel the way they do about me when I’m drinking. I regret the things I say to my family, even though I can’t remember it. So, I move forward. What now? I don’t have the answer. Not even sure why I am writing this because now everyone knows that I know what is happening.

Once you face the truth there is no way you can hide from the facts. Now what?

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