I could never comprehend why someone would want to have a child and then, during that child’s most needy years, leave. I’ve heard all the excuses before: “I forgot to wear a condom!” “My ex-wife won’t let me see her!” “I was really never ready to be a dad!” “I never saw my daughter because I was afraid she was hearing bad things about me!”
The list could go on and on, but it should have been cut short right at the beginning. Simply said, there is no reason a parent should leave a child behind.
I’ll share a story about a childhood friend of mine, Diana. When we were in second and third grade, Diana was one of the happiest, most well adjusted girls I’ve ever seen. I remember I was jealous of her because, during our second grade reading class, she went with the third graders since she was so far ahead of all the other students.
In physical education, she was the one that was always picked first to be on a team. I would often go to her house and she had a room based on the theme of Candyland. Her mother was very loving and was so “cool” that we let her play with us sometimes. I didn’t see her dad much since he was always “working” (I later found out he was working on his affairs), but I knew Diana loved him. She talked about him all the time as if he was some type of superhero.
I’ll never forget one night after the first day of school in 4th grade. Diana and I were so happy because we were both in Mrs. Meyer’s class and heard that Mrs. Meyers was a very nice teacher. We didn’t really understand why, after our first day of school, Mrs. Meyers seemed to be more of an army sergeant than teacher, but Diana and I agreed that if Mrs. Meyer’s yelled at either one of us, she would “regret” it.
Later that night, we heard the doorbell ring. It was pretty late at night, so my mom was very surprised to see Diana’s face at the door. Diana was crying profusely, and watching this made me want to cry since Diana was my best friend (and someone I thought would be my wife someday).
“Daddy is gone!” she exclaimed. I thought she meant he was dead and my mom admitted to thinking the same when recalling the night’s events the next day. She was crying so hard that she was not able to explain what happened. After about ten minutes, Diana’s mother came to our house looking for her. I was shocked because I had never really seen an adult cry like this before. I had always thought adults were some type of superheroes that were immune to emotional pain.
I don’t remember much of the conversation between Diana’s mother and mine, but I do remember being very relieved to find out that he wasn’t actually dead. Still, what happened left an emotional toll on Diana and her mother for years to come.
Since this late summer night, I never saw Diana as a normal person again. I found out Diana’s father had run off with another woman that he met just three months before. He wasn’t making child support payments and didn’t even call Diana.
At school, Diana spent more time in the principal’s office than in the high level reading classes. She was already smoking in fifth grade and was known as the junior high slut by the time she was in sixth grade. By that time, our friendship was pretty much over with and this is when I first learned what “growing apart” means. Still, I believed we would have been friends if her father hadn’t left.
After sixth grade, Diana’s mom had to give up her house and they moved to an apartment in the inner city. Her mother basically drank herself to death while Diana dropped out of high school at age 16 and gave birth to her first child one year later. During those years, my father and mother divorced, and although my father still wanted to talk to me, I wanted nothing to do with him. I made a promise to myself, as well as my mother, that I would not go the same route Diana did.
Diana’s story is heartbreaking, but the fact that there are countless other stories similar to Diana’s is even more heartbreaking. Having a parent leave is a huge blow to a child, but leaving without paying child support makes the situation much worse on families. There aren't any laws requiring a parent to see a child after he/she leaves, but there are many laws put into place that require abandoning parents to pay child support. The consequences of not following the child support laws could land the deadbeat parent in prison.
Unfortunately, there have been many who have politicized the deadbeat parent issue. Such is the case of the former corrupt LA District Attorney, Gil Garcetti, who often targeted fathers who had proven, through DNA testing, that they weren’t the deadbeats in question. Many of the innocent men lost their families and their reputations without doing anything wrong. This was one of the main issues that cost Mr. Garcetti reelection in 2000.
Many believe there is a double standard when it comes to punishing deadbeat fathers when compared to deadbeat mothers. A study taken just five years ago showed that only 57 percent of mothers were forced to pay child support, a figure significantly less than the 68 percent of dads required to pay up. Fathers seeking child support from mothers has become so politically incorrect that fathers are often persuaded not to take this course of action.
Whether male or female, the damage that absent parents (especially deadbeats) do to their children and society is too much to measure. No matter what happens between two parents, both of them owe their child love and comfort. If they can't provide that, then they could at least provide child support. A parent who stops caring for their child is not only wrong, he/she is also a criminal.