Uncle Dad

14If you’re a divorced dad that does not have custody of your kids, you will know what I mean by the term “Uncle Dad”. For those of you that have no clue what I’m talking about, let me share some tidbits from an article I discovered at DivorceRecovery101.com:

The one great thing that came out of this marriage, the kids, and now they are for all practical purposes, gone. When a couple divorces, it is because the relationship of the couple has essentially died. She has to deal with the emotional trauma of splitting with a spouse, but he, in contrast, has to deal with the loss of a long term relationship with his spouse and he also has to deal with loss of the normal relationship with his children, which may have been closer and far more intense then the spousal relationship ever was.

Seeing his children again for a short time is a reunion, followed shortly by an emotional painful parting. This emotional tearing can be so heavy and painful for some men that they will subconsciously find excuses sometimes not to see their children as scheduled. Often the more they care about their children, and the resulting more pain, makes it more likely they are to find an excuse when they are not up to going thru these emotional partings. It does not necessarily need be all bad for the children, but it is often the most devastating for the father who had the children essentially removed from what was a big part of his life. What happens here is the father, who had daily close contact with his children, was energized by this daily interaction with his children now finds he is essentially out of the loop. He has become transferred from being a father who had close contact and a say in how his children were disciplined, educated, and what church they attended etc.

Divorced from his father role, he is now transformed to becoming a distant “uncle” who sends money but rarely sees the children and has no real say or control of what happens with raising these children. This bitter pill about what happens with his relationship with his children and the emotional hassle and turmoil often involved is one of the reasons you will find men have a higher homicide and suicide rate as a result of divorce then women have.

I edited out a lot of parts that I thankfully don’t have to deal with. My ex-wife is not vindictive and she has proven that she is willing to work with me as much as possible so that I can have extra time with my kids. What I tried to present from the article is what I can relate to. I have often said that sometimes I feel like a favorite uncle that sees the kids a few times a month and has fun with them. It’s hard to be a parent 20% of the time because there is so much you want to cram into that time! You want it to be fun so you can create memories together. You want to instill values and character and faith into your kids. You even want to be a part of disciplining them so that they become good men and women that will be a good contribution to society. But how can you with such little time?

I have no desire to throw my ex-wife under the bus. I couldn’t ask for a better situation considering the circumstances. The setup we have, where the kids live with her and I have them every other weekend, was agreed upon because neither one of us wanted the kids to feel like they didn’t have a home. And I do not regret that decision. I want my kids to have a home, and going back and forth between mom’s house and dad’s house every week will not, in my opinion, make them feel at home anywhere. Every week they will be packing up to “move”. That’s not a stable lifestyle for anyone, not to mention kids.

But it still sucks. I’m typically out of the loop on what’s going on in their lives. And when I do talk to them, it’s like pulling teeth to get any information out of them because they are kids. I hate feeling like a nuisance or burden. So it’s easy not to call sometimes. I completely understand why some guys decide to just disappear. I’m not talking about the worthless baby-daddy’s out there. I’m talking about the poorly labeled “dead beat dad” that just can’t handle the pain anymore. It’s hard not tucking your kids in every night. It’s hard not being there to help them with homework. It’s hard not seeing them misbehave or mess up so you can come alongside and correct or discipline them. It cuts deeply to hear your child refer to “my dad and my other dad” and immediately assume you’re the “other dad”.

I am writing this simply to let other guys in my situation know they aren’t alone. I don’t have any answers. It’s almost been six years since I lived in the same house with my kids and sometimes I think it gets harder. I know the pain you feel and the trials you endure. And to the dad that loves your kids but finds yourself on the brink of divorce to fight for your marriage. The grass is brown on the other side of the fence. It has weeds and insects that you can’t see right now. Trust me, I know. Love your kids by loving your wife better every day. If you don’t know how to do that, ask for help! It will take a lot of work and pride swallowing. But the best way to love your kids is to love your wife to the best of your ability so that you can save the marriage. Then you’ll be involved daily in the lives of your kids.

If you relate to this post in any way and need someone to talk to, you can contact me on twitter @kevinpbradford or on Facebook.

#TBT: Game Over or Game On?

I’ve decided to start doing Throwback Thursday here at the blog. On Thursdays, I will pick a post from The Bradford Blog archives to share with you. Hope you enjoy!

