When I was 34 years old I had 3 children, a beautiful wife, lots of struggles and some bad history. But I was, I thought, being a good parent.
When I was 36 years old I had, at least in the physical form, no children, no wife, lots of struggles and some extremely bad history including the last 2 years. I thought I was being a bad parent because my children were not in my care.
When I was 38 years old I had more love for my children than I’d ever had before in spite of the fact that I was halfway around the world away from and had no contact. I loved my ex-wife more than I had loved her in the 14 years of our marriage, I had no bad history including the last 38 years and I knew I was a great parent now.
I confused control, influence, expectations, contribution and companionship with love. I thought the only way to love somebody was to touch them physically or impact them materially. I had no idea the value of love in a non-tangible form. I had no idea the negative impact I was having on my children by sharing my love in the form of my expectation. I wanted my children to be happy, healthy, wise, intelligent, enthusiastic and loving. And in all this wanting I thought I was loving but wanting and loving are 2 different things.
Is going to sound extraordinary for you the reader to read this. I wish my wife, ex-wife, had taken my children away on the yacht sooner. It’s easy to say that now because now I see the damage my judgement and expectations were having on my children and the horrible impact split parenting with incompatible expectations would have caused my children.
At the time all this happened when I was 34 I would never have dreamt to have suggested to even proceed with the separation let alone make it happen sooner. My perspective was completely self absorbed and although I couched all my efforts to stop my children sailing away on a yacht around the world for the next 5 years in terms of their own best interest I was lying. I thought I was acting in the best interest but really it was my own self-centred needs that were limiting me to that perspective.
But there’s a more important awareness that came from this. Parents can separate happily. They may not like each other or be in any way interested in friendship with each other but they must understand that 2 CEOs governing one employee with different reward criteria will cause that employee to become dishonest with themselves and others. In other words the good intention of 2 parents to give the best to the children must require that one parent become the support to the other and one parent be the CEO, the dominant caregiver of the family.
Of course in a household where parents are together this dynamic is also valid because if 2 people send signals to one child that there are contradictory rules of engagement and that the child is loved for one set of behaviours while the other parent signals the opposite then the child becomes an actor in a play dancing from 1 foot to the other trying to seek what they want most, love, and not understanding why one parent rejects one another parent accepts as being lovable.
In the last 3 years of my marriage and my daughter was born. She was born at a time when my marriage was not in a healthy state of trust. Our communication was wrestling to find harmony and this in turn meant our daughter deeply who was loved by both of us was getting to different sets of signals from 2 people who should have been sending one signal. Unbeknown to me, the lack of trust and love in my relationship with my ex-wife became a form of expression in the direction of my daughter we compensated out problems by loving her more.
One would think this lack of trust and love between 2 parents that resulted in more love for the daughter would result in a benefit for the daughter. But this disparate love came loaded with expectations. It was at heart pure love but it expressed itself in many hopes and dreams and expectations that should have been dealt with at another level. Nothing affects the child more than the un-lived life of the parent and went to parents have fallen out of love the child is even more impacted because they are getting so many mixed signals.
I wish my wife (ex-wife) had run away with my daughter and my 2 sons sooner because they deserved love at such a young age that was either unconditional (which is what I learnt to do through the pain of the separation in a physical way) and they deserved that came the love with a consistent set of signals through the CEO of the family. Split love coming from 2 people who are not communicating with each other and therefore creating mixed expectations can only do harm.
It’s 25 years since that separation. I see it differently from here. I have a deep friendship with my children that is not always conventional. But in 25 years since that separation I have never stopped loving my children unconditionally. My children might say I was not there for them in the classic sense and they are right but I know that nothing is ever missing it just changes in form and my form of classic fathering was taken by the stepfather who did a wonderful job.
Anybody can parent a child. Surrogates parents can be hired. Nannies and caregivers can be rented. People can change a child’s nappy, people can cause a child to do their homework or teach them to eat correctly at the dinner table or to be honest. But nobody can love a child more than the parent and that is a role that many parents, certainly me during my divorce proceedings didn’t value.
I’ve worked with many people who are bitter an angry at the parents. Gay people, divorced people, angry people and unhealthy people all so often want to love the parent but for some judgement can’t. Deep beneath the judgement the love for the parent exists but it blocked by ego and collusion with those who agree on the judgement. I would rather trust that love that exists below the ego than try to placate the ego of my children in order to win the love. Because that love that I win would be just ego love.
When parents fight for custody battle exists greater than they understand. A parent thinks like I thought that the only way to love the child is to control, influence, guide and impact the life but this is a gross underestimation of the real duty of a parent. I’ve been criticised over these years for not participating in my children’s life as a real father. There is a part of me that burns in sorrow for the opportunity lost to play with my children as a classical parent model would predict. I missed the teenage years as they lived on the yacht and grew up in Paradise without me. I was occasionally jealous of the role taken over by the stepfather, so I’m not pretending here to be a saint but what I am saying is that I have the right to say that the love that I hold for my children, even though it’s not recognised on billboards or in academic results, is and was as important a part of their life as any other aspect and so I added value in my way, in a precious way simply by holding love under incredibly challenging situations.
There is also a resolution to be had at the level of thankfulness because bitterness about not having things the way we want or expect them to be can cause more damage than any divorce or loss of custody. So I had to process the loss of my children in the physical form to the world sailing trip in a way that made me thankful that they had gone on a journey without me and that my love and my financial support was valuable.
Suddenly I had turned 38 years old and I had a great gift. I had the luck to birth 3 beautiful children with a woman that I loved dearly and I had the financial gift to give them to make the journey safe in life but what about me. Was that the end of my life awkward this be seen as an opportunity?
Since that day when I was 38 years old and I realised that love is as valuable a parenting gift as possession or custody I was given an opportunity to teach and travel and give and care for other people experiencing a similar disaster and confrontation in the lives. I took this as being my way of creating benefit out of disaster. I didn’t want to be bitter all lonely or missing my children an dumping that load on them for the rest of their lives. So I began speaking to groups of people about putting the heart and soul, love, and a higher priority in life than custody and materiality.
A travel to Canada to work with people who are struggling to evolve. I travel to Nepal to take people to mountaintops where they recognise that life always has a beautiful aspect no matter how difficult it may seem. I’ve written books about thankfulness are about transformation of circumstances to get beyond egocentric perceptions that had locked me in to the belief that I could only be a father if I had custody of my children.
So, may be if I had a magic wand and could go back to the age of 34 with my current awareness I would wish my wife (ex-wife) would sail we on the yacht sooner and cause me to learn what I’ve learnt sooner and have less impact on my daughter living in the shadow of love from 2 people who no longer concluded on what love really meant to her. I realise that expectations blocked love.
Would I change things? To change the circumstances but arrived in my life when I was 34 years old and the father of 3 children I would have to go back and change my life from the moment my mother died when I was 2 years old. I would have to have a different father and a different brother and I wish never to change that. So, I guess the truth of the matter is that this situation was a destiny not necessarily one written in the poetry books of the great libraries about mystical dance and poetic romance but more about a boxing ring in which a fighter comes away losing the fight but winning and experience worth more than any trophy.
Footnote; the one nightmare that many of my clients get involved with is the demand to provide financial support at an extremely generous level without having any moral or emotional control over the child and how that money is spent. They feel they have the worst end of the stick providing money but losing control. In this perspective they reveal the mind space that caused the separation in the 1st place and make obvious the work required before love transcends the egocentric perspective and expectations that block the very thing they value most, their love.