Dilemmas: Fatherhood is worth fighting for

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Indy Lifestyle Online
When Graham went to court to improve access to his three-year-old son he was horrified to find that, far from getting his hours bumped up, they were reduced drastically - from 20 hours a week to three. Since then, because of his ex-wife's evasive action, he has only been able to see his son for about one hour a month.

In despair, he asked if he should stop seeing the boy altogether. The pain was breaking his heart - and he wondered if, anyway, it would be in the boy's best interests to lose all contact.

While many men remembered the anguish they, too, had felt in similar situations, and despite the fact that 50 per cent of fathers lose touch completely with their children when they divorce, not one Independent reader favoured throwing in the towel.

As John Smith of Sheffield wrote: 'I was going to stop seeing my children as the hurt was too painful, but thank God I fought

my way through. Always remember - the child sees things differently from the way we do.'

'Use any means you can think of to keep contact with your son; he needs you,' wrote an anonymous father from Hexham.

'Phone him, take any opportunity to see him, go to court and claim your wife is a shit if she obstructs contact - because she is if she does - write to him, anything to keep him aware that he has a father.

'It took me eight years for my eldest daughter to see me for who I was and it was worth it all in the end - the humiliations, the welfare officer, the 20 court hearings, child psychiatrists and more. Fight for your son's right to have his own father and spare no effort in letting your ex know what a cow she is in trying to hold you away from hers and your son.'

Another one who favoured a

well thought-out, aggressive campaign, was an anonymous hospital specialist. He said: 'Remember that children's long- term psychological well-being is quite literally constructed out of their relationships with both parents, together or apart.'

Rob Score, of Basingstoke, like some other readers, was a little suspicious that Graham's access had been drastically reduced. 'Does Graham take the boy to places his ex-wife strongly disapproves of? Does he drink excessively? If I hadn't taken careful stock of how I behaved and carried on during access, the support I had from my ex-wife would, I'm sure, have been less forthcoming than it was.

'I had to accept that the children were no longer under my control and that their upbringing was not entirely as I wished. This was often painful. But if Graham carries on seeing his son he may some day, as I do now, be very glad to have weathered those storms and be proud to know his son - in my case a 13-year-old son and 15-year-old daughter.'

A father's role is one that always requires effort, whether dad

lives at home or not. One survey has shown that, immediately after birth, while a mother simply hugs her new-born baby, saying: 'Hello]', a father usually introduces himself by picking the baby up and saying: 'Hello] I'm your dad]'

Jim, from Yorkshire, worked hard to fight down the desire for battle. 'His son didn't ask him to leave and Graham has a duty to visit him if he doesn't want him to feel abandoned and suspicious of him in later life,' he wrote. 'It won't be easy in any way, but fighting his ex-partner outside or inside the courts should be avoided . . . any gains will turn out to be illusory and his son will be forced to take sides.

'Graham should take what's given, however small, use it and remember that time is on his side. His ex-partner's suspicions may fade. He may be grudgingly accepted if he's reliable and dependable and he may be useful as the years go by. It will hurt a lot less in the end than not visiting.

'I left my daughter more than 18 years ago when she was less that two, and, after a brief period of agonising like Graham, I decided to accept the situation which was fewer visits than I wanted, but at least I kept the door open. I only missed one visit in 18 years and that was when the train failed. Now at university, my daughter is able to visit and stay with me, and is able to tell me how much she missed me, as I have been able to tell her how much I missed her.'

Father's Day is only 10 days away. Many people see it as just a piece of commercial exploitation. But for all the fathers who, like Graham, find it tough to get access to their children, it's a symbol of what an important role they play. A role worth fighting for, however small it may seem in terms of hours.

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