I've spent a lovely day with my nieces -- making zucchini bread, going to the mall, having lunch at Cracker Barrel -- and now, while they are napping, I am listening to the steady beat of rain outside the window. It seems like the perfect time to blog, doesn't it?
Because my nieces' car seats are a pain to move from one vehicle to another, their father left his truck for me to use to transport the girls today. When we climbed in to go to the mall, the eldest asked me, "Do you even know how to drive my daddy's truck, Aunt Denise?" And littlest chimed in, "Yeah, Anna Niece, do you even know how?"
(Clearly, these illiterate girls do not follow my blog, or else they would have known that I have a Ford F-150 with a Coyote 5.0 at home, but alas! Kids these days just don't read like they should.)
Throughout our day, the girls chattered happily, telling me stories about their mom and dad. Their dad and I are running a 5-K tomorrow morning, and they predict he will be "faster because he is just stronger." It is abundantly clear that these ladies adore both of their parents, but I was thinking today about the impact their dad will have on them. After all, a father is the first man a girl falls in love with. She learns how to see herself through his eyes, how to be treated through his actions, how to love through his words.
We live in an unprecedented age. We have more diversity and freedom in our relationships than any other generation. If I were my grandmother, I would still be miserably married, believing I couldn't change my life or the lives of my children. But, now, as I tell my kids all the time, families come in lots of shapes and sizes, and as long as there is love, safety, and peace -- the labels don't really matter.
We so often hear that we are living in an age with a "fatherhood crisis." Lots of men bring babies into the world, but they don't step up to raise them. Recently, two people very close to me have gone through a re-shaping of families, and I have noticed a different kind of fatherhood crisis. Men who bring babies into the world and want to raise them are being prevented from doing so by controlling and manipulative women who would prefer to play the role of "victim" instead of the role of "co-parent." These men want to see their children, to impact their lives they way my nieces' father is impacting theirs. Instead, they are told they "can't" see their child -- or that they can "visit" their child.
From the two examples I have seen, what I have observed is that these women are narcissists who thrive on drama. If there aren't problems, they will create them. They love to put on a public face of being "independent" and "strong single moms" but then they turn around and tell their exes they need money from them. They then use that money to act like they are single-handedly taking care of their children, all the while ignoring his requests for more time with the children.
One person that is going through this explained it best: "She is bitter and upset because he moved on and is truly happy now. She can't bear the thought of him being happy with someone else, so she will use their child as a means to cause distress for him." As a mother, I simply cannot stomach the idea that a woman would use a child as leverage -- yet I know it happens all the time. From trapping a man in a relationship with a pregnancy to trapping him into thinking he can't leave a controlling, emotionally abusive woman because of a child, women use their children as pawns in petty wars against their exes. It's sickening for sure.
What is also sickening is the way the legal system shows preferential treatment to mothers. Perhaps this is because of the deadbeat dads out there who aren't involved in their children's lives. Let me be clear -- I think it is important to help mothers out when a man neglects his responsibility as a father. Nevertheless, it makes things a lot harder for those dads who do want to be involved in the lives of their children. A woman can make a completely unsubstantiated claim about a man, and law enforcement is more likely to believe it and side with her. A man must fight twice as hard for the right to be a father -- all while society complains that he's not doing enough to be a father.
Naturally, I try to make sense of these women. How can they bash these men for not being involved, as the men are actively seeking to be involved? I have always been fascinated with psychology and human behavior. What is it that makes people tick, to act as they do? Can it be traced to some event in their childhood? Can it be the result of their upbringing in general? Is it a genetic disposition? Perhaps the answer lies somewhere in the middle, in the many shades of gray that make up each of our stories.
And instead of rain, I hear the pitter-patter of little feet, so I suppose these problems must wait for another day.