A couple good friends asked me what I was thinking about when I posted the last post, “The Things I’m not going to tell you.”
They’re pretty wise people. In fact, I was wondering the same thing myself. I’m quite clear on what I meant. I wasn’t as clear about why I was feeling so intensely. I thought I’d say a little more about that topic. I’m all for artistically done ambiguity. But I’m also all for calling a spade a spade.
So this is what I was trying to say, and why I was feeling so intensely about it:
Failure to treat parenting as a full time vocation is a profound act of cowardice and quite possibly the root of more evils than I could possibly list.
I was most specifically focused on a couple good friends who are raising their children with out the childrens’ biological fathers. One of the dads has just gotten somebody else pregnant. And I want to kick him in the teeth. A lot.
But I also want to tell him, I want to scream at him, that being a dad isn’t something you can do part time. This doesn’t mean he has to be married to the mom. It doesn’t mean he has to have custody. But it does mean that caring for his daughter can’t be something on his to-do list. It has to be that the fact that he is a father has to be written on the top of the page of every to-do list he ever writes. The fact that he is a father has to be the filter for everything he’ll ever put on a to do list.
If he doesn’t do this, then he, and everybody else can use whatever words they want. All the words in the world won’t change the fact that he’s not a real dad.
We make so much of teary reunions when dad’s finally get it. And in doing that we imply a message: “If you get your head out of your rectum, in a few years it’ll be like you had all that time back.” And honestly, I have to say, I think that’s dead wrong. A child more loving than me might be able to forgive an absentee father. But forgiving isn’t the same as having those years back. I don’t think we send that message enough “You’ll never have those years back.” And much more importantly “Your child will never have those years back.”
As for why do I feel so intensely? At first I was going to play the “Jesus is Lord of the lost and forgotten card.” But that’s actually just a cover.
The harsh truth is this:
That could have been me.
I married my wife when she was like 7 months pregnant. I spent half a year trying to justify and rationalize how I was going to fit impending fatherhood into my life. Being a dad was well on it’s way to my to-do list. Probably a bit above the chain of monogous relationships I was gunning for. Probably a bit below the idea of being a philosophy professor.
Like so much righteous indignation, much of this is truly aimed at the parts of myself that I don’t like, the pieces of me that would have been so capeable of standing on the dock and watching the boat pull away.