Thursday, May 13, 2010

How I became a single dad

It's been WAY too long since I posted anything here and I apologize for that...

Let me also say right up front that I am neither bitter nor resentful about how my life turned out and about my being a single dad. Just the opposite in fact. I think that I’m very lucky and that I was given a rare and great opportunity. I work hard every day to make the most of that opportunity.

The story of how I became a full-time single dad started in August of 1997 when my daughter, A.K.A. Drama Queen (D.Q.), was born. I call her mom O.C.B.

O.C.B. was not a good mother from the start. We were married for 10 years when both she and the relationship finally hit rock bottom. I tried to hold it together for another year, but it was over. She had little interest in being a mother and I will tell specific stories as time goes on; this is just an overview—a preface if you will.

O.C.B. was in the Navy when D.Q. was born and suffice it to say that could not wait to get off maternity leave and back on a ship. I found that a bit odd. The bottom line is that I raised D.Q. by myself for 8 of her first 12 months. O.C.B. got out of the Navy three weeks before D.Q. turned one and I thought that life was finally going to settle down and we were going to be a real family. That never happened.

I spent the next four years raising two girls. O.C.B. was never completely neglectful of her daughter, it just seemed like she generally had more important things to focus on. D.Q. was four the year we had our 10th anniversary. O.C.B. and I went to the mountains in Southern California to a house my parents owned. We were looking forward to two nights alone to relax.

I woke up the morning of our anniversary and went upstairs to cook breakfast. I was in the middle of whipping something up when I heard a blood curdling scream. I ran downstairs and found that O.C.B. had taken a knife and slashed up and down both arms—not across the wrists, but up and down, like a cry for help.

We packed up and I took her to the V.A. Hospital and checked her into the Inpatient Psych Ward. She was diagnosed as bi-polar and over the next six months she stopped and started her medicine and when she was off the meds she was not a nice person to be around. She started to be mean to D.Q. and the summer before D.Q. started kindergarten I finally had to tell O.C.B. it was over and that she had to move out.

She didn’t put up a fight when I requested custody. The judge gave her the standard “dad visitation”—one night a week and every other weekend. She rarely showed up to pick up D.Q. and I found out that on a couple of occasions she left D.Q. alone in an upstairs apartment for a half-hour at a time while she went out and bought Zima and Marlboros.

Armed with that new found knowledge we went back to court and the judge ordered monitored visitation three times a month for two hours a pop. Over the next six months D.Q. saw her mom only four or five times. After that it was almost five years before there was contact of any kind. No phone calls. No birthday cards. No Christmas presents. Absolute silence. Over that five-year period D.Q. never once asked to see her mom or even asked about her.

My story to D.Q. during the missed visits was always that mommy was sick and that her sickness caused her to make bad decisions. It wasn’t that her mom didn’t want to see her, the sickness made her not be able to see her. I decided from the moment we split up that I would never say anything bad to D.Q. about her mom, but the reality is that now at 12-years-old, she knows there is more to the story than I’m letting on.

The next year saw a handful of visits but not much. In December 2008 I was offered a job hosting a morning radio show at a new radio station in suburban Toronto. In January 2009, as we were packing the house up, D.Q. asked if she could call her mom to tell her we were moving. I said she could but I warned her that her mom changed phone numbers on a regular basis and that if this one was disconnected I had no way to get in touch with her.

She dialed the number and her mom answered and D.Q. eagerly told her that we were leaving warm, sunny Long Beach, CA for the winter reality of Toronto. Her mom said, “well, I guess I’m never going to hear from you again…” D.Q. just said, “yeah. I guess so,” and hung up on her mom. While I was proud of her for not giving in to her mom’s drama, I was also upset that she hung up on her mom and I made it a point to remind her that no matter what, that was her mom and she shouldn’t be rude to her.

The radio station never went on the air and in September 2009 we move back to the U.S., to Buffalo, NY. Fast forward to January 2010 when D.Q. got a friend request on Facebook from her mom! I think she’s a bit young for Facebook but I let her have it to keep in touch with friends from California and Canada. She has no photos, no birthday and no identifying info for people to search. When you put her name into a search, 140 people come up and 30 of them have no identifying information.

