The Single Dad Writer — A Tipsy Lit Guest Post

Comments 39


My son is gone half the time.

But he’s really gone more than that. Because he attends school or daycare during the day while I sit in a cubicle plotting my escape from Corporate America.

Our time, so precious.

He turns six in two weeks. He is beautiful. Both smart and smart-mouthed. Stubborn. Hilarious. Sensitive. Loving. Innocent.

A casualty of the poor choices of his parents.

I am a person who craves rhythm and routine. Not boringness, certainly. But predictability. I have a hard time finding comfort in the unknown.

Logistically—by that, I mean everything unrelated to emotion—this has been the most-challenging aspect of divorce.

Finding the rhythm of life again.

It still eludes me.

My son is here two days, then gone two days. He’s here for a weekend, and not the next.

Many divorced fathers don’t see their children as often as I see mine. I suppose gratitude might be in order. But I don’t feel grateful. I feel cheated. This is not what I wanted.

I focus so much of my thinking and feeling and writing on the loss of my wife and the pain it caused. The pain has at times been unbearable because my marriage ending represented the first time I had ever loved someone more than myself only to have that person ultimately say: “I don’t love you. I don’t want you. You don’t matter. You’re not good enough.”

I write it a lot because it’s true: When this happens to you, some part of you dies. Maybe it comes back to life someday. Fingers, crossed.

Just as painful in a different way is coming home to an empty house, with a couple of my son’s toys scattered in the living room, or his toothbrush and comb laying by the sink—only he’s not there.

There is a semblance of balance when he’s home. There is almost none when he’s not. And all the back and forth, and up and down creates a see-saw experience in which I’ve yet to find sure footing.

Assuming the pain of divorce eventually fades to the background, my young growing son—and his life experiences—will emerge as an even greater focal point.

I want to protect my son from the horrors of this world.

But I also want him to know the truth about the human experience to protect his heart and mind from the shock and awe of adulthood.

I want to shelter my son from the mistakes of his father, as I was sheltered from the failings of my parents.

But I also want him to avoid the colossal disappointment which inevitably comes when your heroes fall unceremoniously from their pedestals.

I want to save him from the pains of being a child of divorced parents—and that includes protecting a more-mature him from whatever emotions he might feel should he ever read his father’s words.

But I also want him—maybe need him—to know who I was. Who I am. Who I will be. Just as I want you to as well.

Some people will care. Most won’t. But this is my “I WAS HERE” scratched into life’s maple tree.

How much do I tell?

I tackle that question today over at Tipsy Lit in a post on the subject of writing about parenting. I hope you’ll visit, follow the fine writers at Tipsy Lit, and join in the conversation there.

Writing and parenting.

It’s a dance. A delicate one. And much like life, I still haven’t got it figured out.

39 thoughts on “The Single Dad Writer — A Tipsy Lit Guest Post”

  1. I love every one of your blog posts! Always happy to click on it as it hits my inbox! Your honesty is a light of truth! Keep sharing your heart & soul! I am a better person because of your truthful sharing! Heart smiles to you Matt!

    1. You’re wonderful, Anne. Thank you for always having such nice things to say and for being a kind person.

      Thanks for taking a minute to say hi. 🙂

  2. You mentioned that moment when your son may read your words and I must say that you have done a splendid job (as of late) of not putting your ex in a bad light. That’s very important. Of course, in the past your writing was different, but that will show your son how you have not only grown, but have also learned to forgive. Those are both very important lessons. I think of the many men who come home without their children there, and for some reason in my mind, I always thought they’d be shouting “freedom!” But, you’ve taught me differently. I’m sorry that you have to go through this. It can’t be easy.

    1. Maybe some men do.

      I don’t want to pretend that I LIKE doing all the work myself. It’s hard.

      What I like is the give and take of mom AND dad caring for a child. In theory, you both stay fresh that way.

      But there’s no question the stress and busyness of single parenting is infinitely better than when he’s not around.

  3. Headed over to Tipsy Lit in a minute, of course, but I had to write. I love this. There’s a certainty in your uncertainty that is bittersweet in a way that the posts on the dissolution of your marriage never could be. Perhaps because in your love for your son and your striving there’s so much more sweet in the love that balances the bitterness of him being gone. And also, here is the certainty of hope. As long as you keep trying to do right, he will love you. That trying is enough is pretty amazing.

    1. Thank you, Jen.

      Even in the comments, your writing is beautiful.

