Being a beat dead, dead broke, and disenfranchised Dad on Christmas.

When married, or co-parenting and child focused, parents try to spread the emotional equity around, that time the children get with you and extended family.  Often it is Christmas Eve with one side of your immediate family, Christmas Day with the other, the “traditional” gathering spot for the occasion.  But Christmas morning was the kids at home time, with tree and presents, up at 5am, kids with parents in tow, close up emotional equity for parents and child.  Then the divorce (or separation) and the question is, “how do we divide the emotional equity?”.

Now “visitation” (parenting time) is reduced to a court order and a time frame, “the children will be with the father from 9am to 5 pm Christmas Day and the mother from 4pm to 12 pm on Christmas Eve in even years and inversely on odd years”.  Punch a clock, move out kids, the court says so.  For those that suffer the “custodial” parents move away the time together is even more limited by distance, perhaps every other year is your time.  For the Alienated Parent the holidays heighten the sense of loss you feel each and every day of the year, no contact at all.  Regardless of the parent-child status all separated parents will feel the absence and loss of the children to some degree, and so too the children.

For those fathers (or mothers) who are suffering with an alienating ex spouse you can expect them to use the emotional aspects of the holiday and their control of the children to cause turmoil.  Baby Mama Drama, withholding access, bringing them late to disrupt your events, excessive gift giving, laying abandonment guilt on the kids, and the ever present bad mouthing are to be expected. The courts are closed and the police will do nothing to enforce an order for your time with your children.  Many a disenfranchised dad has found himself standing alone, waiting, to no avail.  If it has been occurring through the year, expect it at the holidays and prepare yourself.

It’s important to acknowledge the emotional difficulties the holidays bring on the separated family and to us individually as Fathers in them.  For the sake of our children we need to stay child focused (regardless if the ex does or not) and try to make the holiday a normal father-child-family event.  Don’t get dragged into the drama and turmoil.  Focus on your time together and not on the time that you do not have.  But when you are apart you need to focus on YOURSELF, including your emotional needs.  The feelings of loss and grief to absent children are normal responses to your quickly changing circumstance, and like all of us fathers, you are having a normal response to the child absence and changing family life.

The APA has tips for handling holiday blues as does the Mayo Clinic who’s tips I find most relevant to the child absent parent.  You can also do a search for advice which best helps your particular situation.  Social media provides an outlet, the issues discussion page Friends of Protection For Men will be monitored by many and is a good place for us to discuss our issues that day.  The stress of being a beat dead, dead broke, and disenfranchised dad weighs heavily on all of us going through this, know you are not alone.  We discuss suicide prevention at the PFM Suicide Prevention site and if you, or someone you know is contemplating suicide you can reach out to the suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or you can Text a counselor at 741741 (USA).  Or search for a provider in your state or country.

From my perspective the best course of action is to stay connected and look to help another person in need.  It is now the 20th anniversary for me since I last had my children on the holiday, and yes, I do still miss them.  But I have worked to stay connected to those friends and family who care about me and I also look to find those beat dead, dead broke, disenfranchised dads who need a kind word of encouragement and a friend at a trying time in their life.

Indeed, this post is part of that outreach for I’ll put it on social media and check it on Christmas Eve and Day in case someone reaches out.  I’m a retired police officer (US Army veteran also) and was part of our critical incident response team in addition to providing peer support and counseling to parents and families in crisis due to divorce and separation for over 20 years now and I can be reached at my e-mail if you wish to talk (note it will not be continually monitored and if in severe crisis use a manned hotline).

The important thing is to not suffer alone and in silence when the kids are gone.  Volunteer your time with a homeless shelter, soup kitchen, or veterans organization.  Go to church, reach out to others, connect, rebuild family and family traditions anew.  Do something with somebody.  Remember, you are not alone and there are many of us in your circumstance, reach out if need be.

Lt. James H. Hays, (Ret), FaFNY Co-founder and past President, Director of NY MAN, Admin at Friends of Protection For Men.

 

 

 

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Megan Leavey: A movie review.

