Through my relationship with S, I learned a great deal about my capacity for fatherhood.
And, I learned that every other weekend is a lot. So is every other week. Yet, sometimes it is not.
It was easier when I was a full-time dad. I wonder if I can explain it properly. To myself, even. Yet it is a truth I know. I just do.
When my ex-wife and I were together, our life was centered, balanced. I woke each morning with a clear understanding of my role in life. I knew the context of my day. It was being daddy. Being a husband. Being me.
While I was with S for those two years, it was different. I was different. Different to myself, and different to other people. At different times. It was difficult.
In the sense that two weekends of every month isn't all that much, I was very much just me for all the other time. Which is considerable, really. I wasn't a father but for being a father. My parenting was limited to making sure my daughter was financially well cared for, and the occasional phone call. I lament this condition, but I have painfully come to realize that I cannot change it.
Of course, on some non-day, I might be at the Rio Target and suddenly spot something (nice alliteration, that) I'd just have to buy for my daughter. She was never out of my thoughts; she was just out of my daily life. This is guilt.
In the sense, however, that two weekends of every month is quite a bit, I was very much the actor playing a role. I felt forced to balance two (often-times competing) needs: that I was lover and friend to S, and Daddy to Madison. (I understand that my relationship with and responsibilities to Madison are decidedly never going to change. Yet, I also endeavored to build something just as permanent with S.)
Think about it: provided you don't have children, and you're married, or have a significant (and I mean significant) other, then you very much take weekend plans for granted. If your boyfriend or girlfriend or wife or husband wants to attend some event that very Saturday? Summers, too. Every other week. This is guilt.
The biggest issue at hand, and one I will certainly have to re-live at some point, is how to grow a relationship with my other all the while growing my relationship with my child.
S made it easy, sometimes. Frequently, I was amazed at her. She'd plan weekend activities for the three of us that I'd never have imagined.
Sometimes, though, S made it impossibly difficult. "No, sweetheart, we can't do that this weekend, because we have Madison, remember? But you can, if you'd like." Sometimes she would, sometimes she wouldn't. But it always left me feeling as though she was a rental parent. That it was true doesn't make it any less difficult to grasp: she could walk away at any time.
Very much not like a Mommy or a Daddy. You know?
That Madison loved her -- oh, she loved her -- only scares me more.
For that next someone, do I do it the same way? I imagine so. To say that my only loyalty -- my undying devotion and commitment -- is to my daughter seems to exclude everyone else. But if I make it all about Madison, am I short-changing a relationship that needs its own bit of care and attention? If I don't, am I not robbing from the one person that will always, always be there -- and for whom I must always be there?
Scary. As I've said. I fully realize that this is a lot to dump on that next someone. Hope she can handle it. With grace. (Me, too.)