Breaking the connection with the child — pure self-protection?
Over the years my children have lived in Hamburg, many events have happened that I was unable to be a part of. I only found out about some of the events in retrospect, some events I probably don't know about until today. By and large, my children's development has literally passed me by.
At this point I could list an infinite number of incidents in which I was unable to participate. Just to give one example: When my daughter moved out of home and moved into an apartment with her boyfriend, I couldn't help her. Apart from a cash injection and encouraging words on the phone, unfortunately there was nothing I could do for her, although I had loved to.
To be honest, there were and still are topics that I'm not really keen on. Not every event is a joyful one, not everything is welcome. Fortunately, for example, I rarely experienced the adolescent phases in my children's lives. And when I did experience them, I was glad it was only for a short time.
There are many sides to being a father, and difficult topics are part of it. It has something of a mixed salad, there is a bit of everything. Even with a mixed salad, there can be individual ingredients that you don't particularly like, but the salad can still taste great overall - as long as you don't chew on the unloved ingredients forever.
What is it about being a father?
Originally, I had a relatively simple and perhaps somewhat naive idea of being a father: I will have a beloved child - of course together with my partner - whom I will accompany on its life path, support, advise, protect, raise and care for. At some point this child will grow up, start a family of their own and, with a little luck, make me a grandpa.
Before an outcry runs through the ranks of my readers: Being a father does not end when the child starts its own family and thus makes the father a grandpa. Not every father becomes a grandpa at some point, I am very well aware of that. Nevertheless, I use this simplified model to illustrate the importance of this phase of life.
Since this phase lasts for about 30 years, it occurs only once in a man's life. Of course, this phase can be prolonged as desired with various tricks - for example by having several children - but I don't want to go into that at this point. After all, I'm also writing this article for fathers who only have one child.
So it is about a unique and limited time which the child and his parents experience particularly intensely as long as the child is underage and still lives under the same roof with his parents. I was unable to experience this intense, unique, and irreplaceable time at all, or only to a small extent. To me, some days it feels like I've never been a father. A significant phase in my life - in the life of a man - that is forever missing.
My pain is so great that I sometimes have the thought it would be easier for me to completely break off contact with my children. Simply hear and see nothing more from them, and maybe at some point the distance to them, to my feelings and memories would be big enough. Maybe one day I would be pain-free!
It is a completely natural and also human behavior to free oneself from an overwhelming burden that one can no longer carry. Like putting down a backpack that is much too heavy, or killing a mosquito that is about to bite. Then you get rid of what torments you, hurts you, or makes you unhappy.
The very fact that I have such thoughts about my children shows how I feel on some days due to the fact that there is such a great distance between them and me. The phases in my life in which I feel what has happened as a loss are so stressful that I can hardly bear it and would do a lot to get rid of them.
Fortunately, such phases are very rare and when they occur they do not last too long. In the meantime I have also discovered that these are phases in which I am not in my midst. I mean times when I am sad, feel powerless or have little inner drive. There are many reasons for this, but they occasionally mean that I am not closely connected to my children.
There is more than one way
Overall, however, the love for my children, a deep bond and the certainty of being the father of two wonderful people clearly predominate. However, my being a father has changed a lot after my family moved and in many ways it is not what I imagined many years ago.
Today I know that such traditional notions of the father figure are completely outdated. Of course there are still very many fathers who fulfill their roles in the classic way. But there are also very many fathers who break new ground, cultivate the relationship with their child in a different way and put their very own stamp on being a father.
There are many faces to being a father: There is not just one way to fill the role of a father, there are many different ways. Each of these paths has its justification, each one can be the right path, because no two models of life are alike. There is no standard that distinguishes the real father from the false father. There is also no half-father or full-father, depending on the frequency of contact.
First and foremost, being a father means being deeply connected to your child. Being a father is a feeling that one carries within oneself and that consists largely of love. This love for the child is the force that makes it possible to hold the pain through the breakup. And it is also this love that never allows a break in contact.
I try to shape my role as a father as I can and as I see fit. It may be that the framework in which I can move is smaller than is the case with other fathers. And I may not be able to share many of the stories that other fathers tell. But what really matters is unrestricted and available at all times: fatherly love!
The very thought of breaking contact with my children is completely inacceptable to me. At first glance it looks like pure self-protection, but in reality it would be weak, cowardly and very cruel. At first maybe only for my children, but in the end definitely for me, too.
There is a huge difference between taking a heavy backpack off your back and placing it in the corner, or breaking off contact with your child!