June 27, 2007

An Open Letter about Children of Divorce

Dear Mac,

I've sent you several emails with no response.

Your advertisement on my daily Inspire list is a constant reminder of how divorced dads in the United States would love to parent with dignity, but can't because they are denied access to their children by hateful individuals.

In my emails, I had hoped to have an exchange with you to see if you could help in the epedemic in the US.

I know your father was a former legislator in Washington State. Our current legislature refuses to address the issue that 95% of all marriages end with the non-custodial parent (mostly dads) only getting 4 days a week of parenting time. 4 days! Can you imagine having lost custody of Drew and been relegated to a visitor in his life, where you got to see him 4 days of the month.

I believe you are in a unique position to speak to this issue, and I hope we can compell you to at least respond to my emails and tell us no thanks if it doesn't interest you.

Kind Regards,

Disappointed Dad

A Direct Answer

Dear Disappointed Dad,

Good to hear from you.

(I apologize for the fact that you feel that I have been unresponsive to the e-mails you have sent, but I answer hundreds of e-mails each week and I have a personal policy of answering every single incoming e-mail within two days of receipt. I am faithful to this policy. I check my e-mail daily, and I have never received an e-mail from you.

We use a spam blocker called SpamArrest that requires first-time e-mailers to identify a graphic upon sending first time e-mails. Upon sending a first-time e-mail to me, you should have received an immediate return e-mail asking you to identify a graphic and then hitting "send" again and I would have gotten your e-mail. I have never known this system to not work.

If you e-mailed me through our website, as you did this time, I guarantee that I would have gotten it, just as I did this one. Next time that you send me an e-mail watch to see if you receive an immediate answer asking you to do the "identification and resend" proceedure. If not, then please give me a call and we will check it out. You will only have to do this once and then you will be able to send me e-mail unencumbered for life!)

Now for your comments about divorced Fathers:

I will try to comment on your questions/statements in the order that you offer them to me.

1. "Your advertisement on my daily Inspire list is a constant reminder of how divorced dads in the United States would love to parent with dignity, but can't because they are denied access to their children by hateful individuals.''

I am sorry that you have become divorced (but remember, that was your doing not mine, not the court's, and not the legislature's). I am sorry for the fact that our advertisement for Parenting with Dignity somehow annoys you as it reminds you of how you might like to parent your children. However, there are a couple of thoughts expressed in this statement that will make it difficult for me to respond to you. I am not willing to make comment about generalized statements that "whitewash" a whole group of people because of he actions of a few. I deal with thousands upon thousands of divorced dads and moms who parent their children with dignity, love, and respect; in spite of the fact that they are divorced.

If my e-mail volume is, in any way, indicative of reality, there are more dads who choose to simply disappear from their responsibilities as a father than there are dads like you who want to be more involved with their children. Just as I would not label you as a "deadbeat dad" because of the actions of other dads, I feel compelled to ask you to not label others parents based upon the actions of a few hateful mothers. It is always a mistake to ask a group to pay for the actions of a few.

If you are having difficulties in working out an agreement that allows you to do be as active in the lives of your children as you might like, then let's deal with that on a specific basis. I cannot speak in general statements about all divorced parents, because every case is so different. I am sure that there are cases where the settlement is not equitable or fair but it is simply impossible for me to speak about them without specifics.

I will say that no case of divorce is ever going to seem completely equitable to both parents because, by the very nature of divorce, neither parent is going to be completely able to be the full time parent that they were while they were together as a family! Like it or not, that is the reality of divorce. That is why it is called divorce. By mutually agreeing to no longer live as husband and wife, a couple also must give up some other rights and privileges as parents. The most obvious is that right to be with your children full time! Your children cannot be divided equally between you.

Now please listen carefully to me here, and try to not react with anger to my statement, the biggest injustice that I see in divorce is not done to either parent! The biggest injustice brought on by divorce is the injustice to the children! Those children are denied the right to live with dignity with both parents in a harmonious home with a mom and a dad.

I must tell you that, from my point of view, I am much more willing to work with people to establish reasonable and dignified relationships with children in a divorced family setting if the parents are willing to consider the whole discussion from the point of view of their children!

If there is one party in most divorced relationships whose voice is almost never heard, IT IS THE VOICE OF THE CHILDREN! If I am going to be an advocate of any one group in this argument, my voice will be heard on behalf of the children!

2. "In my emails, I had hoped to have an exchange with you to see if you could help in the epidemic in the US."

The epidemic in the U.S., again, from my point of view, is DIVORCE. I hate to be blunt about this, but that is my point of view as I sit on the outside and listen to the problem and try to identify a reasonable solution that brings about the best outcome for children.

To me, the solution to this epidemic lies in trying to reduce the divorce rate! Kids are the ones being damaged and the cause of the damage is divorce. The problem is not that the courts are unfair. The problem is not that the laws or the legislature are unfair; the problem is that parents are divorcing at an alarming rate and are then asking the courts to fix their problem. Children are being forced to grow up as the pawns in a game that they did not create.