At first glance, the shirts I’ve seen guys wear with a bride and a groom standing above the words “Game Over” is kinda cute. It’s a clever spin “marrying” video games with wedding days. But as I’ve thought about it, I have a big time issue with the attitude behind the shirt. Marriage is a wonderfully amazing gift, but far too many guys see it as the end of their freedom or their manhood. But I say it takes a real man to actually get married, have a family, and love and lead them properly. To me, it’s “Game On”.

I was married for eleven years before getting divorced. As hard as that divorce was, I am excited about getting married again. I am also a dad of four incredible kids and love every bit of it. My life is more complete, not limited. My freedom has been expanded, but in ways that I would have never dreamed of. It’s because I was hardwired for relationships, for love, for fatherhood, and for pursuing a godly woman and loving her for the rest of my days. I believe all men have been designed the same way. Yes, some receive a unique life call to be single, but I say that’s the exception and not the rule. (Side note: a life call to be single doesn’t mean a life of one night stands, no responsibility, and playing video games all the time.)

Speaking of video games…let’s talk about grown men and video games. I like video games. But I sincerely believe that grown men have better things to do with their time than sit in front of Call of Duty for hours upon hours or glued to their smartphones playing the latest craze game. I realize this won’t be a popular opinion with many in our world today, but I really don’t care. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy playing video games with my kids, but that’s because it’s an opportunity to spend time with them. We laugh and talk trash and conquer bad guys together. But I also try to teach and instill in my kids that there is more to life than video games. It’s a man’s job to conquer the battles of the real world, such as working hard and supporting his family, loving his wife and honoring her above all others, building character in and memories with his kids, and being a positive force in society. Ok…rant over.

Guys. Your wife is not an object that you give attention to whenever it’s convenient or good for you. She shouldn’t have to compete for your attention or your affection, but should be the most important person in the world. Your kids are not nuisances that take away from what you’d rather be doing. Marriage and family are not a set of chains put around your neck and arms, but a new journey to embark on that is beyond your wildest dreams.

My kids have been watching American Ninja Warrior a lot lately. It’s a fun show to watch. I’m amazed at the focus these athletes maintain as they train and compete on a physically grueling course. They have to be on their game because one mistake means game over. In a similar fashion, we have to maintain our focus on our marriages and relationships because you never know when the game will end. So for me, when I say “I do” again, it will be Game On because I don’t want another Game Over.

Rules without relationship breed rebellion

Rules without relationship breed rebellion

 

That phrase has stuck with me for a long time, especially in how I relate to my kids. In my experience, maintaining this mindset is key to transforming the relationship any parent has with their kids. And through the journey of applying that to my own parenting, I have definitely seen change in how I connect with mine.

 

Before, when one of the kids would misbehave, I would be all about discipline.  “You’re going to behave and obey and if you don’t I’m going to punish you. Now go to your room!” That has been my natural response as a parent, and I would guess many other parents lean the same direction. But since grasping this concept of relationship before rules, things have changed.  Instead of focusing on discipline and rules, my attention has shifted toward a different word. Train

 

I like the idea of training my kids how to live over forcing them to behave because it implies relationship and rules. A friend used to say it all the time, “Rules without relationship breed rebellion.” I got to the point that I knew when he was going to say it, but I didn’t mind because he was reminding me of an important truth. It’s the classic grace and truth debate. Too much grace, and you spoil the relationship. Too much truth, and you crush it. But a balance, with relationship leading the way, can bring transformation.

 

So a new equation emerges…relationship with rules brings rapport. Rapport is that undeniable influence we have all experienced with someone we trust and respect, and every parent/child relationship should have it and far too few do. Which leads me to a new way to approach parenting rooted in biblical principles. “Train up your child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6 ESV) Training for anything requires a process of hard work and focus, success and failure, and everything in between. 

 

Last year, my girlfriend and I trained over a period of four or five months to run a half marathon. She had been through the training process before and was able to help me prepare for such a daunting task. The process of training was tough! I had to work up to running 13.1 miles gradually, increasing my distance a little bit each week. I had to start eating the right foods to fuel my body. And I had to learn how to prepare my mind to withstand the physical pain and mental exhaustion I would encounter. Having her there to train me how to do these things was key. She trained with me, and our relationship grew closer because we were working toward a common goal.

