From one single father to the next

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My life long best friend just went through a divorce over the last two months, his wife left him, his kid, the house, all of it.  She just up and walked away, and the guy is now facing a personal crisis.  He doesn’t know how he’s going to make ends meet, how he’s going to raise a little girl, or what life is going to be like as he moves into the future.

I remember those feelings very well.  I experienced the same sadness, loss, disorientation, and loneliness when my relationship with my baby’s momma fell apart and I got sole custody of my daughter.  But when I went through it, I didn’t know any other man with custody of his kids, I didn’t have anyone I could talk to with a similar perspective, no one to encourage me, tell me to keep my head up, and offer advice to me.

So I sat down and wrote a letter of encouragement to my life long friend, the brother I chose, to help him out.  I posted it on his Facebook wall, and then proceeded to get numerous comments from people telling me that I needed to post what I wrote somewhere visible, so that other men in our situation could have the chance to benefit from it too.

I don’t know if what I wrote is really that good, I have a hard time judging my own writing, but I’m following the advice of a bunch of people who don’t even know me, so here it is.

To all you single dads out there, read it, and like my buddy, remember that you’re not alone, that it will get better, and that your life has made a gigantic turn for the better, my friends.  –Mike

Here recently, over the last two months or so, I’ve thought a lot about what it means to be a dad, and a man.

This week marks the 7th anniversary of my first temporary court order of custody for my daughter, Merra. I was 24 years old, virtually a kid myself, and it represents quite the milestone in my life, the event where I truly let being a boy become a part of my past, and assumed the role of being a man, and a real father, for the remainder of my life. The consequences of having a kid were made manifest, and I had to assume the full load of responsibility for the life of the child I helped create.

It meant the official end of partying every weekend (and those of you who knew me at the time, let’s be honest: weekdays too, though I had really cut back on that by the time Merra was born), the end of being ok with just barely getting by like a broke college student, the end of “Me Time”, the end of sleeping in until 8 AM, the end of going wherever I wanted to go, whenever I wanted to go, of hanging out with whomever I wished, etc.

It meant the beginning of working three jobs, going to grad school full time at night after working since 6AM, and raising a kid by myself. It meant the beginning of truly applying myself at school, of struggling to get a good job which would allow me to support my daughter. The beginning of taking 100% responsibility for the lives of those around me who depended upon me, even though it made my life inconvenient at times, even though I could no longer do exactly what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it.

I had custody of my daughter. Her whole life was in my hands, her needs and desires became my needs and desires. When she got scared at night, there wasn’t anyone else to get up and go comfort her, check her closet for alien tentacles, and put her back to bed. There wasn’t any help with potty training, teaching her to feed herself, showing her how to get dressed, helping her learn to read, how to ride a bike, how to make friends, how to think analytically, and all the other things we must learn to be functional human beings.

And we aren’t even half way through Merra’s childhood. We still have a whole lot of headaches and heartaches to go. The first boy I’m going to get to run off when he comes by to pick her up for a date. The start of “woman time” every month (Don’t know how I’m going to handle that one). Learning how to drive. Getting into college. I often worry about the future, and get a bit scared by the challenges which still face me, but I CAN face them, and will do so, because it’s what my little girl needs and wants me to do, and because no real father can just up and give his kids the finger because what they want means he has to do something he doesn’t necessarily feel like doing.

Seven years ago, this week, was the best week of my whole life. A real blessing.  I am certain that when you look back on this week, this month, that you’ll say the same thing.  When your little girl looks at you with the love and adoration only a daddy’s girl can give her father, you’ll know that it was all worth it, and that you’re a better man for it.

Keep your head up, buddy.  I’m with you.  You can do this.
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