Good men exist in the world. I know they do.
There are men who understand that being a man requires more than having a penis.
Out there in society, amongst the deadbeats, cheaters and schemers are actual men. Men who not only know what it takes to be a good husband and father, but who are willing to do it.
I know this because I am surrounded by them in my own family.
Unfortunately, my husband is not one of these men.
As I half way watched the super bowl this past Sunday night, (in between the nightly events of preparing my boys for bed and an early Monday morning wake up call), along with the aforementioned amazing men in my family and their wives, I couldn’t help but notice the infiltration of dad commercials.
While I appreciate them and am touched by their sentiment, I tend to wince every time “Dad” or “Daddy” is said on the tv within ear shot of my boys. This never used to be the case. But things have changed for me over the last few years.
I understand that in the world, people have dads. I understand that ideally, no matter how it happens, it’d be beneficial for a child’s dad to be an active part of their life. I understand that as a mom, single or otherwise, I owe it to my children to foster a relationship between them and their father. And I understand that I cannot shelter my sons from the reality of their own dad, nor is that my responsibility.
I also understand the reality of who my sons father is and his capabilities as a dad. As much as I want him to be the kind of dad we all saw in the Dove commercial, he simply isn’t. Somewhere inside of him, for brief moments, he wants to be; and I think at times he thinks he is. Heck, at times, I believed he was. But over and over again, he proves to both me and my sons that that image is just that. An image.
The Dove commercial posed a question following its beautiful montage of kids with their arms spread wide, running, jumping and falling into the strong, loving arms of their fathers as they yelled, “Daddyyyy!” Across the screen came the words, “What makes a man stronger?” A few brief snapshots later, the answer appeared. “Showing that he cares.”
Showing that you care requires work. Commitment. Time. Sacrifice. Accountability. Consistency. All things my husband has proved incapable of doing. Yet my boys still think he hung the moon.
We began the standard visitation schedule a couple months ago, and for the last 2 weeks, he has cancelled his visits at the last minute with lame, made up excuses and borderline delusional explanations. He then made a request to see the boys on Sunday (my weekend) for just a few hours, with the stipulation that we meet at “a reasonable time” in the morning (because 8 or 9 am was too early for his hangover), and that he gets rid of them in time to be back on his couch for the start of the Super Bowl at 6:30.
After battling my internal desire to scream obscenities at him and walking the tight rope between benefit and harm that comes from my sons spending a few hours with their dad, I reluctantly agreed to this half assed attempt at hourly fatherhood because in spite of who he is, my sons love him. Saturday night rolled around and somewhere in the middle of his plans, likely between shots, he found the time to text me a leading question of, “Tell me what the plan for tomorrow is again?” After we’d confirmed the plan many times the day before, I simply stated, “I’m not sure there’s still going to be one.” Afterall, it was my weekend and he’d crapped out on his, so I was under no obligation to give him part of mine. Within seconds came his reply. A simple, “Ok.” And that was that.
No fight. No questions. No negotiating. Just a simple release with an “Ok.”
He had no intentions of actually spending time with his sons. There is no commitment to fatherhood beyond what’s convenient or serves a purpose of making him look good on Facebook as father of the day to his buddies.
This was one small event of many that have occurred since visitation started. And as things progress, so do the excuses.
The intricacies of my husband’s lies and slimy ways of thwarting any and all responsibility are too much for this post. But the sentimental dad commercials shown during one if his favorite drinking events made me think. And they made me sad. And they made me angry.
I understand that maybe most men in the world are actually good. Maybe most men actually do care about more than just themselves. Maybe most dads do care about their children and their families. Maybe some fathers appreciate the gravity of that title and take it seriously.
Unfortunately for us, my children’s father is incapable of truly caring about anything but himself. No matter how many times I’ve tried to convince myself otherwise, he inevitably proves me wrong. Usually with vigor. Typically, just about the time I start to believe that maybe he really can at least be a part time dad to our sons, I am once again reminded that even that is too much for someone like him.
I’m not sure what’s worse. The sadness that comes from that truth, or my ability to accept it and no longer feel too phased by it (most of the time).
Regardless, the fact remains that even if I can somehow numb myself enough to endure his pathetic intermittent daddy episodes, at some point, my sons might not be. Right now, they are young and resilient and able to bounce back when he cancels on them because he got a better offer. They don’t really know when he backs out because he’s too hungover to be with them. They’re too innocent to understand that daddy cares more about himself than he ever will about them. But someday, that won’t be the case.
In my dreams my sons have a dad they can admire, trust and respect. A dad that shows them what it means to be a man. A real man. But it’s hard to teach little boys how to be men if you’re still a boy yourself.
I cannot change things that are out of my control, although I have certainly given it my best shot. All I can do is rise above the crap spewed my direction by being the stronger one for my sons. It’s an honor to be the one who cares. To be the one they run to. To be the one they call for. To be the one they can rely on, trust and confide in. And as much as I wish my sons had a father like the one in the Dove commercial, they don’t.
But they do have a mom like that!