It was on Boxing Day 2009 that I popped into the OnlyDads Office to pick up the inevitable “Christmas crisis” calls. When I got there the ‘phone was ringing; on the other end was a Dad who (crying) told me that he didn’t get to see his son very much these days and he felt he was losing the ability “to love him”.
It was a conversation that haunts and drives our organisation forward in equal measure! It is typical of many such conversations and emails. Here, Oli tells us how he keeps a relationship alive and flourishing with his daughter.
Don’t tell him this – but I have the highest regard for Oli – he is a man who sees his daughter every other weekend and despite the difficulties puts his child first. He “steps up to the plate” and I am proud to have him write for us…
It’s only right that my first ever ‘guest’ blog will be for the man I whole-heartedly blame for me starting a blog in the first place. Bob asked me to write something about how I keep and strengthen the bond with my daughter when I can go for 2 weeks on occasions 3 without seeing her.
There is no doubt that I miss out on a lot but the time we have together is fantastic and if anything it can be argued we have a stronger bond now then we had before the split from her mum. Difficult to say what would have happened if she was still here but in a bizarre way becoming a weekend dad made me a better dad.
I struggled at first, I let her get away with blue-murder to begin with because I was so paranoid about upsetting her and her not enjoying her time with me and not wanting to come back or just spending the time in tears that I was weak. I woke up to this and remembered I am her Dad and always will be nothing can change that. In fact it was something she made at her nursery years ago when still with me that really shook me out of my paranoia, “Anyone can be a father but it takes someone special to be a Dad.”
Before I continue and go through the techniques and process’s I use I thought I’d clear off the bad stuff- I don’t know who her friends are, I’ve met her teacher once, I’m not there when she comes home after getting an award/star/praise at school, I’m not there when she finally spells that word that she’s struggled with, I’m not there when she falls over, I’m not there when she is poorly. It breaks my heart every time to give her back to her mum, even though I know that is the right thing.
To deal with that I draw on every damn resource and support I have, I use twitter, blogging, friends, family and most importantly my parents. They don’t always tell me what I want to hear, they won’t always let me just vent but they are always ALWAYS there.
That’s how I cope but in order to keep my bond with my daughter, we do things we create events, dad and daughter events. We go swimming most weekends, we have cinema nights. We don’t just put a DVD on we, we get popcorn, turn the lights down and watch something new every time. We go to the cinema together, I’m teaching her to play chess, we do crafts (something I would never have done when with her mum). I include her in everything, she helps me cook, I take her clothes shopping (for me- well any bloke needs female advice even if it is from a 6 year old). We go for trips out- not always an option due to money but the important thing is we do it together.
I’m also very lucky to have my sister and brothers close by, so we do a lot with them. I’ve always been conscience that it’s not only me that lost my daughter full-time, so did my siblings and parents. Day to day, I call her most nights or she calls me and I speak to her, it isn’t always great but the important thing is she knows I’m there. I’ve taken her to my work so she knows where I am, I never miss a parents evening or any other important school things. She lives 60 miles away so it is tough to keep that going but it is essential.
There have been times when I’ve been close to walking away, thinking in my darker times that she would be better off without me but the fact is she wouldn’t, she needs me and I need her. Earlier this year I had a massive wobble where I was very close to doing this, but due to some wonderful people I didn’t.
I am very very lucky in the fact that despite the issues me and the ex have we both understand she needs us both and we have (to date) managed to put our differences aside for the benefit of our daughter.
I don’t talk badly about her mum when she is near, I ask her what she thinks mummy might be doing, what she might be having for tea etc
Will of this the cornerstone to my success is my parents, without them I wouldn’t have got this far and there are many more challenges along the road but I know that I will rise to them because of what I’ve learnt, the support I have had, because I know I’m not the only person in the world going through this and because more than my little one needs me, I need her.
As Dads we have the best job in the world, so we must step up to the plate and get into the ballpark because in this job you can’t just sit in the grandstand.