As Christmas is once again upon us, I would like to share a story that I guess explains what Dads in Distress is all about.
It happened a few years ago in the very early days of forming DIDS, and certainly inspired me to continue the work. I was sitting in a DIDS meeting sharing my story. It was early days into separation, then divorce.
It was coming up to Christmas, and we were all sharing what we were going to do — if we were going to get our kids, what we had bought them, what we hadn’t bought them, how tough things were for some of us, etc.
I shared that things were going to be tight this year. I said I just didn’t have the dollars to spend. I was feeling fortunate that I was going to see my kids over the break, although not on Christmas Day. I shared that I had promised my little bloke, who was four at the time, a Christmas tree, but unfortunately I would have to break that promise. I just didn’t have the money. Nor did I have the money to put much under one anyway.
We all left the meeting carrying everyone’s story in our hearts and had made the arrangement to have a BBQ the following week at my place to celebrate Christmas amongst us dads at least, with or without our kids. The deal was everyone would bring some sausages or whatever they could afford, and we would make do with whatever we had.
The following week as my guests arrived, one of the dads had an old plastic Christmas tree on his shoulders, which he gently placed in the corner of my one-room flat. It had no legs, so we just leaned it against the wall. Then to my amazement, one by one, these dads in distress walked in and placed a present all wrapped in Christmas paper with a card written in my kid’s names: with love from Dad.
Nothing was said, nothing needed to be said — I think the water pouring from my eyes was enough.
My kids didn’t know it that year, but they had many dads, and I came to understand I had mates, real mates. And I understood the power of what we had begun. I understood what dads in distress had become.
You know, that was 6 years ago now, and I am about to spend Christmas Day with my little boy for the first time in 6 years. I still have that Christmas tree, a little worse for wear, but you know, I just cannot bring myself to changeit.
We dressed it up last weekend, him and me. We used a brick wrapped in Christmas paper to stand it up and put cotton wool for snow all over it. It looks pretty good, and I will never forget those awesome dads whom I am so privileged to know. This Christmas, it will be just him and me, but you know in my heart, I will be carrying all those dads who made one special Christmas for me and my kids.
DIDS Christmas Message
It’s getting close to Christmas — our call rates go through the roof; many dads will not get to see their children over Christmas. For some, this will be the first Christmas without their children. For some, someone else will be handing out the presents from under the tree. For many others, it will be just another reminder of the loss of fatherhood.
If you are a custodial parent, please, please give the children the opportunity to spend some time with the other parent on the day. For the kid’s sake, make Christmas this year a time for mending. Kids need both mum and dad in their day-to-day lives; and let’s not forget the grandparents — they love them too. This could be the year that you break the mould!
Please spare a thought over this festive season for those who may not be as fortunate as you. If you have children in your house, when you tuck them into bed tonight, give them an extra kiss and a cuddle from those of us who haven’t. We tuck our kids into bed and give them a kiss every night even though they are not there.
[Photo by Simon Berger