      That trying is enough IS pretty amazing.

      1. That’s awesome! I’m weirdly overly excited for you! Oh and yeah, I should have given you a heads up to just listen with your eyes closed. 😉

  4. lovely post Matt.. and the one on Tipsy Lit too. I think any child, that, somewhere down the line, can read something that their parent has written, who, at the time of writing, is super mega conscious that their child might read it some day… is a very lucky child indeed. (I hope you followed that, I had to read it three times myself!!) It’s ultimately a way of saying “keep going Matt.. it’s all good!!”

    1. Thank you, Verity. I appreciate you taking the time to read them.

      Hope you’ve had a beautiful day.

  5. I did Matt… I spent a lovely day with my Dad, who I don’t see very much because of the distance, and who, despite his Alzheimer’s, can dredge up some wonderful memories from when I was a (very precocious) little girl!!

    It’s always a pleasure to read your posts. They make me stop and think about lots of things, not necessarily from the perspective you write them in.. just from a basic human perspective.

  6. Hi Matt, I really like to read your posts. Especially this one, as there is so much in it I find in my own life: having to let my children go to their father and struggling with the loneliness when they are not with me… And also the question if – and when – my older son will find out about my blog and read… Thank you for writing about all this…

  7. My kids are all grown with kids of their own and I’m beyond caring whether my kids know that mom smoked a little weed back in the day (they know) and yet I’m real uncomfortable with the thought of them ever reading the blog. Some of that stuff is pretty dark. Could it be helpful to them down the road? Maybe. Probably. And yet I don’t want to risk them reading those things. And then thinking less of me.

    I try to be honest and real when I write, but I wonder if it even matters if I won’t be that way with my loved ones…

    1. I totally get it. I figure the words that are supposed to be written, will be. No matter what.

  8. Reading this was my own worst fears coming to life. Should my husbands lies and poor decisions ultimately lead to divorce how do I even get out of bed when she is with her dad? Of course I would want her to be with him and to know him but selfishly how do I allow half of her time to not be with me. Honestly I don’t know how people do the visitation/shared custody thing.

    1. I don’t have the vocabulary to describe the void I felt when I lost my wife forever and my son half the time.

      It’s 14 months later and I’m still reeling some days.

      I completely understand. The war inside your brain regarding the real or theoretical possibility of step parents is bloody and horrible.

      1. Oh good god I hadn’t even made it to the thought of step parents – introducing another parental figure would be a personal hell. I was actually raised by my mom and step dad due to my biological fathers abandonment. I have always known his lack of presences is what made it possible for my step dad to be my dad but never have I considered the other face of that coin. And then to be the ‘unwilling party’ to the divorce … I am so sorry for what I assume is the pain you must feel.

      2. As a step parent it is no picnic for us either. I came into a marriage with a bitter and angry exwife and an 8 year old step daughter. I had not been married before, I had no children of my own. The best thing you can do for your child is keep whatever you are thinking about the step parent to yourself – go to therapy, work it out- but attempt to make the best out of a difficult situation. Making the child feel torn by loyalty causes real harm. It is 25 years later for me and I see the damage that was caused by a mother who could not look past her anger and act with what would be best for her daughter.

        1. I have two stepparents. They are amazing, loving, wonderful human beings who I couldn’t love and appreciate more.

          I would never allow my weakness and insecurity to poison that special relationship. After all, I could easily end up a stepparent too.

          So many chapters left to be written. 🙂

          1. Quite right. I am glad your parents allowed you the opportunity to be able to say what you said about your step parents. It speaks volumes to the type of people they are.

  9. hey Matt, been following for a while… I also co-parent my kids with their father, and although I know how hard it is to “come back to the empty room strewn with toys” I see my kids and they are so completely happy, because they get to be with both their parents in a much more intense and valuable way than when we were bickering parents, obsessed with picking each other to pieces…weirdly, I feel like they are MORE balanced, and adaptable, and nicer human beings for knowing about the frailities of humanity, and also for knowing that you can find solutions to problems…it’s usually us, the left-behind parents, who just need to “get a life” rather than the kids. They are just having fun discovering all the world has to offer, with mom, and with dad, whenever, the more the better. And, as you say, yeah, you should count your blessings. We co-parents are very lucky…in a way, we get to have the best of both worlds.

    1. There’s a lot of truth there. And I appreciate what you’re saying. The only thing I can say for sure is that if I had to choose this life or the one I had before, I choose the one I had before.

