I’ve often lamented that I’m a part-time father. I hate that I only get to spend half of my life with my children. I’m lost on the weekends they aren’t with me. While those first few moments of peace and quiet are a welcome respite, not long afterward I begin to miss the noise of C’s laughter. Or the house shaking as the twins wrestle in their room.
The fact of the matter is, despite how much I loathe my situation I’m quite lucky. In a lot of states fathers don’t get equal parenting rights. Just a few miles north of me in Ohio, more often than not the best a father can hope for is one day a week and every other weekend with his children. I would absolutely die if that was all the time I could spend with my children.
It’s been eight years since I left the twins mother, and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done for a variety of reasons. First and foremost was gathering up the courage to leave an abusive marriage. The real hurdle for me was leaving the children. I didn’t really leave them, but it felt like I did. I didn’t get to come home to them every night. I didn’t get to tuck them in every night. I didn’t get to wake them every morning. I didn’t get to eat dinner with them every evening. I didn’t get to ask them how school was every day. Frankly, I stayed in that horrible marriage so long mostly for them. I didn’t want this life for them. I didn’t want to be away from them.
It took the next five years to come to grips with our new normal. I had to keep their bedroom door closed when they weren’t there because seeing their room without them inside often brought me to tears. A few months after C was born, though, I didn’t have time to even think about the fact that they weren’t there because raising an infant takes every bit of your attention.
Now I’m a part-time father for him, too, and I fucking hate it even more. The worst part isn’t that I only get to share half of my life with him. No. The worst part is he only gets to share half of his life with his brothers, the twins, who absolutely adore him and he them. C loves his “bubbies.” They play. They wrestle. They laugh. They have a blast. I love watching and hearing them play. That they don’t get all the time in the world together makes me inescapably morose.
I’ve realized yet another thing I loathe about being a part-time father.
It never really dawned on me until now, but my children have completely separate lives when they’re away from me. I don’t know why it never occurred to me, but it struck me yesterday as my mom was telling me how C was going on about swimming with his Granny, his mother, and her new boyfriend/fiancée/whatever. He’s having a whole other life of fun without me.
Then, as I was scrolling through my Facebook feed just a few short minutes ago, I came across a picture of the twins and their cousins – cousins on their mother’s side of the family – and it hit me. The twins have a whole other life, too. They have an aunt, an uncle, a mawmaw, cousins, and an entire church full of friends in their lives when they aren’t with me. While looking at this picture I felt like I was looking at children I merely thought I knew. Like, they looked familiar, but I couldn’t place them. It was a truly disconcerting and disturbing feeling. I didn’t like it.
This isn’t how it was supposed to be. My children weren’t supposed to have facets of their lives inaccessible to me. Not until they were adults, anyhow. But they do. The twins have lived dual lives since they were 6. C on and off since he was two. I’m not gonna lie…it hurts. It hurts that they have separate lives of which I have no part. That I can’t relate to. That I only get to hear about and not experience with them. I feel like I have this hole in my heart that was supposed to be filled by all these experiences with them that will remain empty because I’ll never have them.
I love my children. I love being a father. But I don’t like being a part-time father and this is just one more reason why. Often times I wish they’d never have to leave me, but were that to come true they’d never have these alternate lives fulfilling them. That what be selfish of me and harmful to them.
Just once I’d like for life to be easy.