One Ordinary Dad
Allan (not his real name) and his ex-partner had five children together—but with her tendency for violence it wasn’t exactly your model happy family. Subsequent events landed her in jail and him joining the growing brigade of single dads. Brendon Smith tells this story of his personal ‘Dad of the Decade’
(Names and other identifying details changed in this story.)
I first met Allan at the old Irish Club on St Patrick’s Day. When he heard me enthusing about fatherhood he shrugged and commented that he had never thought of himself as anything more than an ordinary father.
This is despite having six children, one from an earlier relationship, then five in his next.
Allan grew more worried about her behaviour after the birth of their first child. Another child came within the next year and then three more over the following six years.
Allan had always needed to keep meticulous diaries for his business but he also added personal notes about his family and partner.
At the end of each year, when he searched his old diary for useful information to retain, he kept noticing that far too often incidents of violence of verbal abuse, mainly towards him, were making an appearance.
Allan was a very involved father, spending regular quality time with his children, but increasingly he found it more difficult to spend time with his partner. More and more he found himself resenting her continual tirade of complaints and her inability to stop spending. Allan tried leaving twice, but each time was convinced to stay for the children’s sake.
Finally, another violent episode broke the camel’s back, and Allan left for good.
The children stayed with his partner in their house, and he maintained regular contact and paid Child Support. He stayed in phone contact and visited the children on weekends, but sensing that his partner was having trouble with their eldest son he arranged for the son to move back to Hamilton to live with him.
His contact levels with the rest of the family remained high until his ex-partner moved herself and the children to Dunedin. Allan would arrange for all the children to be in Hamilton or else they would visit Dunedin while he visited South Island contacts.
After one visit to Dunedin Allan was asked to take another son back to Hamilton with him. This boy was skipping school and had come to the attention of the truancy service.
With two boys now happily living with their father in Auckland, Allan found organized visits with his other three children were becoming less predictable. Increasingly, visits that he had arranged were often ignored or forgotten by his ex-partner.
Then, following a Christmas trip south, he was told the two boys were staying with her when he returned to collect them even though there was a custody order stating otherwise. Allan was due back in Hamilton the following day for business meetings and was forced to leave without them.
After that a seemingly endless round of appeals and meetings with authorities began. Repeatedly he traveled to Dunedin to visit his children only to return home unsuccessfully.
No matter what he did, she thwarted him. She ignored compliance warnings, wriggled out of consequences and kept control of the children.
Finally, Allan made yet another arrangement for a weekend visit in Dunedin. He was put through extra hoops checking that he could help one of his children walk, but the authorities, and especially a new judge in Dunedin, helped him achieve access.
Allan enjoyed one glorious weekend returning the children to his ex-partner each night, but able to travel out of town with the children for day trips. With them he explored a few scenic roads and celebrated the south in winter with snow fights and snowmen.
Soon after this trip Allan was asked to verify the dates of his complaints and their previous access and custody arrangements. Producing the information from his diaries he was rung soon afterwards and asked whether he could look after his children.
When he queried the sudden urgency by the authorities they revealed that his ex-partner had been sentenced to a prison term.
Allan soon found himself on a plane with his beloved children, joyfully taking them home to Hamilton.
But even from jail his ex-partner continued to harass the newly reunited family.
She managed to obtain an order from prison demanding that Ross return his three younger children to Dunedin. Initially it was only as no foster care provider in Dunedin could guarantee complete care for his youngest child’s walking disability that the family managed to remain in Hamilton.
Over the next few years the children were able to re-establish their bond with their father, settling back into life in Hamilton.
Living carefully, Allan and the two youngest girls recently saved for a holiday to Malaysia, and last year Allan took his second son to China. Next year Allan and his youngest child are off on a Hawaiian cruise.
The three oldest children are all working now, while the two younger ones continue to thrive. Living in a stable happy environment they have not only caught up on school work, but are excelling.
Allan says that although things are great at the moment his ex-partner is out of jail and attempting to cause trouble again, but Allan is a veteran now and can manage the Family Court process himself to protect his children and the relationship that he has with them.
Around six months ago I went to Allan’s 50th. I arrived late and found the dance floor was bursting, circles of people were forming and they almost always included Allan and his children. Then they circled Allan and he just smiled.
To see these children love and honour their dad, dance, hug and party with him, was unbeatable.
Allan still can’t believe how much fun the children had, especially mingling and dancing with the ‘oldies’. It was an amazing night that I will never forget and I know the children still talk about.
The last time I saw Allan was at a local soccer club where one of his girls scored ‘Player of the Day’ again. He gave me heaps about this story saying that I’d got it all wrong and that he was just an ordinary dad. But I disagree.
He fought to protect the relationship with his children when many others might have given up. I think he’s one of my ‘Dads of the Decade’ and I know five children who will back me on that opinion—all the way!
Next: Good Men Raise Good Sons