      But that also doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the many blessings in my life now. And yeah. Sometimes good things happen and it’s on the nights my son is with his mom.

      I’d be lying to pretend otherwise.

  10. Beautifully written post Matt. I hope you continue to grow, to write, to discover more about yourself in this journey of being divorced. I think you will look back years from now and read what you have written and find it hard to believe it was you. Life changes, we grow, we change, then we look back and can’t believe we lived through it, that we came out on the other side. But we do.

      1. It is true…. I have been there and have emerged on the other side, wiser, amazed that the years I had wish would pass, came and went. Somehow when you are in the middle of it, it seems endless, but here I sit, 25 years later, looking back…

  11. I remember how gut wrenching it was for the few months my son went back and forth. Then his dad bailed on him and he’s been with me ever since. Because of the person his dad is, that is ultimately a good thing and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I felt so much better when there was no more empty home – I still do, even though I’ve remarried. All that to say I hear you. I know it’s better to sweat through the single parenting than to come home to an empty house. You’re a good person to miss him like you do.

    1. Thank you for saying so.

      I don’t know whether that makes me a good person. But I do know it’s confirmation that I know how to love. I suppose that’s good news.

      Nice to hear from you!

      1. Definitely good news! And I wonder, can people who aren’t good people love? I suppose they can. But the evidence shows that you ARE a good person 🙂

        The only thing I would say, because I fell into this trap, is be careful of not making allowances for your son’s behaviour because you feel guilty or feel you have to make up for something or that you can’t ruin your short time together with disciplining. I didn’t do my son any favours by allowing him to get away with things he shouldn’t have. In fact, I inadvertently taught him that he was never really in trouble and no didn’t mean no – we’ve had a lot of work to do to re-teach him that being corrected isn’t a bad thing. Anyway, that’s my advice, for what it’s worth. Feel free to ignore it!

  12. Always speak your truth….no matter what. Not only is it good for you, but there is someone else out the who needs to hear it and know they are not alone.

    As for the balance…I get it. It’s been 4 years for me, and there are times I think I’ve got this shit down…then there are days I think I’m completely failing as a mother and a woman and a human.

    It takes time and learning to see what we have, and stop focusing on what we don’t have. We’ll never have that same thing we once did. That’s ok. If we are lucky (and I know we are) we’ll have something better…a new way to balance.

    You’re doing great Matt. Just for the record.

    1. Thank you so much, Dawn. I really appreciate the people who’ve been through all this reassuring me that I’m not completely failing at being alive now. It sometimes feels that way.

      I hope you’re well.

      1. That’s why blogs like yours are so important…None of us are really failing at being alive. However it’s always better to know you aren’t alone. 🙂

        I’m pushing on…things are good.

  13. I was old enough to understand the details when my parents divorced. I’ve thought about this a million times. What if I didn’t know? What if I was too young to understand when it was happening? Would I have a different view on things if I learned the details now as an adult? I’ll never know the answer to that question. But I think if I had the ability to read my parents thoughts and feelings during that time, it might help me understand in a way I was never able to before.

    Matt, I’ve read just about all of your posts. Even though some of them might make you cringe or feel uncomfortable if your son were to read them, I’ve no doubt he’ll see what the rest of your readers see. A man navigating his way through a painful divorce the best way he knows how. With class. And a man who loves his son and will do anything in the world for him.

    1. 1. I appreciate that you’ve read as much as you have. Thank you for that. Seriously.

      2. It means a lot to me that you feel that way.

  14. We also use the 2-2-3 routine too manage the kids and the only thing I can say is exactly what you’ve wrote: I don’t feel grateful. I feel cheated. This is not what I wanted.
    A big hug!

    1. Thank you.

      I regret writing that I don’t feel grateful.

      But yes, this is not what I wanted. It’s hard to cede protection of your children for days at a time.

      And it just feels bad to be away from them.

      Thank you for the hug!

  15. I think I am glad my sons were adults when I begin to blog, let me rephrase that I know I am glad they were adults. They knew my stories, they and I had sat over tequila and cigars, sometimes things more mellowing and talked late into evenings. We had cried over their lost father, sometimes we had raged. I had answered their questions, sometimes I had not but always I had explained why. I have never, breached my promise to not answer some questions and I have never written about their father.

    I am glad my sons were adults. I loved this one. Someday, you will let him read these. They will be worth late nights on the patio with him. He will be proud of you as a man and a father.

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Matt Fray

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