Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A daddy's time

Being a daddy to two beautiful girls is one of the highest honors in the world. I feel blessed to have two daddy’s girls in my life. It hasn’t always been easy being a dad, but it has definitely been one of the most rewarding challenges I have faced.

I’m the kind of daddy who takes time to sit and listen, to snuggle on the couch or in the bed, who notices when a favorite stuffed animal might be on the brink and searches the Internet to find a suitable likeness to replace it.

I was one of very few dads in Fishers (IN) who regularly walked his girls to elementary school or saw them to the bus on days when we couldn’t walk. I was the bus stop dad, standing on Estero Blvd every morning on Fort Myers Beach.

I always found time to invest in my daughters. And even when I wasn’t with them, I was always thinking about them—at work, at the grocery store or ballgame. Even now, when I’m setting up to play another gig on the beach, I’m wondering what they are doing so many miles away. I never went to the grocery store without picking up special items just for them.

I was their personal chef, their Xbox teammate, and their biggest fan. Well, I’m still their biggest fan because I think they are the most precious people on this planet. When I became unemployed, I decided to be a stay-at-home dad for a few years. I determined that I didn’t want to miss a single second of their young childhood. So I was the one who picked my youngest up from pre-school and kindergarten, helped both girls with homework, played hide-and-seek with them inside the house on inclement weather days and genuinely enjoyed spending time with them.

We have a special bond that can never be broken. But the physical distance between us is nearly unbearable. And while the Florida courts are supposed to give both parents equal footing, I’ve been awarded a paltry 54 nights a year with my daughters. Don’t get me wrong. I will cherish every last minute of that time, but 54 nights out of 365?

It wasn’t my idea for my girls to live 400 miles away from me. That decision was made for me. And the courts don’t care what sort of father I was/am to those girls, they only care about financial statements and unfounded characterizations. The best interest of the children wasn’t even a deciding factor, unless you believe like the courts (and most of society) that mothers know best.

This isn’t a knock on my ex-wife or even on the judge who presided over my divorce. It is an indictment of a system that fails great fathers every day. It calls into question state laws that presume to bring equal justice into our courts, but fails miserably all the time.

I don’t mean to sound bitter. I just needed to get this stuff off my chest.

I know or have read about plenty of no-good, deadbeat dads who don’t even deserve the title. I know many more, who like me have gone the extra mile to be an excellent caregiver even when they weren’t the primary breadwinner of their home. But what is more important? The cash I can bring home to my kids or the love, care and investment of time?

I’ve never been deficient in the latter, so why is it I get so little time with them now?

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