“She sees me as a hero. It’s time I held up my end of the bargain.”
I’ve made a lot of bad choices in my life. In some ways, it feels like my life hasn’t been my own. It’s like my memories have been part of a movie where I have played the audience and my actions are that of someone else.
The reality, however, is much darker. I am 38 years old. I have sold – and become addicted to – drugs numerous times. I am overweight, my diet is poor beyond belief and I’m a heavy smoker. I have lost thousands through gambling. There are supermarkets in which I cannot go near due to getting caught stealing from them. In my younger days, I stole cars and double-decker buses for the fun of it.
It’s safe to say I have pissed off more people than I dare think about and, more importantly, I’ve let down many that I’ve been able to call a friend.
Four years ago I got the news that I was going to be a father. We had been trying for some time and in some ways, I felt pressured to have children. I wasn’t ready in the slightest. The relationship between my partner and I at the time was unsteady. We were constantly arguing and I was consistently getting trashed as an escape from it all. I was lost!
When we were trying for a baby, I was dealing cocaine. I say dealing; it was more along the lines (no pun intended) of getting wasted every night and every once in a while I would sell some. The rest? Up my nose. Inevitably, this got me into a lot of debt.
Just before my daughter came along, I decided it was time to stop dealing. I got myself a job and initially, things were great. We were getting along OK and I was truly enjoying being a dad. However, although nothing could separate my daughter and I – my crime-fighting partner – the relationship between my ex and I took a turn for the worse. Once our daughter was in bed, I had to face the dwindling relationship that I had with the mother of my child.
When we separated I felt lost, hurt, angry and incredibly lonely.
I’m not here to go into details of what and why we split. Truth be told it was on the cards for a while. Things got very bitter and nasty between us both and it wasn’t fair on our daughter. Rather than enjoy the small number of times I had with her, a lot of it was spent confused, wondering what argument would flare up next with my ex.
In order to compensate for the loneliness, I drink a lot. When I drink, I gamble. Now don’t get me wrong here. I’m not trying to play the victim. I am aware that these actions are my own and I have no one else to blame but myself for where I am. I accept full responsibility.
I’ll be honest with you and tell you that I still find myself doing this – two years after separation. Don’t get me wrong, I think I am a good father, but I know I could be a lot better. I could be there for her more. It’s my own fear that gets in the way.
At times when she’s wanted to play, I’ve snuck off for a cigarette just to stand on my own out of fear from what would happen next. I didn’t want to lose access to my child, but when I was with her I was running away through fear of the unknown.
My daughter didn’t deserve this. She needed her father there.
Even though everything I have put myself and everyone else through, she sees me as her hero.
I know my daughter is missing me. Yet instead of ringing her daily, I sometimes get lost in my own bullshit, thinking she doesn’t need to speak to me nor want to. But the reality is anything but. Our children need us more than we could ever understand.
Maybe it’s just me. But I feel parenting is a minefield. For mums, I have found that they have great networks. Their lives are a flurry of options for groups to attend and take our beloved offspring. For me, I never really had that. Sure I take my daughter to groups, but they are predominantly mums.
Soon my daughter will be celebrating her fourth birthday. I can’t help but get upset about that as I know that I haven’t been the best father to her up until this point. But even though everything I have put myself and everyone else through, she sees me as her hero. Whether she is playing with her friends or meeting new kids in the playground, I am nearly always the topic of initial conversation. In her eyes, I am her hero.
This is my journey as a father. A separated father who has started his journey without a clue. But I’m learning. I know it starts by showing up. The rest I can learn along the way.