Several years ago I represented the mother of a divorcing couple’s children. It was one of those ugly custody battles over who got primary control and more time with the children. I called Dad to the stand to ask him why he didn’t always exercise his periods of possession with his children as allowed in the decree. His answer was astounding. His answer made my heart sink.
With a straight and resolute face, this guy told the Court that he refused to pick up his children on many occasions because they didn’t deserve to see him. In fact, he went on to proudly announce that he told his kids, in no uncertain terms, that he would not pick them up for visitation unless they obeyed every instruction. They must comply with every expectation of conduct when they were with him. These children ranged from four years old to teenagers. If they couldn’t act the way he expected them to, then “they did not deserve to get to spend time with him” on the next scheduled visit. That’s right-they did not deserve to get to spend time with him!
This man was a licensed professional in the state of Texas, with a brilliant mind and a wonderful set of skills. But he was beyond arrogant. He was beyond conceited. He was narcissistic and self-absorbed to the point that the world revolved around him, and he felt the power to control all that revolved around him, and particularly his children.
Obviously, his ex-wife did not live up to his expectations, and his disdain for her had been made obvious for years. Perhaps it was the children’s fault that they were half of Mom’s DNA and were not inherently perfect like Dad. At least that is what he’d like to think.
This past Sunday was Father’s Day, and I cherished the ability to spend that day, just like every other day, with my children. There are times I’m pretty sure they don’t cherish every day with me. But they’re kids, and they have not matured to the level of adults yet. So it is irrelevant to me whether or not my children cherish each moment with their father. I see it as my job to cut them slack, fill their gaps in maturity, and persistently be their consistently present and caring parent known as “Dad.”
What a shame about this father from many years ago. That’s what the Judge thought, too. She was incredulous about what came out of his mouth, coupled with the contemptuous audacity he displayed in regaling the Court with his misguided parenting style.
That brings me to this learning point (pardon my rare sports analogy). Judges cannot make fathers into good parents. Lawyers cannot make fathers into good parents. Parents must step up to the plate on their own and take the pitches as they come. Sometimes we hit them well, and sometimes we miss by a mile. But once we put our kids in the game, it is up to us to keep swinging and keep the game going. We don’t have to hit a home run every time, but nothing sings like a good solid base hit. It’s not easy sometimes, but the experience of playing is worth it.