Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Rights of the Father

On my posting Father and Son, I received this comment:


Anonymous said...
what of the fathers who want to parent but are denied. does the child suffer from the absence of this bond and hopefully positive experience. who does have the right to deny the child of his father especially when the father wants this role


Now I only allow anonymous comments so that my less technically literate friends might be encouraged to comment here occasionally, although I do ask for them to leave a name so that I know who it’s from. This one had no name so I have no idea if it's from a friend, a regular reader or just someone passing through who will never be back.

However, given a particular set of circumstances we are in, it got me thinking.

You see, normally I would think about how devastated I would feel if I was denied access to my children, and how this gives me a great deal of sympathy for organisations such as Fathers 4 Justice, but recent developments in our family have forced me to reflect on this from another angle.

My stepdaughter and her two children have been staying with us for the past week, since she became a victim of domestic violence. In other words, her partner beat her up and she has some shocking bruises all over her body. It transpires that this is not the first time, although it is certainly the worst to date, and it is clear that he has also been mentally, emotionally and verbally abusing her for a long time.

When she was 16, my stepdaughter had a stroke, leaving her with little use of her right arm and she still has limited use of her right leg. So when he shoves her over, it’s a harder struggle to get back up again. This alcohol and drug-abusing Wee-Glasgow-Hardman clearly needs to show what a man he is by doing her down.

I don’t intend to write about the processes of going to the police, of the vileness of domestic abuse, or of trying to find ways to re-empower a woman who has experienced much to make her feel disempowered. This posting is about whether I think a child needs to have their biological father in their life.

The rights of the father need to be offset and counterbalanced with the responsibilities of the father. As well as being a provider, a parent is a teacher and role model. How we learn what it is to be a part of the human race comes not only from what we are told, but what we see and what we experience.

When my wife and I discussed the idea of changing our lives, of me selling the business and the both of us pursuing careers and a lifestyle that we really wanted, despite all the financial and emotional risks, one of the arguments in favour was the example it set to the children. We could have carried on with a financially more secure life, but what lesson would that have taught them? That you give up your dreams for the sake of security? No. Ultimately, what we wanted to do was show them, in a way that words alone would never be able to demonstrate, that life is what you make it.

With this philosophy at our core, we can’t help but feel that our grandchildren will learn from the example of their mother, that you don’t have to put up with abuse, that you can take control of your life, and that no one has the right to inflict that abuse on anyone.

Children do need a positive male role model in their lives and ideally that role model should be their father (and preferably there should be more than one, in the shape of relatives, teachers, community leaders etc). But if the father is an abuser, then I would say that the children are better off without him on the scene. For if he is about, then what kind of example is being set? What cycles of abuse are going to be continued for another generation?

Bringing up children is a stressful activity, and under stress, unless we work hard to change it, we are most likely to react in the way that we learned as children - at the time when the pathways were burned into our brains – the way our parents reacted. And so our children learn from how we react.

Yes, ideally, the father should be about for his children, but only if the example he sets is a positive one. Otherwise, the lesser of evils is that he stays away.

17 comments:

RNP said...

I agree completely.

swiss rebecca said...

I am sorry that your family has been hit with this (it is indeed something that affects a whole family) and I am glad to hear that your stepdaughter has taken control of her own situation. She's lucky to have a loving family to fall back on.

As far as rights of the father: I think you give up any rights when you start abusing. This transcends all of the other rights the father might think he should have.

Having said that, I've had a few friends who, later in life, looked up an abusive father that they hadn't seen or heard from in years- either by the father's own choice or after being barred by the mother. In both cases, contacting him did some good to 'filling a hole' as one said. On the other hand, in both cases no real explanation could ever cover what had happend- and so nothing he said ever really helped. One kept in contact, one didn't.

But, as the one who kept in cotact says, as an adult you have the ability to keep more emotional distance than you ever do- or should have to- as a child.

