This is for the fathers who are fighting the good fight-fathers who are doing all they can to be seen as good men in the eyes of their children. It's for the fathers who, at every turn, are abused, disrespected and ridiculed by the mothers. It's for the fathers who miss holidays, who are excluded from birthdays, who are scorned simply for having even a shred of their children's love. It's for the fathers who are haunted by the knowledge they cannot guarantee the safety of their beautiful children. It's for the fathers who should have a sacred place in their children's lives because that's exactly where they belong.
I am a mother. My husband is working tirelessly to have a relationship with his daughter. I have held him as he has reeled from the challenges; I have shaken with anger as he has suffered in his quest to be in his daughter's life. I have lain awake in bed into the wee hours of the morning, wordlessly sharing his fear for his daughter.
Fathers, it isn't always this way. You deserve more. You deserve better. Even more important, your children deserve better.
To the men who fight for their children:
Don't stop fighting
Advocate for your children. Though your words may fall on deaf ears, make your thoughts known. Defend your children in times of danger. Give them the voice they may not otherwise have.
Document precious and everyday moments
Maintain a binder of memories (My husband has several, at this point.). Save it all.
Learn the laws in your state. Familiarize yourself with family law, child welfare policies, school policies and law enforcement policies. Leave no stone unturned in your quest for knowledge. Knowledge is power; knowledge is a weapon in your arsenal. Keep your arrows sharp, your eye trained and your mind ready to take up any and all pursuits necessary to be a good father to your children.
Communicate with your children's mother
Communicate in a courteous, polite, calm manner. Remember your relationship with her is for the good of your children. Keep your children's needs at the forefront of your mind, casting aside matters from the past that don't relate to your children. Communicate as though a judge, custody evaluator or attorney is scrutinizing your words because one day your words may be out on the table, open to examination by all.
What I admire most about my husband is his quiet refusal to express insults. He knows if he throws mud, he loses ground. He focuses on the best interests of his child. One day, your child will be an adult. Behave in such a way that will make your child proud as he or she learns about your past.
Join a father's support group. Pray. Meet with an attorney. Read a book. Have coffee with a fellow fighting father. Unite with those who will bring you up and encourage you. Draw courage and determination from those who have gone before you, and strive to empower others who are in the same boat.
Be a marathoner, not a sprinter
You're in this for the long haul. There will be future heartache. There may be injustice dealt by those appointed the right to decide where your child spends her nights. There will be sleepless nights and worry-filled days. The road may be long and bleak at times, but it will be worth it.
Whether your child is in the throes of adolescence or just taking her first steps, yours is a journey for the strong, for the dedicated, for the devoted. Dig in your heels, and remember this too shall pass. Your children will mature, and they will one day rely on their own feelings and opinions. It is your job to stay your course and demonstrate to them the qualities of a good father.
Allow yourself to feel pain, love and empathy. Let your children witness your fragility, strength, love and desire for fairness and justice. Light their paths in life, modeling for them through your words and your deeds what it means to be a good man, a good father. Demonstrate to them your unshakable devotion to meeting their needs, to loving them in a way only a father can.
Be strong in your crusade to be a good father to your children. Live for their well-being. Keep them in the center of your heart and your mind, and you'll never go wrong.
Never give up.
This article was originally published on The Good Men Project. It has been republished here with permission.