Cat's in the Cradle
I believe all parents question their abilities in their respective roles. As men, we're often told that consistent quality time with our children is the key to a good relationship. To fatherhood as well, our kids want to know that they can rely on us and that we will be there regardless of the situation.
Having a first hand experience I pledged to mirror the man who raised me, my role model. Intentionally putting his children on his schedule, whether it was racing to a sporting event or watching online, there wasn't ever a doubt of his support. Similarly, when it came to life principles and learning trades like the way around a car, he never lacked.
Creating a atmosphere of trust and reliance, it's only natural when he speaks I not only listen but digest the true meaning behind the words. I thank my parents for presenting thought provoking questions that enticed their children to think "past our nose" as my mom would often say. While preparing Sunday breakfast as a family, a tradition Coronavirus allowed us to reconvene as if we all were under the same house again.
Unsure of how the conversation ensued, my dad told me I should listen to this song "Cat's in the Cradle" by Harry Chapin implying that it applied to me. My mother openly questioned him since I happily get my youngest every weekend. The remark gave me an inclination to the lyrics to a song I've never heard of, the thought of my father suggesting neglect set off a torrent in my head.
My internal response remained on the inside as I quietly defended myself. He continued on by adding that if I leave that she needs to come with me, even if it's at 12am. Before diving into the song I got the gist that he was saying that I wasn't spending enough time with my daughter.
How? How is that a conceivable notion when my weekends are dedicated to spending time and getting to know my youngest. Even though I need the money, only allowing myself to work minimally so that my presence can be accounted for. Being adamant about scheduling everything from podcasts, to training sessions, to building business, and enhancing my penmanship during the week so I don't feel as if I'm taking away from Amara.
The energy and effort it takes to get what I want done while juggling a handful of jobs wakes me up at 6:30 and I fall asleep between 11 and 12. Never feeling like I've had an apt week because I know someone is always working harder than me. One of the many motivating factors that pushed me to keep grinding for basketball. It's a conscious decision on my end to dial it back and not try to get something done that will eventually be a benefit to my kids.
I do it without malice because being a father and being known the father to my kids is very important to me. Quality time and creating memories, especially at this age, is everything. If there is a weekend where I work or can't see her I make it a point to move my schedule around to make the drive to Rocky Mount during the week.
With my first experience of having a child, their first as grandparents, and my siblings first as aunts and uncles we all feel as if we're being robbed. A common conversation in our house is the beauty in watching Amara grow up, getting to see weekly developments while assisting her with words and walking. An awesome experience, a divine one, one that I want to share with those who have been by my side through these tumultuous times.
The more time I spend as a single father the more I'm realizing that there is a certain level of selfishness that we need to possess. Maybe it's, get our time first and then the time left is utilized with the rest of the family. Otherwise we don't win, we're told by society that we have it easy and under heavier scrutiny regardless of how the mother acts towards us.
Always asked what did I say or what did I do that made her keep my baby from me, negating that this very act is bad parenting. Somehow, attention is on us and the validity of our fatherhood capabilities. I remember one time watching a movie as a family, my mom pointed out the way the character denied the young woman which lead her to falsely accusing him of rape and halting professional dreams.
I snapped back saying that it didn't justify the lie, how could it? How could that possibly be a thought? If it is, then every time women choose not to please us we have every right to go get it from somewhere else. Or the anger in having to constantly repeat myself to no avail and the following actions should be justified as well. If that's the case, then I should be justified for being mad after all the effort into trying to be a father only to be denied again and again.
Unfortunately, it doesn't work like that. Understanding that there is a societal standard that allows for women to act out of character but will chew men up if they dared to complain about being tired or having limited time pertaining to raising kids. It's a nuance of this world that I struggle to grasp, but I digress.
It wasn't the first time my dad had made a similar statement, this time regarding Amelia, my oldest. It's typically a question when the next time we would see my baby, there wasn't ever a guarantee, and expecting is almost like asking for heartache. It was disheartening to bring my daughter to my parents and the visible discomfort when my family will go to pick her up watching her shy away. She barely spoke or even showed her personality, if she was dancing or singing and one of us tried to join she'd automatically stop with a look of annoyance.
Even as her father there were things she could do or say that I had no idea of because she never showed me and the lack of consistent updates. When I had her by myself, there were glimpses of the outgoing personality I know had to be passed down by my genes. The few times she dropped the act are some of the best memories and I wanted nothing more than to share the experience.
I thought that if I didn't try to share the already limited time we had together, that she wouldn't ever be comfortable enough to be herself. In actuality, instead of being considerate, and from the outside looking in. I fit the bill of the lyrics of the aforementioned song, not to me, but apparently so.
Listening to the breakdown of the song, it's talking about the father never having time for his son. The child keeps saying that he wants to be like his father, even when he isn't making time for him. I resent this sentiment, making countless four hour drives due to her mother refusing to put any effort in. Driving 8 hours between Friday after work and Sunday evening.
When in SC, I dealt with the disrespect and the lack of compassion from the other side and I still stuck around even when it resulted in me sleeping in my car. Sleeping in the parking lot of Target to wake up and go to work or working three jobs in one day to provide and prove myself as a father. The exhausting effort I've put into even seeing my daughter, I believe, exempts me from these daunting lyrics.
I'm very willing, and proven, that I will drop everything at a moments notice for my kids. I even subjected myself to the torment of being with someone I couldn't stand, simply, because I wanted to be in my daughter's life. It seemed to be the only way at the time since being cordial was non-existent unless I showed interest in a relationship.
Torn in confusion and hurt, feeling like the best way to ameliorate the situation is to hog my baby, for lack of a better word. Instead of coming to my parents for the weekend I'll come on Saturday and maybe Sunday morning before I leave to take her back. This will eliminate anyone who believes otherwise and I won't get the looks and questions from women who believe I can't do it by myself. I guess, wanting everybody to be apart of the experience is not good enough. I'll be marked as absent or inadequate.
Already hearing how I'm a bad father from the mother of my first, regardless of the effort put in, I won't allow anyone else to try to put that label on me. It's a decision that has to be made, for my own sanity and to ensure my children aren't saying the same things as everybody else. As long as I'm able, people are going to say that I'm selfish with my time with my baby rather than they'll grow up to not have time for me. Nobody will ever to say that about me.
If I could, I promise I'd take primary care of both my children. I'd gladly take the responsibility even if it means less freedom. Being with my children unadulterated is the freedom that I desire.
Even in my anger, I knew there could be more to the statement than what met the surface. Forcing myself to calm down, I took the day to process and analyze what other meanings could be taken away.
Maybe, he was talking about my fight for Amelia. Suggesting that I'm not making enough time to go back to the courts, or being diligent with my money to pay for another lawyer. Maybe that I'm not attacking the problem hard enough, or putting in the proper effort by perusing appropriate channels.
Honestly, it's been an exhausting four years. Very troubling and the trepidation of finding another lawyer is high. Especially since the last one took my money and ran, or maybe bought out or threatened by the other side.
Who knows? What I do know is that if I do go through the courts I won't get sufficient time. The limited time fathers are allotted and the favor given to the mothers is ridiculous. Even more, there isn't punishment for a bad mother but there's a plethora for fathers.
I'm not quitting on her, I'm going to go back to the courts, but I had to heal myself first because last year this time I would of let loose in the courtroom. Especially if the judge doesn't give me the time that I deserve and help me get back the time that was taken away from me.
Until then, I have to take it on the chin. Along with every other act committed against me. But I promise, not a soul will be able to say anything but I'm a good father.
I promise, Amelia and Amara, your daddy will not give up and I will always love you.