For those of you who know me, or have spoken to me when my son was younger and would be sick, you may recall my frustrations from interactions with my son’s mother during those times. It had been a struggle for me to spend time with him and provide him care during his times of need (although that’s not so much the case now). At first I thought it was perhaps from my own selfishness of wanting to be there for my son, or the confidence that I could care for him just as well as his mother, which drove that frustration. I’m sure each parent has been there when his or her child may be sick. You know your child is not feeling well, you can hear the pain in their voice, and you want to do whatever you can to make it better. It’s more difficult when they’re very young, because they’re unable to communicate the source of the pain, so all you’re able to derive is the discomfort they are in. I mean, sure, there are easy tells (such as a fever); but you’re not always lucky enough to have an easily identifiable symptom to help isolate a probable source of their pain. As they get older, and they can speak well enough to communicate a tummy ache or headache, it’s still not always clear to what extent they have an issue. Is he going to vomit, or is he just constipated? Did he bonk his head or is he having some sort of symptomatic migraine?
My son is almost four now. And these days (sometimes to my amusement) I get more descriptive answers from him when he’s communicating pain: My tummy is full, I ate too much. My tummy hurts, I have to go poopies. My noggin hurts, the dresser bonked it. But it was the earlier period (between two and three) where one could not rely on his communication skills to diagnose pain, which was a point of contention between his mother and I. Whenever my days for custody would arrive and Iain was sick, the immediate stance of his mother was that since he was sick, I was more than welcome to come visit him that evening, but that he was staying home with her that night. Not an option, not a possibility for discussion, just: these are the terms. Now I didn’t always question whether or not he was sick, but I definitely questioned her ability to determine if it was to an extent that he shouldn’t spend time with me at my home. I mean, I’m his Father. I’m just as capable of taking care of him too. I can check his temperature, read him stories, and keep him hydrated. And who’s to say that it isn’t some mild 24-hour bug, or something less severe (like constipation). I’m capable of administering medicine, or feeding him roughage. What’s worse was during that year it seemed as though he was always sick. Whether it be from a lack of a normal shot schedule, his exposure to other kids during the church day-care on Sundays, or something his mother brought home from her internship at the hospital… every time I was scheduled to have Iain, I’d get a call at the 11th hour that he’s not coming over, but I can come see him if I like. Um, hello, we have a custody schedule. I’m not so insensitive or selfish that I would expect him to always be with me when he was sick. One would have to be heartless to take a doubled over kid with a fever, who had vomited earlier, out of the comfort of his current home just to stay a night or two with his dad.
Sure, when he was an infant, and even in the early toddler stages, I conceded to his mother’s demands that he stays home when sick so that she could provide him the necessary care. But as he got older, and I was more capable and confident, I found myself always upset and questioning this arrangement. First off, who really wants to spend time in their former wife’s home, even if it is to see your sick son? Factor in the constant scrutiny you feel you’re under, because they’re obviously watching everything you’re doing and judging you… or at least it seems that way. And I had the added benefit that my former wife moved in with her parents. So I felt the additional weight of two more sets of eyes watching me. Then there is the inconvenience that I was obviously coming straight from work (yes I’m making this part about me), would typically have dinner with my son at my own home, but now I had to rush to someone else’s house. There were many times that I would come in and everyone there would have just eaten, yet another missed opportunity with my son. Plus it’s not like they offered me anything (perhaps that was expecting too much), but you can kind of see my point (I did finally get offered some left-overs once; maybe twice). Then there was the obstacle of wanting to do things for my son, which I typically would do at my home when I had him, that his mother or grandparents felt obliged to address in their home (ex: setting the bath schedule, changing diapers, putting on a T.V. show, etc.). I mean, this was supposed to be my time, and essentially I was subjected to endure a form of torture because his mommy wanted to care for a sick child, who (might I add) many times appeared completely normal while I was there (I’m not going to go into the excuses I received of how he was feeling/acting earlier in the day which warranted her decision, because I’m sure they could probably be substantiated, but that’s not the point here).
I endured this hell because I love my son, and felt it was for his benefit. But, if we’re going to be honest with one another, having Daddy come over to play with his son and then put him to sleep essentially was unnecessary and a selfish act on his mother’s part. If he’s well enough to play with Daddy, then why can’t he travel 20-30 minutes to be with his Dad as he was supposed to be; who is capable of giving him a similar level of loving care; and where that child is still comfortable and at home; at his Father’s home. It seems we’ve forgotten a simple fact: a child of divorce parents has two homes… because when mommy isn’t around and our little one has a boo-boo, whom does he ask to kiss it: Daddy. And when he’s with his Father and he suddenly doesn’t feel good, who is going to take care of him: Daddy. It is the inevitable role that any single parent must play when they have sole custody of their child for some percentage of time. Perhaps it isn’t engrained in all males, or an inherent trait. But whether it need be learned or not, a parent must provide for their child. Fathers are caregivers too!