The movie Megan Leavey opens in theaters June 9 but as former military and an AT&T subscriber I was invited to an early screening of the movie on May 30 for free to mark National Military Appreciation Month.  In addition to being a U.S. Army Veteran (76-79) I was also an Army Brat to a career (43-70) US Army E.O.D. (Explosives Ordinance for non military) and am a dog lover also, so a movie about a bomb sniffing dog caught my attention as I was watching the trailers, announcements, and snippets of the plot line leading up to release.

I’m looking forward to it until I get a preview trailer which contains an interview with a male in the film where he says how wonderful it was to work on a film “with so many women” with “wonderful energy” (a women overcoming bias film, I’m sure).   The Director goes on to say there are many war films depicting male marines and few with women.  And this is where I go I go DUH.  Since the first Gulf War 97% of combat deaths and casualties have been men and they compose over 90% of US Veterans. And previously men fought all wars with very few female combatants.  Ironically I posted a piece about female specific services and the lack of MALE specific services in my memorial Day piece, “Do we support our troops”.  Now I’m thinking I’m headed to a PC “women overcoming adversity and hostile men” piece of work.

I was pleasantly surprised as I found the movie to be a nice piece of linear story telling which wasn’t in any form preachy or judgemental.  The movie opens to a young person (who just happens to be a female), from divorced parents, who is coming of age and wondering what to do with her life.  Deciding to enlist in the Marines she carries her bad habits with her until she finds the canine program, and this is where we meet the dog, “Rex”.  Here she encounters the reality of life, to achieve (anything) requires setting goals and objectives and a commitment to succeed.

We follow her to her deployment in a war zone, having to face the unknown.  She has the “what did I get myself into” and “I’m not ready for this” thoughts that I’m sure every young person has when they first start to make their own decisions for themselves, then have to either suffer the consequences or reap the rewards of their decisions.  Here again the movie isn’t preachy but sticks to the story line presenting issues as the normal course of life.

The story line continues to post deployment where Leavey tries to arrange to have Rex evaluated to allow her to adopt him when he is no longer being used by the military.  Again there is no preaching and the story line shows all perspectives in why things are being done the way they are.  There is no glossing over the challenges she has to face, nor is there a demonization of the people who make decisions counter to her wishes.

I found the story line believable. The interactions of her and her family showed the stresses divorce play upon children and the and the actions and dialogue of parents believable.  The training and conduct of the military personnel was also believable, as were the war scenes, which showed the dangers of military deployment without being overly graphic.  The dangers, and rewards, of military service were portrayed factually.

If you are looking for a movie which speaks to the issue of women in the draft, women in combat, or the downtrodden female overcoming patriarchal adversity, this isn’t it so if you’re looking for a PC movie – stay home.  Also, it isn’t a “blockbuster” nor is it set to be a classic cleaning up the Oscars.  It is a nice little film with a good story line which you can take your teenagers to, enjoy together, and maybe open up some discussion about life itself and their decisions for their future.  If you are looking for a good coming of age war story with a dog as the co-star, this is it.   And if nothing else, you have to like the dog.

Megan Leavey Opens in theaters today, June 9, 2017.  More on “Rotten Tomato” here.

And at the end of the movie I say … 1304-royalty-free-content.jpg and 4 of 5 stars.

 

Do we support our Troops?

A common phrase which I hear a lot these days is “I support our troops”.  Good.  Regardless of personal political opinions we should recognize the sacrifice of the individual in the military who defends our freedoms here at home.  I expect “Troops” conjures up images in our mind such as the one below and others which can be found on the Department of Defense Web site of our Troops working towards goals and objectives to keep us safe.  Who wouldn’t support these fine young people sacrificing for our benefit.  Thank you for your service.

While it is important that we support our troops while on active duty our responsibility to support them doesn’t end there, it continues after they return home.  Unfortunately my experience as a father and family rights activist, Army Brat and Veteran, and member of the Critical Incident Management Team with a NYS law enforcement agency tell me that what we say is far different than what we do when we talk of supporting our veterans, more specifically our MALE Veterans.

