Courage is a fascinating aspect of the human condition. Cultures and nations around the world honor displays of courage, and courageous people. Among my heroes in combat sports, courage is as necessary to them as all of their conditioning, sparring, and training. I’ve often felt like courage isn’t really considered when it comes to fatherhood. Maybe I’ve just missed too many articles or conversations about it.
Please Allow Me To Say
If you are a Dad reading this right now, thank you. Hopefully, you’re one of the guys who has being the best Dad you can be for your kids (no matter what) well-handled. You’re a brave man, and you deserve to be recognized for it. You have my utmost respect as a father. I know you don’t care about being recognized (because I don’t either), but I also know it feels good to know someone else “gets it.”
If you’re reading this and you’re struggling with fathering from afar, or with a difficult ex, THANK YOU. It takes courage to seek out help. It takes a ton of courage to remain committed under those circumstances. You are a brave man, and have my respect as a Dad. I pledge to help you enhance your relationship with your kids in any way I can.
A Father’s Courage
This is as thankless a job as there is. I’m not here to draw comparisons to motherhood because I have never been a mother. Instead, let me highlight what good Dads really do, and acknowledge the courage it takes to maintain that for years and years. Let’s acknowledge what men understand going in to fatherhood, so perhaps others might see the entire enterprise a little differently.
My daughters are 11 and 10. They each have a birthday coming this year, and I’ve been privileged to be their Dad for almost 8 years now. I know the day will come for each of them will venture out into the world. The time left to prepare them as best I can seems so much shorter now. I know whenever that happens, my excitement for them will be the only thing greater in me than the sound of my heart breaking.
We’re all aware of this about our kids, even if only on the subconscious level. We know we’re going to love them, clean them, teach them, feed them, clothe them, and kiss their ouchies. We will celebrate moving to solid foods, and moving out of diapers. We’ll gush about our kids’ first steps, first words, and if we’ll take a moment, we’ll understand and feel love in a way we never knew it existed.
Still, there are times in their raising when that day looks much more like a light at the end of the tunnel than it does something to lament. Adolescent defiance will rear its ugly head at the best of parents. Their vocabularies often develop well ahead of their understanding of the true power of words. My sons have said things to me through the anger of misunderstanding that cut like a dull, rusty knife.
The point is men (should) realize going in that kids have heavy demands on resources. The responsibility of our children will shift us toward safety and security over career and personal risks. Often you’ll hear men complain of hating their jobs, but needing them to provide for their families. I’ve certainly dealt with that sentiment. And when the kids don’t need you to provide for them anymore, they’ll be off building their own lives.
A Step Dad’s Courage
When you take on being Dad for another man’s children, you’ve done about the most courageous thing a man can do. I know. My heart doesn’t believe one damn word about my daughters not being “mine.” Step parents are in no-man’s land, legally speaking. You could be the sole provider and primary care giver to your step children, but you have no legal rights to them if their Mother wants to split. In the best case scenarios, courts take the involvement of step parents into account for things like contact and visitation even. But that’s best case. And only in states where step parents are given any legal consideration at all.
Think about that for a minute. A good step dad does all the things a good dad does. He gives heavily of his earnings, his time, his energy, his future even. In many states, all his wife has to do is say she wants a divorce. Once she does, his life with those kids is likely over. Being a step dad is a huge risk, no matter what kind of man you are.
“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” – Lao Tzu
If your ex decides to be difficult instead of fostering positive relationships, you are in for a long, tough fight. That’s ok though. You’re a tough guy. Look at all you did and endured to “that” point. If you aren’t the Dad you want to be, or the Dad your kids deserve, you can become him right now. But you’ll need the healthiest dose of courage you can muster.
A few tips for you to use to start changing things right now:
1.) Get rid of the word “but.”
— None of this “I love my kids so much, but…” There’s no place for that combination of words (or any like it) in a committed father’s vocabulary. Shorten that bit to “Because I love my kids,” and you’ll find the courage to persevere much more easily.
2.) Quit asking “What about me?”
— Let’s be honest. Divorce and split-ups are almost never a one-sided deal. For whatever reason, you’re in the spot you’re in. So are your kids. If the anchor of your commitment to your kids is what you see in return from them (or some matched effort from their mom), you’re in for a painful journey. Change that question to “What about my kids,” and you’ve got the right mindset to do your best by them. No matter what.
3.) Behave like the type of person you hope your child becomes
— No one wants their child to become dishonest, disloyal, manipulative, or irresponsible adults (I hope). And no child wants to hear one parent bash the other. Take the high road without stepping out. If your ex delivers upper cuts from your kids’ mouths, roll with that punch as gracefully as you can. Tell them and show them you love them, no matter what. Sometimes those efforts will seem like an immense, even unbearable burden. You can do it though. Even when you think you can’t.
Like Lao Tzu said thousands of years ago, loving someone else deeply gives us courage. Let your love for your kids be the wellspring from which your courage flows. Do that, and courage will become something you’re never without.
Thank you so much for reading! If you are a father, or know a father in dire straits dealing with a difficult ex, and would like guidance, encouragement and help mapping out a pathway to success, please contact me today. Please send your friend this link and encourage him to reach out. It may make all the difference in the relationship between a child and their Dad.