E-letter: Fathers’ Day

Everyone likes Mothers’ Day. It is a reminder that spring is here, and there are flowers, candy and dinners out. Moms are lauded in churches and media. Ads are directed at moms and people that should recognize moms. In a way, Mothers’ Day is a sectarian high holy day, and devil take the apostates. 

Fathers’ Day, not so much. 

Kerry Knudsen

It is a rare family that has not experienced, internally or externally, a Fathers’ Day where court orders are not enforced, leaving dinners gone cold and children not around. Divorce, they say, is a power play, but the power goes to the moms. It’s the law. It’s called the Tender Years Doctrine, and it means that using children as weapons is legal for all that choose to do so, and it’s a lot. 

A friend of mine, many years back, was going through an acrimonious divorce and became so despondent over his kids that he attempted suicide. This is clearly a wrong choice, but it is not rare. One day this fellow rang our bell at dinner time and literally fell into my arms crying. His brother, also enmeshed in a vicious divorce, had elected the same option and had succeeded. They had just found him hanging in his garage. 

I know dozens of these stories. More than dozens. In fact, I was so concerned in grad school that I took a rumour I had heard and turned it into a survey at a university sorority house in the States. It was the Tri-Delts. I asked the girls living there to respond to several questions about the rumour, which was that girls were being promoted to “find a guy with good genetics, marry, have two kids, divorce him and collect a monthly stipend for the next 18 years.” 

Disconcertingly, all had heard of the idea. Some even thought it was a good idea, but not for them. Still others thought it was a good idea, period. 

It is my opinion that there are two main reasons for divorce, those being hot pants and finances. Granted, I have heard the stories about beastly, “abusive” husbands. I also know about other things we should not mention, like alcoholic or gambling-addicted wives. There is always plenty of blame to go around. I have no use for men that turn their backs on their kids or hit women. This column is not for them. 

 

Between university and grad school I did a stint working for the welfare system, part of which brought me into contact with the local battered women’s shelter. Naturally, I can’t speak of any cases or places, but I can say that one of the heartbreaks of seeing true battered women is the consistency with which they go right back into the situation that caused their residence in the shelter in the first place. It’s almost as if “real” battered women, if I can use the term, are less likely to divorce than the general population.  

The Tender Years Doctrine is a legal precept that says women are preferred over men in custody situations. It also says women have a presumptive right to relocate after a divorce. As a welfare worker, I regularly sat across my desk from women making an initial application for assistance in their now-new area of residence. When I asked them why they had moved 1,000 km just to apply for assistance, they always said the same thing. It was because their kids’ father(s) was/were trying to enforce visitation orders. 

Another way visitation orders are circumvented is based on failure to pay child support. This one, too, always catches my attention. There is a saying that when poverty comes in the door, love goes out the window. I guess this is a subset of the maxim above about hot pants and finances. Anyway, the math on this is interesting and vital. If a family splits up because of finances, the court determines that the father has to now support two residences, two sets of appliances, two sets of utility bills, two sets of vehicles and two mortgages or leases. In an environment where it is already established that the father cannot even support one such set, the order is specious and destructive, and the father is immediately in violation and subject to penalties, including denial of visitation. Therefore, even if paying support is not a requisite to visitation, it effectively becomes one. Everybody misses that visitation belongs to the kids. 

This bias against the fathers affects employment and the ability to advance. I have been doing business profiles for over 30 years, and I have known all along to be careful taking photos inside businesses. I have been warned there are fathers there that are behind on child support payments and can’t afford a garnishment on a brand-new job. This is not “right,” but an “is.” 

I am not a fan of this system. For one thing, I believe that young men growing up in a fatherless home tend to be influenced by multiple negative factors. I have stories about that, too. 

On the other hand, I don’t have a solution. Divorce is not a team sport. It does not take two to tango. All it takes is one desperate mother in a snit with a mediocre lawyer and it’s off to the races. They don’t take a vote. For the fathers, there is no help. For the kids, there is no help. 

So I want to salute all the young fathers out there, today, looking at a bleak and barren landscape, and to tell you, you are not alone. You feel alone, because there is no “program,” no “rights” and no support for you. Nonetheless, you are not alone. And yes, there are thousands of suicides, and there are others that commit crimes out of desperation and despair, yet there are tens of thousands that make it, and make it against all odds. 

For those, the kids grow up and learn, and they make their own choices. They come back into the part of the family that was banished and bring along their own new lives, spouses and kids. Life smooths out and bitter memories fade. 

 

For men, your history – your role – has been to shoulder burdens too big to bear, yet make it. You need to make it, because the kids are too important to let flighty emotions and buggered laws prevail. You need to play the long game so the kids and grandkids and great grandkids have a chance. 

I wish I could say happy Fathers’ Day, but I can’t. Rather, keep a stiff upper lip, stay away from false comforts, get up, clean up, suit up and show up. Eighty percent of life is just “being there.” You are the future for all of us, and we are counting on you. 

