Daddys and Donors

Posted: June 17, 2012 in Child Welfare
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It seems that most of my 42 years on this earth have been influenced by war.  This is a realization I came to recently.  While I was in the womb, making nine months of my mother’s life miserable, my father was a soldier serving in Viet Nam.  Fortunately for me he was finally able to see me just a couple days before my first birthday.  If family legend holds true, I was able, thanks to my mother’s efforts, to recognize my father when I was finally able to meet him.  Unlike thousands of children from the 60s and 70s I was able to have a long term relationship with my father, who is still around today.

My children have never known anything but my Army career.  My son was 4.5 years old when 9/11 happened and my daughter was born in 2005.  My oldest daughter, the reason I chose the military as a path, unfortunately has not been able to develop a relationship with me.  I still hold out hope for that one, it is at least a very cordial relationship.  What I am trying to get to in this regard is that my children, like me, have had their lives to date influenced in some way, shape, or form by war.  In just seven years of my daughters life, I have been deployed for almost half of it.

I am very fortunate that in over 50 months of time away between Iraq and Afghanistan, that I have made it home in tact each and every time.  I hope that despite all the future parental difficulties that come with raising children (military families are not immune to the same things that our civilian counterparts are) that my wife and I will raise a couple of good children.  My additional hope is that they do not find a need to carry on the family tradition of military service and instead find ways to give back to the community and the country that do not require the same sacrifices I have made, or even worse allow their families to feel the extreme loss of other that I have known.  You see as a father, I wish to take the extremely selfish tack of not wanting to have my children to have to suffer, especially in the real-world violence of the military.  Should they decide to take that route however, I will stand behind them and support them wholeheartedly in their efforts.

I have known several fathers who have either left their lives on the battlefield or have had their lives indelibly altered as a result of being on the battlefield.  These men have left behind families that they cared for deeply.  Most of the men I have known had more than one child.  These children of varying ages will complete their lives without the influence of their father.  Many of these children’s families will maintain ties to the military.  It is incredible how many families maintain their connections to the military after suffering a loss like that.  Many mothers even end up re-marrying into the military.  Those who marry wisely will have a man who can step up and eventually have those children be seen as “daddy” as well.  Not as a replacement, you can never replace a parent that has so influenced you, but as a man who can step forward and give those children the things they need in life, including have the strength and integrity to continue forward with them when it eventually gets to the breaking point.  Tragically, there will be many little boys and girls who never got to meet their father.  They will go through life without ever knowing if the other person in their mother’s life would have turned out to be a father or a daddy.

Quite possibly that most difficult circumstance for a child to grow up with is with a father who has been wounded in action.  This is especially true when it is a severe injury, one that they will have a daily reminder of.  The type of injury in which they must play a part in the recovery.  This does not always have to be something they can see physically.  Many children must witness the emotional and psychological turmoil that someone who has reached their limit must go through.  This can be the most difficult of all circumstances for young children, even older ones.  The right help and love from the family, especially the children can be what is needed to help a man get back to being the father, the daddy, that every child needs in their life.

Any man, with the physical capacity to do so, can father children.  The point is a scientific fact.  If you watch Maury Povich and Jerry Springer, some of the people on that show seem to think it is their divine provenance to spread their seed and multiply.  This regardless of the fact that they cannot take care of themselves, never mind as was in the news recently about a Knoxville man, the 131 children he has fathered over the course of some 16 years.  My wife and I have a hard enough time taking care of the two children we have living at home and still maintain what we hope are applicable life lessons, opportunities and manage to get them to appointments on time.  I cannot imagine how someone who has little motivation for improving their own lives, minimal salary or on government assistance, and saddled with tons of child support can do it.  Unfortunately, the truth is all to often, these “donors” have no intention beyond the superficial of being a daddy.

Donors are those men out there who do their part to make children, but do  nothing to make their children’s lives better than theirs were.  They more often than not have a great influence on their child’s lives, even if they are a horrible parent.  These poor kids grow up with the desire and the fantasy of what they see this “father” as, despite the number of disappointments they are handed on a regular basis.  The kids are not aware of what it takes to raise them, just that they want the man who helped give them life to do it.  The small percentage of them that will get ahead in life relatively unscathed, will be thanks to the love and mentoring of people in their lives.  People who can hopefully show them the right paths to walk down or how to recover when you take a wrong turn.

I hope that one day my oldest daughter and I will be able to have more of a relationship than we currently do.  Circumstances being what they have been for the last 19.5 years, I have not had the role in her life that I would have like to had.  There were many years of her life I did not know where she lived, that was a failing between her mother and I.  Prior to her turning 18 I was finally able to meet her face to face and tell her a few things.  After many years, there was no animosity on my part towards her mother, and I could see that despite my absence in her life, she was able to grow up a relatively normal child along with her brothers and sister.  Despite all the normal issues that growing up in any family bring, she was raised pretty good in my opinion.  While we do not have the open relationship between my daughter and he siblings from my end that I would like, there is a possibility that one day there will be.  I may have been a “donor” when it comes to my daughter, but it was due to circumstance, not desire or ability.  I think she recognizes that and she has had a pretty good life without me.

I bring this up because I realize things are not always black and white.  It is not always a case of daddy or donor, sometimes there are extenuating circumstances, and otherwise good men are not always given the opportunity to realize their daddy potential.  It does not mean their children will not have good lives and learn to be good people, it just means they may not be a part of it.  It happens.  I have also witnessed far too many examples of “men” who should not have been able to breed.  They may have some fine, beautiful children, but it has absolutely nothing to do with them outside of the few minutes of fun it gave the parents.  Too many men out there are failing at fatherhood.  They do not have the excuse of military commitments or the loss of a child of a police officer or fire fighter.  They simply do not have the capacity to be responsible parents and live up to the commitments that the non-use of prophylactics has caused them.  The juvenile system is full of children whose parents were incapable of taking care of them, despite the fact they were biologically capable of creating a life.

A child is a wonderful thing.  They are born innocent and without the prejudices and influences we have in our lives.  Starting in the second they are born, these little beings begin to be shaped by what is around them.  Just a little later in life, they are also affected by what is not around them.  Nature versus nurture, the battle will always rage on as to which method is the best.  Personally, I do not think it can be broken down into two simple terms or systems.  As humans we are the sum of what is around us.  We are sponges that absorb everything, sometimes it does not come out until years later and you may wonder where the influence comes from, but eventually everything we see, hear or do from birth will have an affect on your life one day.  A daddy can help affect the way a child turns out, a good one can anyway.  When it comes to a donor, they also can affect how a child turns out, in which way is up to the rest of the influences in that child’s life.  We need more men to step up and be a Daddy in a child’s life.  Even if there is not a biological tie to that child.  If you have something to offer, then they deserve the benefit of it, they are innocent in their circumstances.

For all the other Daddies out there, Happy Fathers Day.  For those children who have lost the daddy in their life, I hope there is or will be someone who can be that influence in your life; someone you may one day look back on as be able to call daddy.

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