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Some Dads Can’t Win

By Peter Walker

I bought my son a pair of shoes for school. I decided to get the slightly more expensive one’s thinking they might last a little longer. He, of course, promptly lost one of them.

Buried in his bedroom somewhere he reckoned. He’d find it he reckoned. But he didn’t. And things were getting a bit nasty at school. Wear regulation shoes, or else! (Don’t get me started on the whole uniform debate)

Anyway, as it’s his first year at this school and not wanting to disadvantage him, I figured why not just buy another pair of shoes, cheaper ones this time, and if the lost one turned up, having an extra pair can’t be a bad thing. So off to The Warehouse.

Then Dowsons. Okay, maybe Hannahs. Yeah, right. Cheap shoes at Hannahs? Finally found a decent pair at K-Mart. Everybody’s happy. Well, almost everyone. The best my former spouse could muster was a snide remark about how it must be nice to have so much money.

The deflated look on my son’s previously excited face said it all.

You know. Some dads just can’t win.

Children in most divorced situations don’t win either. They tend to just get dragged along with the parents, taking it all in their stride proportionally successfully to the parents’ ability to cope.

According to my mother, and I have little reason to doubt her, when she and my father separated, my father gave her no money at all towards the cost of raising me (although I believe the rent on our house was covered by my fathers government job).

But school clothes and expenses, food, movies, golf clubs and fees, food, shoes, social life, food, my mother paid for (until I finally got responsible and got an after school job). Except for birthdays and Christmas, I don’t remember my father buying me anything in those ten years.

My mother never complained. I do remember her working long hours as a cleaner, and money being tight. But I don’t remember hearing her complain about my father’s lack of financial input.

Unlike today. I cannot count the number of women I’ve talked to whose number one complaint is that their ex, the father of their children, isn’t involved in the childrens life, and especially that he doesn’t spend more money, or any, on the children.

Then, of course, there are those dads at the receiving end of complaints from their ex because they DO. I guess it has less to do with the spending of the money than it does the subconscious (or sometimes very conscious) need to simply complain about whatever her ex does.

My parents were never wealthy, and I will always remember the attempts my dad made to make things right in his own way. When we arrived home from the US, my father gave me an envelope with several hundred dollars in it.

A little something to help us set up, he said. The reason I buy my children shoes, school books, clothes, toys or anything else for that matter, in addition to the unaccounted for thousands the IRD channels her way, is not to get recognition or thanks from their mother. There are other reasons, some a little selfish. I don’t want them growing up thinking I never contributed to their upbringing.

And if their mother sends them to stay with holey socks, what am I to do?

In the early 70’s things were different. No McDonald’s; no Playstation or high tech toys; no videos or movies. But children were still expensive.

And years too late I realised the difficulty my mother must have had paying for me. I don’t begrudge giving my boys the kind of treats I often did without. But I wonder at the psychology that demands exes complain when fathers DO spend money on their children.

The lost shoe hasn’t turned up yet, by the way.

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