My Growing Kids

I had a moment of clarity where life hit me in the gut. No, it wasn’t anything like a life-threatening illness or heartbreaking loss (i.e., an Ex doing you wrong…grrrrr…but I digress); it was a simple act. The act seemed so innocent in its nature – almost like a flower deciding the time was right to bloom; or a butterfly determined to leave its cocoon. No, none of these things. But, yet, what happened to me was powerful beyond words and an eye-opener to boot. I was floored when the situation presented itself as well as at a loss for words. I couldn’t believe this shit was happening to me – but folks had warned me so. And here I was, face to face with the biggest decision in my life – minus the vasectomy I decided against. The decision you ask? Well, to let me kids walk alone to the corner food store. By themselves.

Albeit – there were about 30 other kids going with them…at least that’s what I told myself. And the corner store is approximately two city blocks away, in a neighborhood in which the President himself entrust the local law enforcement to serve and protect (minus the whole “Rodney King experience” we seem to be dealing with in this current year). It was, in fact, a safe passage for my kids to take – they knew the route and simply had to follow the directions provided by me.

But I was tentative and afraid.

I wasn’t afraid that they might be snatched up from deranged lunatic or that they might encounter Bozo the Clown asking them to feel the candy deep inside his insidious pocket, but that my kids were growing up. I felt sad as a tear slowly drifted down my cheek with this realization. Of course I didn’t let them see me cry because I never do but I felt it nonetheless.

I had explained to them in the past about being careful out there in this crazy world and to know that society will not be kind to them because of their race and gender and age; but I had a sense that they were smart enough not to be taken.

I felt confident in their awareness of their environment and that they were able to discern right from wrong. For this I was comfortable in my decision to let them experience this new found independence for themselves. I remember my own satisfying experience of going to the store and dropping “Abraham Lincolns” for a bag of goodies. However, it was eating me up because they were no longer my little angels. They were growing up.

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Those of us with kids clearly understand they do not stay the same size as the playful Raggedy Ann or Andy dolls we hoped they would. We get that they will experience their own taste in clothing, music, food, and other worldly desires. They’ll zoom through life collecting these various experiences and create the being they were intended to be. And we get to sit back and let the magic happen, regardless of where we are in our experience of “letting go.”

My kids were safe. They didn’t run into a creep or a thug or even a homeless guy running game, but just simply an innocent walk to the corner store in which they spent a total of $5.56 on items I’d rather not disclose. (FYI – I was unaware cotton candy can now be bought in a cellophane bag.)

So here I was, accepting life’s facts as she threw me what was inevitable for me – my youngsters growing up. It wasn’t an easy acceptance of the truth but I had very little choice in the matter. Instead, I let go and let God (a favorite of us Christian folk) watch over them and protect them through the valley of the shadows of death and so forth.

And they returned. Unharmed. Excited. And empowered.

All because they were able to buy an Orange soda and a bag Twizzlers on their own – forging their own path for their lives and realizing the power of independence.

Go well and with love good peeps.

Feeling Comfortably Numb

Minute by minute, then the minutes turn to hours and hours to days. And before you know it, eventually the days turn to weeks to months and finally years. The crushing feelings of hopelessness, rage, and loneliness become less and less. We have all heard the term “time heals all wounds” and it is true to a point. It isn’t that the wound is completely healed it is more like you learn to live with it. Living with the wound, not the pain is akin to having an appendage that has no use. Thus, it is numb, devoid of power or substance, and not something that can be removed. I have become comfortably numb living apart from my kids.

Many people, correction, women might not understand this analogy. The argument I’ve heard is that the woman carried the child in her womb for nine months creating some unseen bond. As a man we are not privy to this unseen bond because we do not give birth. Yet, we do have a spiritual connection to our offspring. And when our children are taken away through divorce the pain is real. Thus we have to find a way to overcome this painful existence. One of the ways is to remove the emotion from our inventory and create a hollow shell of where that emotion used to exist. Slowly we turn off the spigot that feeds the emotion leaving us with a numbing sensation.

I’ve heard other men say you learn to live with it and I have experienced it. It becomes a way of life. It doesn’t mean you love your children any less it only means your access to your kids has been limited and therefore the wound remains. However, the body begins to cut off any feeling you have in this perceived appendage and eventually, like the effects of nova Caine the feelings just go away.