To me the solution to this problem lies in preventing divorce in the first place! Blaming the courts for this problem seems to me to be rather much like blaming rehab counselors for the fact that drug addicts do not get well immediately after seeking treatment! The solution lies in preventing people from using drugs in the first place!

I am sure that your response to my comments will be to get angry at me for being insensitive to your problem. If so, that is your CHOICE. However, as the creator of a program dedicated to the mission statement that says: "We will improve the lives of CHILDREN by teaching effective parenting skills to as many parents as possible," I must hold true to our mission and be the advocate of the children! I must work to improve the lives of the children.

Now, if you want to start a conversation about how other parents can avoid winding up in your situation of having a battle over their children with the person with whom you decided to create those children, then I will be your strongest advocate. If you would like to work on a program that advises other parents about how to sit down and work together to build a reasonable relationship with their mutual children, I am your guy.

I simply am not very interested in further appealing to the court system to fix a problem that they are not bonded with fixing. The problem is not the courts! The problem rests squarely on the shoulders of the parents. I have met hundreds of thousands of parents who have divorced and in the process they have chosen to "bury the hatchet" and sit down and work out a mutual relationship where both parties agree to do what is reasonable, workable, and dignified on behalf of their children. If this is what you are interested in doing I am with you one hundred per cent.

I am always ready to discuss this issue with anyone. My telephone number is publicly displayed on our website right along with my e-mail. If you would like to open a dialog with me, feel free to give me a call at any time. I will tell you that starting your conversation with me by implying that I am unresponsive will get you nowhere. I am as responsive as I know how to be. I publish my phone number, e-mail address, I write a Blog almost daily, and I respond to every single call, letter or comment that comes in. I answer my own phone and if I am not there to answer it, I answer all messages in a very timely manner. This does not guarantee that I will take your side in any argument, but I will respond honestly and completely, just as I am doing here.

3. "I know your father was a former legislator in Washington State. Our current legislature refuses to address the issue that 95% of all marriages end with the non-custodial parent (mostly dads) only getting 4 days a week of parenting time."

I have no idea how you feel our father's position as a legislator over 30 years ago has any bearing on the issue of divorce in today's world but suffice it to say, our father's position buys me no special access to the legislative process of today. His position brought me no special favor even when he was alive and in office!

As for the next part of your statement I must point out to you that more than half of the marriages in this state and in this nation result in totally equal parenting rights for both father and mother, because more than half of all marriages do NOT end in divorce! You are totally inaccurate in your statement the "our current legislature refuses to address the issue that 95% of all marriages end with the non-custodial parent (mostly dads) only getting 4 days a week of parenting time." The legislature is not in any way responsible for the fact that many marriages end in divorce. Nor are they responsible for "95%" ending in some way that you deem to inequitable to one group or another.

Now, I believe that I understand what you are trying to say. What you are trying to say is that, currently, many divorce settlements result in one or the other of the parents being left feeling that the other parent is getting too much time with the children. That may be so, but my concern is for the children! For me to take that point of view, I feel compelled to look at each case individually. I do not believe that law is capable of doing that and thus trying to turn to the legislature for a solution is always going to wind up with someone feeling as you do! This is not a problem of law.

I am sure that you did not mean to say "four days a week" because that represents more than half of the time that the children would spend with the father. I believe that you meant 4 days a month. Now, if you meant four days a month that still does not mean that this is an unreasonable agreement. So many other factors need to be weighed to establish what is reasonable for the children. If the parents live in separate towns, or states... that agreement seems like it might be reasonable for the children. Perhaps even that agreement might be unfair to the children. Four days a month would mean that two weekends a month the children are being asked to sleep in a strange bed, in a different town, away from their personal belongings and away from their neighborhood, and away from their friends, their schools, and their activities. Like I said, even that arrangement might be unfair to the children! I'm sure that if the court said that you had to leave your home for two weekends a month and go live somewhere else, you might find that to be unfair to you.

4. "Can you imagine having lost custody of Drew and been relegated to a visitor in his life, where you got to see him 4 days of the month."

In direct answer to your question, NO, I cannot imagine that! You are attempting to personalize this issue for me, and I can appreciate your efforts, but when I personalize this issue, I simply cannot imagine any situation where I would let my personal disagreements with my wife escalate to the point that I would need to throw myself at the mercy of the courts in order to establish my right to be a father to my children! Herein lies the solution to your problem and the problem of establishing equitable parental rights. Parents must make whatever concessions and compromises that are necessary in order to allow both parents the opportunity to be active in the lives of their children.

In order to do that, the parents must put down their differences and sit down to work things out. In order to do this they cannot rely on the courts! To me that is the problem. Parents are looking to the courts and the legislature to solve a problem that the parents must take responsibility to solve for themselves.

By personalizing this issue and bringing my son (and might I point out to you that we have two sons, so as I view this I look at both of our sons, not just the famous one) into this, then I must think about my personal desire and drive to be a parent to my children. When I think about that, I cannot perceive of a problem great enough that could have arisen between Barbara and me that would have allowed me to even consider divorce!