 

And that is the same role we play as parents. Since we have encountered many of the same problems and issues our kids will, we must equip them to be able to handle life in the best way possible. But we must do this WITH them. Rules without relationship is like saying “do as I say, not as I do.” Relationship with rules changes the paradigm completely and invites our kids to do as we do because we’ve been down this road before. We enter into a conversation with them and do life together so that we can work toward the common goal of training our sons and daughters to be men and women of both character and faith.

 

If you’re interested in applying this to how you parent, please feel free to contact me. I don’t have all of the answers, but I have definitely learned through lots of trial and error.

Game over or Game On?

tumblr_m777acU6En1r4yiujAt first glance, the shirts I’ve seen guys wear with a bride and a groom standing above the words “Game Over” is kinda funny. It’s a clever spin “marrying” video games with wedding days. But as I’ve thought about it, I have a big time issue with the attitude behind the shirt. Marriage is a wonderfully amazing gift, but far too many guys see it as the end of their freedom or their manhood. But I say it takes a real man to actually get married, have a family, and love and lead them properly. To me, it’s “Game On”.

I was married for eleven years before getting divorced. As hard as that divorce was, I am excited about getting married again. I am also a dad of four incredible kids and love every bit of it. My life is more complete, not limited. My freedom has been expanded, but in ways in which I would have never dreamed of. It’s because I was hardwired for relationships, for love, for fatherhood, and for pursuing a godly woman and loving her for the rest of my days. I believe all men have been designed the same way. Yes, some receive a unique life call to be single, but I say it’s the exception and not the rule. (Side note: a life call to be single doesn’t mean a life of one night stands, no responsibility, and playing video games all the time.)

Speaking of video games…let’s talk about grown men and video games. I like video games. But I sincerely believe a grown men has better things to do with their time than sit in front of Call of Duty for hours upon hours or glued to their smartphones playing the latest craze game. I realize this opinion won’t be popular with many in our world today, but I really don’t care. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy playing video games with my kids, but because it’s an opportunity to spend time with them. We laugh and talk trash and conquer bad guys together. But I also try to teach and instill in my kids that there is more to life than video games. It’s a man’s job to conquer the battles of the real world, such as working hard and supporting his family, loving his wife and honoring her above all others, building character in and memories with his kids, and being a positive force in society. Ok…rant over.

Guys. Your wife is not an object who you give attention to whenever it’s convenient or good for you. She shouldn’t have to compete for your attention or your affection, but should be the most important person in the world. Your kids are not nuisances that take away from what you’d rather be doing. Marriage and family are not a set of chains put around your neck and arms, but a new journey to embark on which is beyond your wildest dreams.

My kids enjoy watching American Ninja Warrior. It’s a fun show to watch. I’m amazed at the focus these athletes maintain as they train and compete on a physically grueling course. They have to be on their game because one mistake means game over. In a similar fashion, we have to maintain our focus on our marriages and relationships because you never know when the game will end. So for me, when I say “I do” again, it will be Game On because I don’t want another Game Over.

Fatherhood

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Fatherhood is a big deal. It’s dads that help shape the character of future generations. I could talk about how many men fall short in their role as a father, or how disgusted I get by the how absent fathers are mentally and physically in their relationship with their kids. But I’d rather focus on positive examples of men that take their job seriously. Like dads that work hard but never sacrifice their kid’s game or concerns because of work. Or dads that listen intently to what their kid is saying in order to be apart of their lives. And I really appreciate dads that understand that giving their kids everything only spoils the child, but instead teaches them to value hard work, responsibility, and the value of money. These are the dads that I want to celebrate today.

Happy Fathers Day.

Significance through impact

A life isn’t significant except for the impact on other lives. -Jackie Robinson

Our nation is in trouble at its core. The morals that made us a strong and good people are deteriorating rapidly. Robinson’s quote couldn’t be more timely.

But how do we engage, how do we make an impact?

20 years

20110629-060711.jpgToday my brother and his wife celebrate 20 years of marriage. I cannot express how much I admire and appreciate their commitment to God, each other, and their family. In a day of rampant divorce, here stands a shining example that says a lifelong marriage is not only possible, but very much worth it.

Having been married for 10 years once before, and then watching it end in divorce, I know that the past 20 years haven’t been easy. An enduring marriage takes a lot of love, patience, pride swallowing, and hard work — from the husband and the wife.

What my brother and sister-in-law have accomplished does seem rare today. That’s why I’m taking a moment to recognize and honor them. They are best friends and enjoy doing life together. No adventure is too big for them.

Happy 20 years, Jim & April!