Wow, you say? Dad of The Year, you say? You run a successful parenting blog, you say? Yes, yes, yes. You see, the reality is I lost custody of my 22-year-old daughter when she was 13. I had 13 wonderful years where I was activity engaged in her life. That time came to an end when a judge, who knew me for less than 2 hours, took my engagement in her life away. The judge said, “I know she testified that she wants to stay with the father, but she is a girl and needs to be with her mom.” That was ten years ago.
In many states, men should really reconsider whether they fight for custody.
Little did this judge know, he was sending me and my role as a father down a dark, rabbit hole. His response, “you are both good parents” did nothing to help my pain then and ultimately destroyed the relationship I had with my daughter.
In the state of Nebraska, 92% of fathers lose custody when custody is challenged in the court system. That’s crap. The system is broken. No surprise. How do you change such a large institution?
I can still recall that day on August 7, when the ruling returned. I hear my attorney say, “ they awarded her full custody” as clearly today as I did 10 years ago. I remember holding my 13-year-old daughter who was devastated by the decision. The judge was not there in that moment. Her mother wasn’t there at that moment. It was only me and my daughter.
The judge had the luxury of retiring back to the comfort of his chamber, never to face me again. There should be a mandated “check period.”He never had to face the consequences of his decision. What would he say today? I understand full custody means someone loses custody. It is impossible for both parents to win; but, who is thinking of the children? The judicial system clearly is not.
So why did I reach out today?
A couple of days ago, I was on an airplane watching a movie. In that movie, a character says, ”..you never know what tomorrow will hold.” Yes. That’s cliche, but it had weighed on my heart since I heard those words. I am 47, almost 48. I live a blessed life. My wife put up with the emotional baggage after the loss of my daughter. I have two incredible sons, whom I never expected to have in my life and a family and community that love me for who I am.
“Move on,” they say. “She’ll come around,” they say. “Rubbish,” I say. I want her to know, regardless of where she is in her desire to get to know me, that I love her. Unconditionally. It started again today with my phone call.
My daughter is 22. I don’t know her anymore. I wish that wasn’t true. My sister is a friend of hers on Instagram and I get random pictures from her feed. She has grown into a beautiful young woman. I’m proud she is doing well. The last time she was in our home, she was 15 years old. I’m not sure why it’s been so long. People say “I’m being tested” or “ something good will come out of this.” I am sure it will become clear when my daughter returns home. For me, right now, there is nothing worse that could come out of this except a few more years of not having her in my life.
“You don’t know what tomorrow holds”
Today, in preparation for a five-day business trip out of town, I spent the morning with my two young boys. I was driving and listening to them rap to one of the songs on Trolls. As I looked back at them in the rear-view mirror, I thought, what the heck have I got to lose by reaching out to Allie? She should see this!
I would love for her to come back into our lives. I do understand that when that happens I have to be open to hearing whatever is on her mind. I hope she is able to listen to whatever is on my mind as well, but regardless, I am her dad. I will love her unconditionally. Why she and I are estranged is something I don’t understand. Hopefully, someday we will sit down over a cup of coffee and laugh at how crazy losing seven years of our lives together was.
In light of not wanting to lose any more time, I am going to reach out to her actively from now on. A father who reached out to me on Facebook taught me an incredible lesson. This father said, “I want her (his daughter) to know my heart and someday come back home and start off wherever we need to.”
If you are a parent in a similar situation, I have created a campaign on getconnectdad.Com. Our campaign is entitled “My Dearest.” It is my hope this campaign will reunite parents and kids. Through the power of the written word and social media, we can connect families today and in the future. Imagine with me, a daughter (much like my daughter) stumbles into a series of letters written by their lost parent. How powerful would the message be?
Until that time, I’m going to keep reaching out regularly because, in my heart, she is still my daughter.
Allie, I love you and miss you.
Your Dad on Fathers Day.
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