If you wish to speak directly about me, then I will too. In my life, if a problem were to arise between my wife and me, we would work it out! We had many such problems and we worked them all out! We simply would not let our problems become more important than our family! No problem could ever have become big enough to cause us to choose to live apart from our children. No court was ever going to become that powerful in our lives, nor the lives of our children.

You may think that I am being "holier than thou" with my statement, but remember, you were the one that brought our children into this and you are the one who asked me to imagine! Divorce would never happen to me. I meant it when I said, "I do!" and "Until Death do us part!"

5. " I believe you are in a unique position to speak to this issue"

My position is no more unique than yours! I have no more authority than you do. As a matter of fact, you most likely have more authority to speak about this than I do, because I am assuming that you are divorced... I am not.

I have chosen as my life's work to be an advocate for children. It became increasingly more evident to both my wife and me that the source of many problems for the children we were working with was their families and their parents! What we saw was that parents were increasingly more willing to ignore their responsibility to their children and pursue their own personal gratifications at the expense of their children. What we saw was that increasing numbers of the children, with whom we were working, had become the rope in a senseless tug-of-war between their parents. What we saw were increasing numbers of children who were pawns in a game created by their parents.

We decided to become advocates for those children!

We decided to get parents to actually sit down and consider what it is that they wanted to teach their children. We saw the solution to the problems being experienced by the children to be helping parents to develop a plan of raising their children by some moral and ethical codes that the parents had chosen. We decided to try to get parents to consider that their own actions were teaching their children far more than their words. If parents wanted to teach their children to treat people with respect and dignity, then they would have to model that in their actions. We decided to teach parents that their children would learn more "from their back sides than their front sides"... in other words their children would learn more from their actions than from their words.

We decided to attack the problem of divorce by teaching parents the necessity of teaching their children about how to pick a mate for life. We are on a mission to attempt to have parents actually make some deep decisions about what THEY WOULD CHOOSE to teach their children about dating, courtship, and marriage.

We decided to try to get parents to make some decisions about what it is that they teach their children about the responsibilities of parenthood. We have found that when parents actually sit down together and make some decisions about what they want to teach their children about being parents, their perspective on their own responsibilities as parents often changed quite drastically.

I remain quite convinced that we are making some major inroads on what I consider to be the real problem of which you are speaking... and that is rampant divorce! The root of the problem, as I see it, is that in modern American society, parents are not teaching their children what it means to be married, nor what it means to be parents. We are hoping to do that by teaching parents HOW to teach their children!

6. " I hope we can compell you to at least respond to my emails and tell us no thanks if it doesn't interest you."

You have made the point loud and clear that you feel I am responsible for not responding to you, but honestly, this is the first contact that I have received from you. Your confrontational style of approaching me is not particularly effective but believe me I AM interested! I have committed my life to working with the problem of children being mistreated by the parents who brought them into the world! I work most days for the entire day at teaching parents to treat their children in a dignified and loving manner. If you want to take someone to task for not caring, you better find another person to go after. I believe that my actions speak far louder than my words.

If you are truly interested in pursuing a solution to the problem I am all ears.

A great place for you to start might be by reading both of my books and getting a set of our DVD Parenting with Dignity Curriculum and watching the lessons together with the mother of your children. After watching each lesson, do the assignment together on behalf of your children. After doing the assignments discuss what the results have been and how you might change your actions to improve the outcome for your children.

Or you could choose to give me a call and we can discuss this most pressing problem.


Mac Bledsoe


lisa said...

I am doing research on the effects of divorce on children. I just finished it when i decided to look for a letter about the matter. I can not believe everything you said was exactly what I learned frommy research. I am currently in the midst of a separation and my husband is doing everything possible to change his behaviors(something he would never have done before the separation). I also I am working on my issues. Yes I agree the children is were our attention should go. Do everything we can to get healed and be better for them. They didnt volunteer to be born. You have spoke volumes to me and confirmed how I feel. God bless you and keep being that voice for our children.

Mac said...

Dear Lisa,

Wow, would you share some of your research with me so that others may benefit. Please e-mail me directly at mac@macbledsoe.com I need to hear about what you are discovering.


Mac Bledsoe

Mac said...

Dear Disappointed Dad,

I must tell you that I now am the disappointed one. I have not heard back from you.

I would like to make a new comment about the children of divorce for you or anyone else to comment upon.

Here is my idea: I would like to see a big paradigm shift in America regarding divorce. I would like to see every discussion of divorce begin with the idea that THE CHILDREN GET THE HOME!

start with the concept that any divorce is going to begin with the concept of doing what is absolutely the best for the children. If the parents want to separate, fine; but the children get to stay in their home, eat at their dinner table, live in their neighborhood, go to their school and let the parents move in and out as suits their needs.

Let me know what you think.


Mac Bledsoe

Robert said...

Divorce its just so hard for the kids. when my parents separated, I was so doomed and very disappointed. But I just have to accept things as they are meant to happen. Good thing I got this planner/organizer from co-Parenting-Manager (http://4help.to/plan) which really helped me cope up with the situation. Their website is also perfect for parents and kids who are experiencing the dilemma of divorce.