Divorce has made me a better father. Of that there is absolutely no question. Had none of this ever happened I’m convinced, with the majority of married parents today (including moms), I would have taken my children from granted. But when time with your kids is court mandated you quickly learn to make the most of the space you have.
In what I call margin – the time away from my children – I have the opportunity to contemplate fatherhood, more precisely how to become a better one. Through this I have learned there are many aspects of fatherhood that are universal – married or divorced. That even in a culture where it’s believed there are no absolutes and every decision we make, regardless of ethics or motives, can be justified with any number of conjunctions – but, however, in spite of - some principles on being a great dad are steadfast.
Being a father for a decade and a divorced one for over seven years I now believe there are a handful of characteristics that make some men better fathers than others; qualities that stand out in stark contrast when placed against the cultural yardstick or pop psychologist view of what it means to be a good dad. This isn’t to say that a man must possess all of these essentials simultaneously – God knows I don’t – or that they can’t be learned traits. But if a man truly desires to be a honorable leader for his children and set the standard that will ultimately shape their world view each of these qualities must be there. Because this I know for certain, our father wounds are the direct result of dads with a deficiency in one or all of them.
This series of posts are written more for my benefit than anyone else. I hope they will assist in keeping me true to my own fatherhood responsibilities and I pray they will be a source of inspiration for my children in my absence; that my son will use them to guide his behaviors and my daughter will remember these truths as the standard in seeking a husband and father for her own children.
How a man treats women speaks volumes about type of father he will ultimately become – or currently is. Show me a man who is demeaning, abusive, and condescending to his wife and I will show you one who speaks to his kids the same way. My own divorce saved me and brought this to light in my own life. With a severe lack of respect for my ex wife it was only a matter of time before the rudeness, contempt, and insolence carried over into the relationship with my kids, fortunately for me it never got the chance. Children can’t help but suffer the spillover in relationships built on that type of character. A man who mentally, verbally, or physically abuses women will do no less to his children – it’s simply a part of his character and can’t be compartmentalized.
From my early twenties through the beginning stages of my post divorce life I had the tasteless habit of visiting strip clubs; fortunately it was a practice I weaned myself from. If a man’s idea of women is based purely upon her ability to satisfy urges how can he teach his son to respect women or his daughter to respect herself? A man who will spend countless hours and money wasting away in some dingy dark club desiring someone other than his wife or partner can be expected to teach his son the same behaviors. Our morals don’t operate as a light switch allowing us to turn them on and off when we please. We can’t live one way and parent another – I know because I tried.
A man who is addicted to pornography, like any drug, will view his world through that habit. I find it interesting that regardless of how strong one individual’s prescription is to society’s elixir of unabated sexual freedom and autonomy why is it they don’t want their kids to follow suit? Yet just like strip clubs, we can’t live separate lives indefinitely, at some point they must always meet. Research shows time and again that the longer a porn addict stays in darkness the deeper and more dangerous the rabbit hole becomes. How can we not expect his children to get swept along in that descent?
On several occasions I’ve written that my relationship with the Queen is my most important, even ahead of the one with my kids. The more I read and feedback I receive the more I realize how contradictory that view is to culture, the accusation of which is constantly reinforced by a plethora of mommy bloggers and all of Madison Avenue. Let me put it another way, if I make my children ‘my everything’, ‘my universe’, ‘the ‘center of my world’ and other phrases that get ‘likes’ on Facebook what do you think my kids will come to expect later in life? What do you anticipate their thinking is after a childhood of being placed on the ivory tower? The world is already full of insufferable adults whose lives were made front and center, why would I want to add to that population?
In summary I say this, as a man look at your own world view, the way you interact with women, the expectations you place upon yourself and especially those women, and ask where that view came from? I’m willing to bet dollars to donuts it was from your father. It was for me. I learned more from how he lived than what he said. Actions are everything. To be a great father I must first be a worthy husband and partner. That means living in a way that shows love, honor, and respect for the woman in that relationship above everyone and everything else. And if, like me, I’m not married to their mother then I demonstrate that for them with the Queen. It means being sensitive to the understanding that little eyes are always watching and a “do as I say, not as I do” idea of parenting never works. And for me it’s the burden of being the living example for my daughter on what she should expect – and demand – from the men in her life and model for my son how he should treat and what he should expect from the women around him.
Author’s note: this is the first post of several to come titled Five Signs he will be a Great Dad, subscribe here to get future updates as we continue this series.