Of all the posts I have ever written "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Father" is the one that consistently gets hit through google. And I am sure that is because it is usually the father who gives up parts of his contact with his children when a marriage fails. Maybe fathers are searching for those of us who experience the same pangs.
Whilst my relationship with my kids is a good one now, there were times when I was gripped with despair about what may eventuate. But even now, there are times when I wish I saw them more often. It is that daily contact, or lack of it, that makes things hard at times.
Sometimes I just wish for a phone call from one or the other of them, just to ask how things are, what happened at work or school today, how are their relationships with friends going. I miss the fact that they don't just drop in. That it sometimes feels like it has to be a formal invite or an occasion for them to turn up. And the standing Thursday night date is sometimes overlooked if other offers come along.
I miss not having the regular interactions with their friends and finding out what they are doing, or just sitting and watching as my kids interact with them.
The football season is coming up soon and I know that will provide opportunities for me to just hang out with my kids. It's something to look forward to.
I think part of the melancholy is that when you no longer live in that original family unit, that your kids grow up and grow older in episodes. It's like watching a soap opera rather than being part of it. And sometimes you miss how the cliffhanger ending turns out, the drama and laughter happen in places where you don't exist. And when you are able to catch up with things it is often passed off as not important anymore, so it seems that you only get the echo from distant mountains rather than the full on quadraphonic experience of the origin.
But there is also the knowledge that sometimes these things were going to happen anyway, because they did with me.
I left far too much unsaid to my Dad, didn't take the time to know him, or give him the chance to know me. I've learnt that fathers don't complain, that we accept it when our kids cancel on us, that we hide the hurt more often than not. It's easier that way. And I've learnt that kids don't see that, that fathers are often too good at hiding things. And with that I've learnt that a father can be lonely even if he's surrounded by crowds.
Loneliness is a fickle beast. It hides in circumstance, in ritual and in occasion. And if you find your self experiencing this lonely father syndrome, it doesn't necessarily mean that every aspect of your life is lonely. Just sometimes, when you miss your kids, it can grab you and squeeze you till it hurts.
So instead of waiting for them to contact you, pick up the phone, say hello, tell them you love them and that you're looking forward to seeing them whenever that may be. And when you do see them, listen to what they say, engage with them while you can, because that loneliness is only a short time away again.
So I leave you with this song.