Dear Dads, Never judge a book by its cover…….

17yrs ago when I was just 17 myself I made a decision without any regard to the consequences. I was a red blooded male and was excited that my girlfriend at the time wanted to have sex with me. Despite stern warning from my parents that it would lead to trouble, I ploughed ahead (excuse the pun). Once my son had been conceived things as they do turned sour between me and my girlfriend. We stopped talking and I was excluded from a lot of the things that go with pregnancy. I tried for a short while to keep in touch but after coming across a few brick walls I lost interest and moved on, I was 17 after all. I was also going through the process of joining the Army and a month before my sons birth date I was accepted and given a march in date to the Australian Army. Once my son was born my ex girlfriend was dating a friend of mine (small world). I was told by him not to visit the hospital. I went anyway. My ex allowed me to see my son alone and I held him in my arms for about 20 mins.

It was during this time I looked down on him and I was over come with emotion, I found it hard to breathe and I started to cry. I thought how could I look after him but go away to the Army? How could I support a tiny life in this world when I couldn’t even support myself. All my friends were out partying and living life as we were all freshly turned 18. I was staying at home and saving my pennies as I was off to recruit training in 3 short weeks. I was also working 2 jobs, so time ticked by very quickly.

It was also during this 20 mins I made a decision to not come and go from my sons life and just let him grow up without me, it would be my ex’s choice if she told him about me and as time would show, she did, but it wasn’t pretty. I kissed him on the head, while still crying and said goodbye. I handed him back to his mum not knowing if I would see him again. 3 weeks later I left for the Army. It would be 10 years before I saw him again……

Fast forward 10yrs and as life has a habit of doing I came back to my home town following work, I was out of the Army and working in the mines further north in the state. I had not seen my son in 10yrs and only had 1 old photo my parents sent me when he was 2. My parents talked me into seeing him again now that I had moved back. I had been back to my home town numerous times over the years but had steered clear of my son and his family. I decided against my better judgement and went and saw my son. He was nothing like I imagined. He was completely different to how I thought he would be and did a lot of things that I didn’t agree with. He was not doing great in school and was socially awkward. I could not judge. Yes he was my flesh and blood but I had put no effort into his up bringing and did not have the right to comment on his development.

Instead I decided to throw myself 100% back into his life. I discussed it with his mum and she was happy if not on the fence about me coming back. I understood her apprehension. I started having him 5 nights out of 14. He was failing school badly so I went and saw his teachers. I got an idea where he was and where he should be, I met with his teachers every 3 weeks for updates. I tried to help him with his bed wetting. I also gave him his own room in my home. All new furniture and things to put in his room. We did it together as I thought it would help us bond.

Fast forward another 4 years. I had tried very hard to build a relationship out of thin air with my son. But it’s sad to say that he was not interested as I was, why would he? He had a family, he had a home where he was comfy. He didn’t need another one. I don’t know if fate played a part or other forces were at play but at around the same time I was offered a job on the other side of the country I found some you tube videos of my son letting forth some fairly colourful language of exactly what he thought of me. It was a shock, I know he wasn’t a huge fan of staying with me as I tried to teach him basic life skills (make your bed, clean your dishes, no PlayStation after 7pm) he much preferred his mums house where rules were not as strict. It was still a shock to hear your own son speak about you that way. It was at this point I realised that nothing I could do would build the bridge past the first 10 yrs in his life. Due to this and a few other reasons I decided to go.

When I explained the situation to my son he was not fussed. I said that I would call and write and pay to fly him over, he said that he didn’t want to fly. I put it down to a protective mechanism. I ended up going. At first I called him often, he was usually playing PlayStation or watching TV and the convo was always one sided and stunted. After 18 months I stopped calling. I now have less than 6 months until he turns 18 and he becomes an adult free to make his own decisions. I know he has dropped out of school and I pray that he is not on drugs. But unfortunately it stops there. Nothing I can do will ever fix that first 10yrs and trying now will only breed more hate.

I have 2 daughters now to my beautiful wife. I understand how important the first 10yrs of their lives are and the relationship we build will set the scene for life. I strive hard in my job, but that is a very very distance second to the time I spend with my girls. I have learnt a very valuable lesson 17 yrs in the making and will not faultier twice.

I have paid child support my whole sons life. From my perspective he has not gone without financially but he has missed out on a dad guiding him through life. No money in the world can repair this. Unfortunately this story does not have a happy ending except for me to say I get a second chance with my girls.

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