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Hard Questions for a Single Dad

As a single dad who has primary custody, and an ex-wife who has not been seen or heard from in over seven years, things come up which I have little or no idea how to address. You see I can always get through the cuts and scrapes, the “she is not my friend” conversations and even the looks I get from mothers on the “Mommy and Me” days at school. The rough part is looking my child dead in the face and answering the question that still haunts me:

“Daddy, I miss my mommy. Why didn’t my mommy want me?”

The question itself is an easy one when adults are speaking. Someone always assumes that an affair was involved, or some kind of drug addiction, or even a possible level of abuse by the adult enters the mind. The answer is simple enough. There was a divorce, and custody battle, and I was awarded custody. Her mother left so she wouldn’t have to be reminded of the responsibilities that still remain. However to a beautiful and innocent seven-year-old mind, those explanations don’t come into play. To the child, when every other kid has a mother to call on, this becomes incredibly more complex.

As a single father I look at my female counterparts in amazement that they have been dealing with this for so many years. When dealing with discrimination in the workforce, the ability to be strong as a head of the household and carrying out the expected motherly compassion, not go to bed crying every night is truly something that every person should applaud. All I ask is that we men who are dealing with the same obstacles get similar credit. There are many of us out there fighting the same demons. And because of that, there are those of us who truly appreciate you.

I understand that women for the most part are the primary caregivers in divorces. I also understand that the term “deadbeat dad” came about for a reason. However, that only means that my situation, and that of dads like me, is more important to our children. I would never allow this precious soul to be damaged by the ugliness of her parents’ actions during a divorce. I also feel as though I am responsible for encouraging her inner strength so she may develop into a strong, self-confident woman. The truth is I am in a situation that no parent should ever have to be in and far too many of us are.

One Saturday morning, the humor of cartoons fades away as we have our softly worded conversation. I look at her and explain that her mother and I “decided” it would be better for everyone if she lived with me. She pauses for a moment, looks at me and says, “Daddy, I love you. And, no matter what, we are always going to be together. Right?”

It’s the “right?” that stays with me. It forces me to take time to read her a story at bedtime, feel the pain I cause when my clumsy hands brush the knots in her hair, hold her a bit longer when she cries, or just smile at her and say, “That’s right sweetheart. We will always be together. Daddy promises.”

Author: Cory Ott

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