Maybe men are designed to be this way by the Creator. Throughout history fatherless homes have been around due to wars and other duties previously dominated by men. It is probably in our DNA – this one strand that allows us to disconnect the emotion for the greater good of the family. This new era in which we live is exposing this DNA flaw for the entire world to see. No one talked about this much in the past, how a man might miss his kids daily. Men could only express this emotion during tough times on the battlefield or during his dying days. Only then does the child really begin to understand the impact his daddy has on his or her life. This revelation is harder and harder to manage in today’s society because of divorce and dysfunction.

Therefore, I make it a concerted effort to focus on my offspring the moments we are together. I make sure they know the love I possess for them and my desire to see them flourish. I continue to build a bond best I know how because I know I will become numb as they walk out the door when our time comes to a close. And because of this I am becoming comfortably numb.

Celebrating Life’s Wonderful Moments

Today I celebrate my son’s birthday! I feel so honored to have him as my son and I am happy that God put my kids in my life. Through all of the turmoil I have experienced it is moments like these where I sit back and just give thanks. Whether you know who or what you are giving thanks to, just give it, it won’t hurt.

Then just celebrate those things around us that give us joy. Life can be beautiful.

But the Words Just Slipped Out

I know I just met you and we’ve only just begun to hang out. And yes, I think you are the most beautiful creature this Earth has created. I couldn’t find another like you if I searched all four corners of the globe! I know you will bring the best out of me and me of you. Seriously, are you thinking what I’m thinking? Is this real or is it just fantasy? I…I…I feel a little confused because of this feeling. Yet, I want to tell you. I want to tell you, “I love you.”

Screech! “Hold on there little pony!” my inner being states.

Back da hell up! Did it really just come out of nowhere? Did I really say what I think I said? Was it an out of body experience? Or was I transported into another man’s body as he was just popping out the most loaded phrase ever – I love you.

Three little words that carry so much meaning and can transform a relationship. These words are not to be used lightly nor taken lightly. It is the phrase that can defuse most any situation and bring back peace after a calamity. We all have found ourselves in this situation at some time in our lives; whether we were 16 or 45. And there is that moment of unsteadiness, insecurities, and nervousness before we let it rip from our lips. But when it does come forth we exhale as if we were holding our breath for a million years.

What next then? It’s like I just climbed Mt. Everest. It’s like I just defeated Godzilla. How do I top that?

You don’t.

You build on it. You live it. You nurture it. You believe it.

So goes relationships. If you both believe in these spoken words you do what you can to make it happen. You will find yourself trying to do what you can to ensure that the words you spoke are real and the meaning behind them never fades. But as our day-to-day realities set in (bills to pay, kids to nurture, a job to perform, sanity to maintain) we have a tendency to move on with our lives and the phrase begins to carry less weight as it once did. Oh, we will say it constantly, and we might even show that we mean it but the first time we spoke it becomes a distant memory. And all we have left is that diminished memory of when that time first occurred. I imagine a fuzzy picture from the past that reveals something nice without the details to show.

Some of us will continue to believe in the “love” portion of the phrase for eternity. However, I am more skeptical that can be the case – there may be too much time passed to really truly solidify the statement in our hearts and any pain received during the relationship may bury the phrase as if it were the Evil Villain from a James Bond movie. We have separated the “I” and “you” to only reveal an empty “love.” And so ends that moment we hoped would last forever.

At some point after a breakup the phrase has to be discovered and uncovered like an archeological dig. It will be carefully excavated from our damaged hearts and delicately washed to reveal its wonderful form. The time it takes to bring the phrase back to the surface depends on so many factors and is going to be different for each individual; we just know that it is possible.

As for me, I’ll keep my thoughts and words to myself for now. I will closely guard them as the treasure I believe they are. I will use them with extreme caution and hope that when the moment comes for me to release these incredible words of hope I will do so with the commitment and fervor I once did. And there will be no second-guessing or confusion, just love with a purpose – longevity of the moment.

