I recently had a conversation with a friend who's a family law attorney. He spoke at our inaugural Upbeat Dad Community Forum that we had last month. As we spoke, as I often do, I took out my Blackberry to write down a potential topic for a blog post. The subject matter of our conversation was such that I thought I should share it with our readers. So here's that post.
He told me of the "Superdad" phenomenon in family law. "Superdad? What's that?" you might say? Well, here's what it's about.
In comic books and the movies, Superman is one of the more popular fictional characters. In everyday life, he's just a regular guy named Clark Kent. But when a heroic feat needs to be accomplished, the regular guy wearing regular clothes disappears for a moment and out comes as Superman, decked in a special outfit and cape for flying. He comes to save the day! Whether there's a person in a difficult situation or a natural disaster, Superman can do all things for all men when needed.
Now here's the relevance of all this to The Upbeat Dad. What the attorney told me was that all the time dads who are faced with the reality of divorce come into his office. As they begin the consultation to set the strategy for how they will seek to be successful in court, he asks the dads about their role in the marriage and in the household in general.
Many of the fathers present themselves as "Superdad". They take the kids to daycare and school. They take them to ball games, to the doctor and just about everywhere. In the household, they're attentive to the kids' every need. They cook, clean, help with homework and are just about everything a kid could hope for. They're Superdad!
Q: What's the name of the kids' doctor?
A: I don't know.
A: I don't remember.
Q: When was the last time you were at a conference with the kids' teacher?
A: Errrr, I don't remember - some time last year, I think.
Q: What are the names of your kids' friends!
A: Hmmm, let's see.
You kinda get the idea, right? In everyday life, these dads are Clark Kent. They go to work. They live their life. They hang out with the guys. They go to Happy Hour. Their wives are the backbone of the household - keeping things together while they do "guy things."
Then comes the reality of divorce - the legal ending of a relationship. Regular conversations are now less about fun and games and more about real serious issues - like division of assets, child support, alimony, custody, visitation/time-sharing. It's time to exchange the Clark Kent persona for Superdad. For a moment, in order to "save the day" he has to be what he really is not in everyday life.
You kinda see where I'm going with this? Clark Kent is the normal person. Superdad only becomes a reality for a time and season - long enough to get what he wants from a legal standpoint. Then it's back to the norm.
My challenge to fathers with this post is twofold. First, I'd like fathers to realize the very important role that they ought to play in their kid's lives. Superdad should be the norm - being involved in the daily responsibility of raising children. Second, when the reality of divorce is at hand, it may often be too late to save a marriage. But the role of parenthood is perpetual. One might be able to put on the Superdad persona and be successful in convincing those in the legal system that he is a great dad. But as the expression goes, the proof is in the pudding.
Our kids are precious. We should be their everyday heroes - Superdads, if you will. We cannot expect to put on an act for the purpose of getting what we want legally and then go back to being uninvolved in the things that mean the most to our kids. I often say that you express your love to your kids with a 4 letter word: T-I-M-E.
If you're a dad and this post has spoken to your heart and you know you need to make it right with your kids, I hope you'd make the necessary changes. If you really haven't been as involved in their lives as you should be, then regardless of how things may be in your relationship with your wife or the mother of your children, starting today, do make the conscious effort to do better as a dad. Forget what you haven't done in the past - that can't be erased. Turn over a new page and be for your kids what you ought to be.
I try to be positive in all things. This post is not meant to make anyone feel bad. I hope that it's a wake up call for those who need the message. The role of fatherhood is so important that each of us needs to be a permanent Superdad, not Clark Kent who becomes a hero for a moment and then goes back to life as usual.
Let's be the heroes that our kids can look up to. We can make a long-lasting, life-changing impact on them if we commit to being the best fathers possible.
Enjoy your day Superdad!
The Upbeat Dad