What I mean to say is, I agree totally that he's given up any rights to parent. If your stepdaugher's children want to see him eventually when they are (much) older, they'll do that themselves. And in the meantime they can develop in a happy, loving environment.

Good luck to your stepdaugter in rebuilding her life.

Gyrobo said...

Is violence like that a learned trait, left over from some barbaric bygone era, or is it genetic? That's the real question.

Dr Maroon said...

What a dreadful story. It's good you can give her some space and time to gather herself without having to think too much. Please give her our good wishes.

Kim Ayres said...

Rebecca - thank you.

Swiss Rebecca - these things are never easy, and there is never a single solution, and that's part of the shitiness of the situation. It's not just about bruises, it's about the long term effects on the children. It is such utter stupidity.

Gyrobo - everyone feel rage and anger. The difference is whether you control it or you let it control you.

Dr Maroon - thank you for your support.

Andraste said...

Well said, Kim. And good for your stepdaughter for taking control and doing what's best for her and her children. I hope it all works out for themr.

Andraste said...

"themr" - new slang? Damn.

Gyrobo said...

A real question of the wills, isn't it?

Kim Ayres said...

Andraste - thanks.

Sooner or later "themr" will crop up as someone's word verification.

Gyrobo - as in 'will he be an arsehole all his life?'

Belly said...

I agree completely! As a woman who has also gone through this and still has court battles to fight I agree that once that line is crossed rights are lost. Though, personally I do not see being a parent as a right, it is a priviledge and a responsibility and I think the rights of the child to live and be loved far outweigh any perceived rights of adults to parent. Just because we can have kids does not make us all fit to parent.

Of course in some instances the abuser does accept responsibility for what they have done and then makes the effort to learn something new in order to change the pattern and repair damage, in which case the situation changes. Sadly this does not seem to be the common route taken.

My thoughts are with your step-daughter. Take care!

Kim Ayres said...

Belly - I know from your blog that your ex's behaviour has been making life far more difficult for both you and your daughter and I appreciate you taking the time to comment.

BStrong said...

I've been away for a while Kim and am just reading this post. I'm sorry that this had to happen to your family.

My one sister was a victim of domestic violence that nearly killed her. Thankfully we all stuck together and she and her seven children are doing wonderfully. The father went to prison where he later died. No tears were shed that day since it was not only my sister that was abused, the kids too were victims.

I'm sure you will get through these trying times. It may take a lot of effort though. We are still trying to build my sisters self confidence and self worth. It's not the physical scars that do the most damage but the emotional ones.

Good Luck.

Stella said...

Kim, I am sorry your family has had to go through this and I am so glad your stepdaughter has such wonderful support.

SexyBeauty said...

Kim you said "I don’t intend to write about ......., or of trying to find ways to re-empower a woman who has experienced much to make her feel disempowered"
Maybe sometime soon you could do a little piece on this, your wise views would be worth hearing.
Its good that your stepdaughter got her children away from the situation at such a young age, as if they were a little older they would remember Mummy being beaten all their lives. Also she is lucky to have you and your wife as a safety net. Your support has probably been a life changer for her and her little ones. You sound such a good bloke, and the very best of luck to you all.

Kim Ayres said...

bstrong - good to see you back again. Thanks for dropping by. I'm really sorry to hear of your sister's troubles. The fallout from that will be playing out for years to come. I wish her and her kids all the warmth and support possible.

Stella - thank you

sexybeauty - Thanks for your support. I will give considertion to writing more about empowering. It is something I feel strongly about so sooner or later it's bound to crop up as a blog posting. Today, however, fatmammycat caught me with Binty's post about capital punishment so I've exhausted myself with that.

Anonymous said...

Kim
Just dropped into your blog for a look see & read about what had happened. No wonder you never liked the bloke! Hope your stepdaughter & grandchildren are ok.
Tricia - Tullibody

Kim Ayres said...

Tricia - thanks for dropping by - I appreciate you taking the time to comment. Say hi to Jamie from me.