I was thinking that maybe you (the electronic world) could do me a favor. Now with social media blasting things all over for everyone to see I thought maybe if you know her you would pass along a happy birthday wish from me for my daughter. You see, I fulfilled my “responsible father” parental duties, as defined by my government, years ago and we have no contact with each other for nigh on 20 years now. So please, if you are blessed with knowing her do pass along my wishes for a good birthday and a happy year to follow.
I suppose I should also here explain and make my apologies for her ending up a disenfranchised daughter to a beat dead, dead broke, disenfranchised dad (often referred to a “deadbeat dad” or “NCP – Non Custodial Parent”). It certainly wasn’t my plan to be a disenfranchised dad, indeed I was actually a very involved dad and the primary care giving parent as her mother had returned to school and then work full time. I didn’t plan my life this way, but life is the thing that happens to you while you are busy making plans.
You see, in the 1980’s we (me and her mother) believed that men and women should both share in providing for their children emotionally and financially. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to me (and most other people out there), the system has defined “responsible fatherhood” as a father who pays his “child support” on time and in full, regardless of his ability to pay the government assessed amount or the needs of the child. What I had been led to believe about society working “in the child’s best interest” and about fathers should be active and involved, “responsible”, I was soon to learn was not true. I now believe only half of what I see and nothing that I hear.
In looking back I wonder if I would have been better off not trying to be an active nurturing participating father. I could have accepted the “Standard NY Order” of every other weekend and Wednesday after school for 4 hour “visitations”. I expect though that given the circumstances and the system that the disenfranchisement would have occurred just the same. Indeed, I have come to learn that it is the hands-on active father who fights the hardest to be in their child’s life, and it is he who is often the one disenfranchised the most, an “inverse correlation”. Of course, hind sight is 20-20 and nobody knew then what they know now.
I find some consolation in that I fought very hard to stay in my children’s life, over 3 years of litigation in multiple courts. I was penalized financially for fighting “to hard” and not accepting the “standard order” and made to pay attorneys and fees in addition to “child support”. I was told to just “shut up and pay and you can visit your kids”. I likened “visiting” on a regular schedule to being in jail. I wanted more. Alas, there was no avenue in which I would be allowed to be an active father in raising them. The harder I fought, the worse I was penalized. I had to define fatherhood as I saw it, not as another thought to make me be. Unfortunately, Life isn’t fair, it was their way or nothing.
I think I did exceptionally well given I was fighting a government system with unlimited resources which was also plundering mine to pay to remove me from my children. It was only after many years when I was ultimately arrested and suspended from work and lost all income that I capitulated. I was bankrupt, facing incarceration, and a lifetime court order keeping me from my children or I could take a “deal”, return to work, pay my (extorted) “child support”, and rely on their custodial mothers good graces for any continued access to them. I chose the latter as the lesser of two evils, she had no use for me. In life you don’t always get what you want.
I did fault myself at times for “not fighting hard enough” or inversely, for not capitulating and accepting “visitor” status. But in addition to be a father by my own heritage and definition I had to ask myself, “fatherhood at what cost”? The entire system was designed to remove my parental right to raise my children, and so it did. I had no choice than to pay the “child support” extortion and it left me at maximum garnishment and I had to live on 35% of my income for 10 years (no bank account, no credit card, no home, no car). When you add in the cost of “visitation” (denial of access, more false allegations and incarceration, loss of work, more jail for not paying the “support”) the cost of being a father wasn’t there, much less being a “visitor”. My door is always open, I never denied any family member access the choice to not come to my door was not mine, and that’s cold hard fact.
When I tell people my now grown children haven’t called, emailed, or even been to “visit” me for 20 years they ask why or “who’s fault is it” (obviously I did SOMETHING to cause it). It’s nobody’s I think, and EVERYBODY’S. It’s “Parental Alienation” and a government system which encourages and rewards it, a system which most turn a bit of a blind eye to which is why it continues now for over 30 years. To hide their discomfort most people will give the “maybe they’ll come back some day”, as if 20 years of acting a way will just change overnight. Pffft is what I say back. I certainly don’t expect them to crash my threshold, but I will stay true and never turn them away should they do so.
This is a computer selfie of me in 2017. I used to look for an unattended camera and snap a “selfie”, this in the days before smart phones and the term “selfie”. So more than one person has had film developed (and then digitally downloaded) to find a photo of me smiling at them. Of course I recruited my kids as accomplices when they were old enough. I thought perhaps they would be interested in how I look now. Perhaps. Their choice now.
A lot has been taken away from me by this government system, more so my children. They took a good active involved father from two children who deserved better. What they can’t take away is me being a Dad. Sometimes you fight the good fight, and lose. Such is life. The sun will come up tomorrow and God willing you get a new day. So in keeping with still being a Dad I say to my daughter, the doors open if you desire. I wish you a happy birthday and a good year to follow. Love, Dad.