On the 18th June 2007 I wrote a post titled The Loneliness of the Long Distance Father which I had written after visiting a friend. Now, another year and a half down the track I can speak with a little more personal experience about my own situation and how things have unfolded.
When I separated from my wife in February 2006 it is true that I withdrew from the world to a large degree. I spoke to no one about how I felt, I worried constantly about what the future held and spent much of my time away from work alone. I didn't see a lot of my kids that first year and that hurt. When I look back now I find that much of the year is foggy. No friends called, part of the family isolated me and the kids were being exposed to things about the situaton that they probably shouldn't have.
There was an assumption by a lot of people that I was in a relationship with the lady who was the catalyst for the marriage break up. The truth was for much of the first 15 months of that separation we were friends, in some ways we were our only friends. And whilst that was continuing I was being told that the kids would never forgive her and never accept her. So I struggled big time with what I should do, I didn't wish to pursue a full blown relationship because I was frightened of the consequences. Hence there were no discussions with my kids about my feelings or my perspective on the marriage break up. In fact I regard that as probably my biggest mistake because everyone I knew had a perspective on what they thought was going on because of the story they were hearing. And it was a story in which my voice was silent.
Don't get me wrong, there is no blame here. I was simply acting as blokes are expected to act. We aren't supposed to show our feelings, or talk about them with anyone. Keep a stiff upper lip, shoulder the burden but, if like me, you shoulder all the blame as well, then maybe expect to lose friends as a result of that.
It took a while but I can remember the exact moment when my kids did start to come around. In August 2007 my lady moved in with me and on Fathers Day that year my daughters visited my home whilst my lady was there for the first time. I wrote about that on Sunday 2 September2007 in a post called Red Letter Day.
Now I see them at least once a fortnight, maybe not as much as I would like, but the initial awkwardness has gone. If they hate her, as I was told they would, or if they have not forgiven her, there is no evidence of that. Last night my oldest son brought his new girlfriend around to meet us and they and my youngest daughter had dinner with us. Yesterday my oldest daughter was here with her boyfriend and today my second son dropped in for an hour. I am a lucky person.
If you've been reading this blog over the past week you may have noticed that I've been looking at the stats and where the visitors come from and there are a couple of search terms that people use which bring them to this blog. One of the most common is a combination of the words father, loneliness and long distance, so I am guessing that there are a lot of men out there who do look for answers when their marriages fail.
I thought, therefore, that it might be worth showing those people that there is hope, that children can come around, despite what they may be told, in the end it will be their reality and experience which is important, not that which may be imposed upon them by others. I am still looking at improving my relationship with my kids. I am far from the perfect father, but if I can give some advice it is this, maintain contact with your kids, even if it's only a phone call. Tell them you love them, if they are prepared to listen teach them that there are different realities, that no one is 100% right all the time. Let them know that it is OK to have an opinion but respect that of other people as well, but never, take those opinions as gospel.
Life is way too short to hold grudges and to be bitter about things forever.