A wise person once said, “It takes a strong man to raise daughters.”
After my divorce, being a strong man meant learning to be more open, so that I could better raise my daughters.
Divorce is a stressful and painful experience, like having a death in the family, losing a job, going bankrupt or even having a very serious medical report. There is a split of assets, child support and spousal support, which is analogous to paying the mortgage on a house after it has burned to the ground.
My experience left me with a loss of trust toward my former spouse, a temporary financial loss, and continued child logistics. Our joint parenting arrangement meant my daughters attended schools in different cities, counties and school districts from where I lived. The bus stop was in my ex-spouse’s neighborhood, not mine.
I accepted the new normal of seeing my children half the time on a mutually agreed upon schedule, but maintaining a co-parenting relationship wasn’t always easy. It seemed there was always a third voice in the room with my daughters questioning the intent of any advice or guidance from me.
For quite some time, my relationship with my daughters could only be described as “loosey goosey.” Sometimes they were distant and other times they were loving. There were lots of ups and downs as they navigated the divorce of parents that they loved.
During that stressful period, my parents died within seven-months of one another. I was still in the middle of the divorce, working full-time in Ohio, and acting as the executor of my parents’ estates in Georgia.
My daughters were not mature enough to realize how the loss of my parents impacted me.
They were part of a church youth group and had worked hard all summer to raise money to go on a missionary trip out to the Western U.S.
I grappled with whether to allow them to travel on the mission or attend my father’s funeral. I decided to let them go on the mission trip. Only recently, have my daughters understood the difficulty in making that decision.
I thought I was giving them special experiences — vacations, family reunions or other activities — only to later learn that they have no memory of even attending many of those activities.
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My relationship with my daughters has matured ... but I have changed as well.
I realized I had to let my daughters live their own lives. I had to give them room to grow independently of me.
My eldest daughter is maturing into a beautiful, intelligent and independent young lady. She is in college and works part time. Her perspective on life has greatly changed. Things like cleaning the house, living with roommates, working for people, registering for classes, taking classes, taking care of a car, has a way of maturing you.
My youngest daughter is also growing into that same sort of young lady. She is learning to drive and will hopefully have her driver’s license soon. And in a year, when she graduates from high school, she can attend the college of her choice to seek the field of her choice.
The good news is that we can now celebrate each other’s victories and mourn each other’s defeats—while knowing that tomorrow will be a better day. I have grown to accept that I can only control me, my daughters must live their own lives.
During our time together, we sit and watch our favorite TV shows. We discuss a variety of topics beyond school, tuition, money, religion and relationships. And we just enjoy each other’s company. Sometimes we walk together and even travel together.
As a father, I will be there to support them as long as I am on this earth. I have learned that time, persistent love in words and action, plus prayer, changes things. I had to observe and learn who my daughters are and what they value. That is how real relationships are built.
Edmund H. Moore resides in Dayton, Ohio. An engineer for the U.S. Air Force, Moore is the author of “With a Father’s Love” and “Village of Wisdom.” For more information about Moore, visit edumundmoore.com.
Real Life Relationships is a monthly reader-contributed essay that explores the many ways in which we are connected and the all of the emotions those connections can bring into our lives. Interested in contributing? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Real Life Relationships.” Read more on the Real Life blog (www.ajc.com/opinion/real-life-blog/).
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Credit: John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com