An open letter to absent parents on behalf of their children

'I have watched my son stand at the window and wait, I have watched him cry.'
'I have watched my son stand at the window and wait, I have watched him cry.' Photo: Getty Images

I am writing this letter on behalf of my son and all the other children with absent fathers. I am also writing this letter on behalf of the fathers who do not seem to share the same rights at mothers.

I cannot speak for absent mothers as I have no experience in this, I'm sure there are many out there.

I am a single parent and have been for six years. In that time I have watched my son stand at the window and wait, I have watched him cry, I have listened to him ask where his father is and I have tried to explain to him the best way that I possibly can that he has a family that loves him and cares for him. I have watched him grow and I have watched him fall. I have cleaned up messes and comforted him when he's in pain.

I have bought him new clothes and new shoes, I have paid for his school trips and attended concerts, weekly swimming lessons and have taken him to the beach, the park and the movies.

I have asked for nothing from you.

I have never asked for money, I have never asked for food, I have never asked for clothing.

When our relationship ended you told me that you would be the best father you could possibly be. Then you disappeared. You float in and out of our son's life when it pleases you and when it's convenient for you. He waits for your calls and he begs to see you. He asks where you are and why you haven't shown up.

The longest period of time you made him wait was six months. Six months of no calls, six months of no contact. He began to stop asking questions. He stopped wondering where you were. Life moved on.

Then you called.

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And so it began again. The months you leave between visits destroys him. He doesn't understand why you aren't there for him. He doesn't understand why you say you'll be there only to have you vanish.

He is smart, he is strong, he is funny and he is the light of so many lives. Shouldn't he be the light of your life also? You have missed out on so much, do you even know the name of the school he attends? Or any of his friends? His hobbies or interests? No. Because you aren't here.

For years I've been told to cut you off. To stop you from seeing him. To prevent you from talking to him. And yet I haven't. You are his father, I have no right to deny you your child. Yet the thought crosses my mind every single day. Maybe he would be better off without you. Maybe life for him would be a little less confusing if his father were permanently absent. Do you know why he wants to see you? Because you buy him things. You buy him toys, you buy him McDonald's, you buy his love because if you didn't then he wouldn't want to see you. He loves you for what you give him and not who you are.

Imagine how amazing you would feel if he loved you for you? Imagine if you visited him at school, attended his concerts and his swimming lessons. I can already see his face lighting up when you walk through the door. He is 7 years old. He is too young to understand that you are not a good person, that you choose to put yourself and your addiction before him, that you focus on your own needs and your own life before you bother to focus on his.

Your own father walked out on you when you were a child and you vowed never to do the same. Well guess what? You have done exactly that. And you continue to do it because you know I will always give in when you finally reappear. You know I will let you see him and you know that I will let you speak to him. I do this for him. I do not respect you, nor do I care for you. I care for my child and the smile on his face when he hears your voice is the only reason I continue to put up with the pain you cause.

At the beginning I tried so hard to put a plan in place. I tried to call you every day, I sent messages, I called your family. I even offered to drop my son off and pick him back up again just so he could spend time with you. It took me years to stop doing this. To realise that no matter how hard I tried it wasn't going to change anything.

I don't tell my son what you're actually like. I don't tell him you're selfish, I don't tell him you're too busy for him and I don't tell him about your addictions. He will realise all of this in his own time. No child deserves to hear one parent putting down the other. That in itself is wrong and will only cause resentment later down the track. I tell him you're working (do you have a job?), I tell him you're away (do you leave your town?), I tell him that you're busy.

One day I will tell him the truth. When he is old enough to understand and make up his own mind. He has an incredible support network. He has a mother who cares, a family who is there for him and friends who love him.

Every week I see a new post on Facebook. A new post from a father who isn't able to see his children, a new post from a devastated man who wants for nothing other than to have his children in his life. Selfish mothers who use their children as weapons, selfish mothers who hold their children back because they don't like the new women in their child's father's life. Women who insist on having control over the father even after the relationship has ended. These women have no idea just how lucky they are that their children have a father that cares, a father who actually puts in the effort. Who are you to deny your children a father? Who are you to prevent him from seeing his son or daughter? What gives you the right to play with their lives? Every single child to deserves a father.

Sure, if he's dangerous or irresponsible then I would understand the apprehension. Go to counselling, seek a lawyer, mediation, family intervention. You do whatever you need to do to provide your child with a safe and loving home. Set boundaries in place. But do not deny them just because you're having a bad day. Just because you're upset that he has found someone new. Just because you like having power over him.

If I could have one wish for my son it would be to have a good father. A father who shows up and a father who puts his child before his addictions, before his friends, before his own selfish needs.

This article was first published on Stuff NZ.

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