(I find myself scrolling — not trolling — your posts so I can engage with them. A worthy partner in discourse is a rare find.)
Something that is hardly articulated by men online about our kids’ being taken from us, is how that feels. And I won’t even try and describe it, and by no means try and hold it up against maternal love and compare the one to the other. They are indeed different.
But a man’s love for his children exists. It is as real as a mother’s, and not the same. I wouldn’t know nor presume to say whether it is of equal magnitude or gravity, because this is never the point, when a man loves and then loses his children. They exist to us, the love and great desire we have to do things for them, to care for them, to be equal to a father’s task, irrespective of any foolish debate over it being equal to a mother’s role, these things are real.
I was raised in a household in permanent crisis. My mother was a born and dedicated homemaker, but was disabled first physically in the short term and then emotionally for years thereafter, by a hysterectomy. Some instinct in me as her youngest had me trying to learn to fill in some of what she wasn’t doing around the house because I knew somehow that these things were what she most wanted to be doing, but couldn’t.
I remember going to her bedroom door after not even seeing her emerge for days, at maybe twelve or thirteen years of age, to ask her cautiously how one washed dishes. It needed to be done, and I knew my mother as a woman who did what needed to be done, and my dad and siblings weren’t doing it.
And don’t go patting me on the back or going all teary-eyed on what a cute story, etc, etc. It isn’t a good memory. But what it means, is that as a very young boy I had every reason and motive to learn early, the domestic arts. As a man both bachelor and married, taking care of a house was never anything I felt was any woman’s duty owed me, I was in there doing it with or without a household partner. And in the meantime I had learned to build and maintain and renovate one, in the bargain.
So when I had a first child, I wanted without even thinking about it, to be right in the middle of this new project, of caring for and marveling at a new life. Changing diapers was fun, even after the smell came along. Giving a baby a bath was a delight, other than the crowd of cooing, self-admiring women I wanted to make go away because they were making my baby boy cry and upsetting him.
But they wouldn’t go away, these mothers-in-law and mom’s-girlfriends so intent on using that child to congratulate themselves for their caring-nurturerness. They wanted me, to go away. Being good at the craft of fathering, was a disruption, and an annoying signal to them that having a uterus isn’t the only source of care and nurture in a parent.
I have seen this since, for years now, in mothers who act as if caring for the children is a woman’s personal territory, and her monopoly by right to undertake only as she sees fit. Men pushed aside, corrected, and that eye-rolling thing, that sense that being a man in his own children’s company is something “inappropriate”, not to the kids who enjoy male care and thrive in it, but to the moms who act as if they are being shown up by a man who is skilled with children or in homemaking.
And I was done away with. Those bonds, those little day-to-day habits, those little private jokes and wordless exchanges a man shares with his children, just severed unceremoniously. And this, has been something that I feel as a loss. What that loss represents to my children, I couldn’t even begin to calculate. But it exists, whether any mother feels it is such a disposable quantity to a man or to a child that she can just toss it out of her life’s plan.
I don’t care, if anyone thinks they understand how I feel, about being a father and then being dismissed from service. About what it is to be someone’s very favorite man in the world, the first man a child loves in life, the very meaning and definition of manhood itself for them, and then overnight become something disruptive, inappropriate, unnecessary to them. I couldn’t explain that feeling if I tried, and I’m not going to. It’s mine, you can’t have it, and I wouldn’t wish such an experience on anyone.
Because, it is so very, very real.