Six months ago, on the 14th August 2016, Ava May Fitzgerald blessed the world with her random gurgling, beautiful eyes, and insanely loud baby farts.
I was thrilled.
Fast forward two months and my ex, and my newly born daughter, had moved out. I wasn’t allowed to be present for her jabs, my ex was advised that I shouldn’t have access to Ava without supervision, I was being chased down by child support, and two police officers turned up at my door with a court order explaining that I wasn’t allowed to contact my ex directly anymore, and if I did, I would be taken into custody.
During the next three months, I’d feel lost, helpless, useless… I didn’t feel like a father at all. I was scared that I’d never be the father that I wanted to be to my daughter. I’d miss her daily activities; learning to smile, developing her laugh, starting to recognise me, cradling her close to my chest during the early hours after her 15th feed between 1am and 3am… Hell I even cried myself to sleep about it a couple of times.
I was a done over father.
I didn’t deserve this.
My ex was a ******* ***** for everything she was putting me through.
HOW DARE SHE!
Thousands of fathers go through this ordeal each year. Every father has their own story on why their ex was a complete asshat and the multiple different ways in which they would like to hurt them, but never would because it would incriminate them and reduce the chances of them ever seeing their child again.
After all, it’s not about them anymore, it’s about the children, right?
It’s not about the children, it’s about the relationship between two human beings who, for some reason, seperated. Because these two human beings couldn’t fully understand or communicate their feelings across to the other accurately or effectively, they held onto anger, frustration, hate, resentment, hurt and a myriad of various other negative emotion that eats away at a person from the inside out.
During my three months of alone time, I had a lot of time to reflect.
Maybe I did deserve this… Maybe I didn’t listen to her properly, or maybe I didn’t understand her in the way that she needed me to understand her…
You see, when two people don’t comunicate effectively, they play the blame game.
“It’s YOUR fault that this happened!”
Backwards and forwards and backwards and forwards and backwards and forwards the arguments would go.
Very rarely do the two people take a step back, with compassion and empathy, and really listen, acknowledge, accept and deal with what the other person has said or how they feel.
THIS is what it’s really about, not the children.
During my three months alone, I thought back over all the arguments we’d ever had, and all the reasons that led up to us breaking up and her finally moving out. I thought about every angry text I ever sent her, every frustrated conversation, raised voice and insult hurling session we ever had, and it hit me:
She just wants to be heard.
In December last year I decided to drop my ego, let go of all the “stuff” that I feel she did to me, I accepted responsibility for all my actions (whether right OR wrong) and I decided it was time to listen.
I phoned her up, and she didn’t answer, of course she didn’t, and I expected this to happen, so I left a voice message.
It went something like this:
“Hey, listen, I know we haven’t been on good terms for a long time now, but I’ve been sat here thinking about how our future is going to play out, and how life is going to be between me you and Ava if we carry on like this. For 2017, I want us to be friends. I want to be able to invite you in for coffee, catch up with you on life, talk nonsense and just be there for each other, like good friends do. I’ve said a lot of horrible things to you, and made a lot of terrible threats too, and I am sorry. I was so fuelled by anger and frustration that I didn’t know how to deal with any of this, and I reverted back to what I always do when I’m losing control, and that’s throw abuse and threats and anger at whoever will listen, and I am truly sorry. I don’t think you’re a bad mother, and I have full trust that you would always do what is best for our child BECAUSE you are her mother. Whether I like it or not, I will accept responsibility for my side of things, and if that means being a weekend dad, then I accept that too, even though it’s not what I want. I want to fix US. I want to be able to be in a room with you and not despise breathing the same air you are breathing. If there is any part of you that wants the same thing, then let’s meet up and talk everything through and just worry about US. I do love you, we’ve had lots of amazing times together, and now we have another amazing adventure ahead of us with Ava, and I’d like you to be my team mate through it, not an opposing force.”
I mean, this wasn’t word for word what I said, but it’s pretty close.
Suffice to say, she responded, we met up, we talked (just the two of us) at a third party location (my parents place).
Now I didn’t agree with everything she said, hell, I wanted to argue with a lot of things she said because I felt that she blamed me for things that I wasn’t responsible for, or were actually her fault, but then I remembered, she just wants to be heard.
I explained that I didn’t agree with everything that she said, but I do appreciate everything that she said, and that I had no idea she felt like X or Y or Z, and that going forward, I would try to work on that with her.
She said the same thing back about the things I felt.
When I started writing this article, I was fully aware that not every situation is the same, but here’s some of the details of our relationship, to give you an idea of the animosity between us:
She accused me of raping her. She accused me of beating her. She accused me of kicking her out at christmas whilst she was pregnant. She accused me of cheating on her. To name a few.
I accused her of lying to everyone about me. I accused her of being ungrateful for all the support I gave her. I accused her of taking advantage of my good nature. I accused her of being selfish. I accused her of thinking the world revolved around her. To name a few.
Yeah. We had some pretty messed up times. We all do, right?
After we sat down and talked through everything, from a place of empathy, from a place of trying to understand, and a place of LISTENING, and not arguing, we finally heard each other.
The anger and frustration and hatred I felt about her dissolved, as hers did for me.
It’s now coming up to March, I’ve seen my daughter near on every day since Christmas, I’ve helped my ex develop her business and start making money, we train together at the gym a few times a week, and as I type this I’ve just recieved a text message saying: “Thank you, I really don’t know what I would do without you helping me out.”
I think it’s a dangerous game to let two volatile adults ignore the root cause of their issues with each other and just “put it aside” for the sake of the child/children, as those issues, that energy, and all the negativity associated to it, still exist, like a ticking time bomb, waiting to go off.
If we had more resources dedicated to allowing adults to learn about human behaviour, and communication and real listening skills, I am convinced that at least half of all the single parent fights would be either fixed or on their way to being fixed.
Will it solve every single case? Of course not. Could it help you, reading this right now?
There’s only one way to find out.
If you’ve had an experience similar to mine, or perhaps you have your own views on how this subject could be tackled, leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you!
Until next time.
Originally published at medium.com