A big part of the problem as I see it is men are treated at best as disposable members of society and at worst as  perpetrators of violence and abuse who we need to protect society from.  This bias against men works to foster the public perception that men don’t need any assistance with issues related to their service or due to their being males and in addition it is working to hinder men seeking the assistance they need by not providing male specific outreach and services.  We see this in the lack of programs and services directed towards the specific issues that men face, ignoring their problems.

First the stats:  Since the first Gulf War 97% of combat deaths and casualties have been men and they compose over 90% of US Veterans.  90% of homeless people are men and a large portion of that are veterans.  80% of suicides are men, and a large portion of them are also veterans. In 2016 males accounted for 86% of active duty enlisted personnel and 84.7% of officers.  If we look at longevity as a measure of overall health we find men have a life expectancy (76.2 years) 4.9 years younger than females (81.2 years).  White females life expectancy (81.4 years) eclipses black females (78.4 years), white males (76.7 years), and white females life expectancy is a whopping 14.1 years over black men (72.3 years).   It’s clear that there are many issues related to men which result in negative outcomes evidenced by life expectancy.

I go to the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs website under “Health” and “Conditions and Treatment” I find a link to “WOMEN’S HEALTH ISSUES”  which brings me to the “Office of Women’s Health Services” which links to a study to determine female veterans barriers to receiving care.  Even though men account for 85% of veterans there is no male (men) specific link to resources designed towards the needs of men.  A search of “America’s Male Veterans” returns hits to “Women’s health Issues”!   There is lacking any link to male specific health issues (showing the value the VA places on men), and there is no reference to male specific health issues available (showing the health field’s lack of attention to men)!  The links to “women’s healthcare” include “comprehensive primary care”, “reproductive health”, “child care”, “domestic violence”, “culture change”, and “Special Groups” which is “homeless female veterans”.  Which leads me to ask, DON’T MEN HAVE MALE SPECIFIC ISSUES IN THESE SAME CATEGORIES?

The VA classifies sexual assault and sexual harassment under the heading “Military Sexual Trauma” (MST) and when I look at the issue as portrayed by the VA I see “1 in 4 women and 1 in 100 men REPORT a history to the VA during screenings”.  For those of us who deal with male victims of domestic abuse, harassment, and sexual assault we understand the number one problem with male victims is their reluctance to report!  It is only when I dig through the materials do I find that almost HALF the victims in the program for MST are MALE!  One can only wonder, given the lack of male specific referrals and information, how many men are suffering in silence?

Usually when I author one of these truthful perspectives about the lack of male specific services I receive a ton of responses about being “anti-female”, to the point that I now include the (obvious) disclaimer that I am NOT promoting a reduction in services for females and/or female Veterans.  Indeed, to treat female Veterans like we now treat male Veterans woulds still be mistreating A VETERAN.  The VA (and US) should treat all Veterans equally based upon their individual needs understanding that their sex, race, religion, and national origin may require different outreaches and programs to achieve an equal outcome.  Veterans are not widgets, all the same, they are real people who have sacrificed for all of us and they deserve individual attention to their needs.

Men account for the vast majority of the homeless and the bulk of those men are MALE VETERAN’S.  Men account for the bulk of suicides and many of those are MALE VETERAN’S.  You can’t treat men as disposable members of society who don’t have male specific issues which require services and programs and then say “I support our Veteran’s” as the bulk of Veteran’s are MEN.  Disregarding the health issues of men is to disregard the health issues of Veteran’s.

If you would like to advocate for Veterans (feel free to cut and paste or send the link to this article) you can reach the VA here https://www.va.gov/landing2_contact.htm, and the White House is here https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact, The US Secretary of defense and the Joint Chiefs can be found here https://www.defense.gov/Resources/Contact-DoD/

They stood up for us, we should stand up for them.

When we memorialize those who gave all, in perspective http://prospect.org/article/american-war-dead-numbers the vast majority are men, and it is an issue for our younger generation that men still have to register for the draft (under penalty) and women don’t https://nymensactionnetwork.wordpress.com/2017/04/05/welcome-to-adulthood-gen-z-advice-for-boys-aging-into-men/.

Equal rights, equal responsibilities, equal access to services.