Daddy Dan

Family; Familia; Famille; Familie; Familj…

I am back from spending a wonderful weekend with family during our biannual reunion. People travel from near and far to commune, discuss, fellowship, and bask in the aura of family love. Family bonds intricately bind our family love together in a beautiful weaving way. We toss away any feelings of bitterness, sadness, or hostility for a moment to gather strength through togetherness. And it is a wonderful thing. But what really is this family bond that we feel? Is it merely a feeling or is it something more that interconnects us? And does a family start with two?

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Missing from this reunion was my complete family – the inclusion of my children’s mother. Through the challenges of divorce my family makeup has changed and it is noticeable during these family functions. However, with the support of the entire extended family me and my kids moments are no less special; different and unique but special nonetheless.

My family bond is created through the desire to belong. Many of us may believe our common blood line might have a special magnetic draw for each of our family members, although, there is no evidence that a purely physical connection draws us any closer to one another. It is our desire to be part of something special that unites us. Family gives us special moments and memories building on top of one another creating lasting memories within the recesses of our minds.

We can connect with friends that can become family. We have family members we do not have anything in common yet we desire to connect. We marry and start a new family hoping the bonds of family grow stronger than the temptations to break us apart. And we constantly search to find that special bond that moves us forward. Connecting with family is an awesome gift.

Divorce changes everything. The new family you created changes. Dynamics within the extended family change. Relationships are different. It is a big adjustment especially when you have had a close relationship with the extended family. Divorce also requires us to change our definition of family. My little family unit has become a splintered family – torn apart. But the bond and love we feel from the larger extended family comforts us and continue to bind me and my kids. Thus, it is crucial to surround ourselves with loving family during challenging times such as these.

I appreciate the experience my children will gain. I love how their lives are touched by relatives, both young and old, and I see how important it is for them to feel connected beyond one side of their two parents. They will have a unique experience for their lives as they develop and nurture the bonds of family. My rich family history shows my kids there is much more to gain from a splintered family beginning. And it is up to me and their mother to help balance these experiences so as to not neglect one family side versus the other. There is nothing more valuable than being accepted and belonging to a tribe – and that tribe is what we call family, regardless of how it is created.

Chronicles of a Divorced Dad: Co-parenting is Difficult at Best

I had to drop my son off to his mom’s apartment after tutoring. He was not feeling well so I had to get there a little early because of his illness. I gathered up his belongings and we headed to the car. As we got to his mom’s place and we were about to get out of the car he had a tear in his eye. I asked him “what’s wrong?” He explained he was sad because he wasn’t feeling well. I assured him it was okay and not to worry about stuff you can’t control. I gave him a big hug and he headed down the hall towards the elevator.

As I turned around and started to leave – I was overcome with a familiar feeling, that same feeling I get on a weekly basis, that feeling of sadness. I was reminded of my situation and what it means to be a divorced father of two. A divorced dad. Not fun.

This feeling is not anything you want to deal with but you deal with it. It is re-living a painful death on a weekly basis. Many a man has to deal with this feeling and most people don’t understand. You’re a man. You’re supposed to be strong. You deal with it, damnnit! You must prevail over your emotions.

You are overcome with the feeling. That feeling that says I wanna be there for my boy because he’s not well, or with my daughter just so I can be there when she wakes up, or knowing that she sleeps with a picture of me by her side. Those simple things we don’t much think about or we take for granted the love our kids have for each parent. And we deal with the difficult feelings these acts bring. Co-parenting and raising kids separately is difficult at best.

Not an easy task by any means even if you have the support of loved ones.

We have painful reminders we encounter as we go through life’s challenges and the effects they have on us. We have difficult emotions to overcome especially when you are handicapped in dealing with them – unspoken depression, machoism, or just being a man.

But somehow we do overcome the emotions. Us divorced dads. Us single dads – although, we don’t use this terminology much, we leave that for the women. Men like me continue to do what we have to do, pay the support we are ordered to pay, and try to be in the lives of our kids because that’s what we do. It is what we were born to do. And many of us men accept this challenge.

We do this week after week even in spite of the feelings we experience. Talking to no one about it. We all experience that familiar feeling, that slowly painful death as we are separated from our growing kids. However, at the end of the day, we are thankful of being with our kids if only for that moment. And we find the strength to go forward just to experience the euphoria and the letdown all in the same breadth. It is for the love of our kids.

Daddy Dan