My guess is that her mom sent a friend request to all 30 of the people. When D.Q. showed me the friend request I have to admit that I was a bit flustered. Life is better with her mom out of the picture. I firmly believe that a parent (regardless of the sex) needs to be an active part of their child’s life and if they can’t do that, they are better to be out completely. This in and out stuff is pure crap and does way more harm to kids then it does good.

I asked D.Q. what she wanted to do and she said that if it was OK with me, she just wanted to ignore the request. I was so proud of her. I guess that she is now realizing that she is better off without her mom around.

If this sounds like a sad, depressing story you need to read it again. I’m happy with the life the two of us have together. It’s true that the rest of our family is across the country, but thanks to Skype, Apple and Verizon Wireless D.Q. keeps in regular contact with her grandma, uncle, aunt, nephew and her friends. She is making great friends here and The Phone Sex Operator is a great female role model in her life. The two of them even have plans to go out one of these days and buy the first bra. Apparently I have to stay home because it’s a girl thing…

I look forward to sharing a full time single dad’s perspective with you and anytime you need a good laugh I invite you to visit I also welcome your messages (good or bad) here.



Kevin (TheDADvocate) said...


It takes a real man to raise a D.Q. by yourself. You have my respect.

Missty said...

Sounds like it is working out well for you and your daughter. And you have raised her well to make good decisions.

Good for you and her!! And I get the bad parent thing. I had two of them. And two weeks after high school graduation, I drove away, pretty much never to look back.(very little contact ever)

great post.

That One Mom said...

This is a great story. I am an only parent as well. My children's father chose to leave their lives in a much more permanent fashion. Like you, I never speak ill of thier dad. They will learn the truth on their own someday. If you're interested, there is a link to my story on my blog.

Way to be your baby's hero!

Anonymous said...

J.R. I knew I loved you for a reason!!! Your a stand up lets get DQ a sugar mama so she has someone to go buy expensive bras with, oh ya and for you to have someone to grow old with too :-) lol

Claire said...

I just recently found the site, so I'm new. I'll say that is quite a story! And what a bitch, if I may say so. I'm sorry that both you, and your daughter had to have such a hellish experience. It's great that your doing what any parent should do for their child, regardless of sex, as you said! Keep up the good work!!

Anonymous said...

Such a touching story. I wish you both the best.

My ex was also in the military; it was a similar situation in that he was never, ever around- even when he wasn't deployed or off training somewhere.

Glad to hear things are going well for you two!

Not a soccer mom said...

I have a similar story to yours but my ex was not sick. He was just uninterested. He met a new wife and moved far away. He is still a part of their lives, they love him dearly. Not a birthday, Christmas or other present in 9 or so years. They are now nearly adults themselves and have formed their own opinions.
Good for you being so strong for your daughter. It seems it is your ex who has the sad life

Shelle-BlokThoughts said...

WOW. Amazing story really. Good job for taking the responsibility on. Like all the single Moms you guys are amazing.

It's always disheartening to hear a parent not wanting anything to do with their children, but it also sucks aobut Mental Health issues... that's hard on everyone.

dadshouse said...

Wow, what a story. I didn't find it sad or depressing, mainly because you are so involved in your girl's life, and you have her best interests in mind and heart. I love the opening pic of you, too! I'd drink a beer with you in a pub, anytime. We'd probably have one hell of a good time.

Kudos for being a great parent. I do feel bad for your ex. She didn't ask to be bipolar. Just as you and your daughter didn't ask to have to deal with her mental health problems. That part is tough on all.

MsH said...

Thank you for sharing that story of a parent's love to protect even against the other parent's sickness and obsession with self. It is a shame she is so wrapped up with her own drama to enjoy one of the greatest gifts to us on this earth - our children.

Mariah said...

I have a 18 y/o daughter that hasn't seen her birth dad since she was two and it has left a gigantic hole in her life, I would push for your ex and your daughter to keep a relationship. She is till young. If she wants nothing to do with your ex at the age of 16 then fine, let her make that choice, until then I would push for them to keep in contact. Hopefully your ex will get on some meds or something and be a positive person in your daughter's life.

Good for yu for being the present parent sounds like you have raised a bright young lady

Anonymous said...

Sweet hair cut. I keep hearing bald headed guys are smarter and are far better lovers.

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