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Comments

  1. roberta bianchi says

    That was the craziest article I have ever read. This is an industry magazine, right?
    I know plenty of happy dads who are either happily married and happily divorced. Women are not out to keep their kids’ away from their fathers. This was such a woman hating article, and I can’t believe this man is on staff, and allowed to publish this.
    Disgusting!
    I will unsubscribe from this publishing from now on.

    • Kerry Knudsen says

      Hi, Roberta,

      I think the truth is that there are different perspectives. I hope you perceived that you and I agree there are plenty of happy dads who are happily married or happily divorced. My perspective is more directed toward the kids. It is more rare to find kids that are happy their parents divorced.

      For what it’s worth, I am certain that domestic problems are among the most frequent and difficult issues personnel departments have facing them, and those problems seem to be eternally unresolved. If not, I’d like to know more.

      I continue to be perplexed at the numbers of people that want people dissolved or fired, simply because they don’t agree with some utterance or other. I have never done that, so cannot relate. People even want other people’s businesses barred, banned or boycotted because of a religious or political position. Here in Canada, we are guaranteed both freedom of religion and freedom of speech, both of which seem to indicate we should discuss and, if necessary, debate. It has been my hope that this area could be used for that debate.

      Out of curiosity, do you think there is a Tender Years Doctrine in Canada? If so, do you think it affects visitation? I am having a hard time picking out exactly what you object to, and would like to hear more.

      kk

  2. Ontario Tile says

    That is the craziest article! I can’t believe this is published in an industry magazine. You are a woman hater and hate spreader.
    I don’t know how you are allowed to stay on staff.
    Those were the most ridiculous statements!
    I think your own mother would be embarrassed by your statements.
    Disgusting.

    • Hi,

      I apologize for the lateness of this response, but I took Lee Ann to see Billy Elliot in Stratford and your note got lost. I did, however, show her before we left, since it’s about woman hating. She remarked on how it’s strange that haters are always first to call other people haters. Not sure it applies in this case, since we have never exchanged ideas, but that’s what she said.

      It is no puzzle how I stay on staff. I own the company. It is interesting to me how few magazines are left that reflect the independent work of a real person. Even the biggest names in media today are only employees and are subject to firing and bullying by special interests and advertisers. In fact, most trade magazine editors today are nothing more than stenographers for the top three advertisers.

      Thanks for thinking of Mom. She has been gone for a long time, but I think of her every day. You may have a different take, but my opinion is that she would say something very similar to Lee Ann.

      In my view, the column was an attempt to recognize that not all fathers have an easy go of it, and to provide some support and sources. I would be happy to hear your further views.

      Have a great day.

      kk

  3. Kerry. Just cause you and your friends are in a bad place…….Let’s not try to tell the whole world about your trials, tribulations, bad news bear stories!!!

    Personally I love Father’s Day and share constantly with my 3 grown up children , their spouses and 6 unbelievable grand children between the ages of 3 and 12.

    By the way, we are usually 14 for dinner Sunday nights.

    Your slant is warped. Maybe put a smile on your face and feel the world and its beauty!!

    Frankly I am astonished that the editor would allow this to be printed.

    Kindly remove me from your email list

    Phil Stewart
    President
    House of Broadloom Limited
    Since 1966
    Sudbury, ON

    • Hi, Phil,

      Happy to remove you from the list, as you requested, but sorry to see you go, especially without reasoning out issues.

      The reason the editor allowed this to be printed is because I would fire his ass if he didn’t. This comes from me owing the company.

      I think your supposition that I come from a “bad place” is a bit presumptuous. Working for the welfare system had its downside, I guess, but it was a real and valid window into the lives of people that are less fortunate. I have also made a practice over the years of visiting men in prisons, both in Canada and in the U.S. One thing about inmates – they have already been deemed guilty, so they are not trying to cover up or defend. Many take responsibility for their situation, and this is especially true of men with children.

      I own a nice little publishing company and the back property line of my home is the Credit River. I have a wife that loves me, and our Sunday dinner typically only hits six – me, Lee Ann, my daughter and her husband and their two kids, neither of which sees me in a bad place. My son and his family live in the States, but when they’re here the table rises to 11.

      Unfortunately, trials, tribulations and bad-news stories are part of everybody’s reality – especially those of my readers that hire workers from the existing labour pool. Not to reflect on you or others, but I would consider myself smug to ignore those people and tell them to fend for themselves. In my judgment, it was high time that somebody took up a pen in defence of young, voiceless fathers.

      I would be happy to hear a counterpoint, and would consider publishing one as a letter to the editor (who still has his job) in our print magazine.

      Best,

      kk

  4. Harvey Penner says

    Kerry:
    I have always looked forward to your columns as they are so relevant to real life. This one hit me in the “feels”, as I too have been there done that. I am happy to say that you are absolutely correct in what you say about the whole divorce scenario. You must have had a front row seat on my life 25 years ago. I have just had a 22 year anniversary with a great gal, and life is what you make of it. Best form of revenge is to live successfully, and I am not talking money here.
    Thank you for writing this, I am going to keep it handy.

    Harvey Penner
    Yorkton Saskatchewan

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