'Weekend Dads' Should Still Be Parents

So The Darling G and I were in Yo! Sushi on Saturday, and sat opposite us was a father with a somewhat uncooperative teenager. A bit of eavesdropping over our makis indicated that what we were seeing was a Weekend Dad.

They finished lunch quickly – Dad trying (and failing) to communicate, and in doing so showing a woeful lack of understanding of his son’s life and activities. They then rolled off, with Dad asking directions to the cinema. I suppose the cinema made it easier for him – after all, one doesn’t have to talk when watching a movie.

This is, I would imagine, a scene repeated in burger bars and tourist attractions across the country every weekend. And it got me thinking – does it really have to be like that?

I am one of the many Weekend Dads in this country. But I don’t believe that being a dad at weekends means you have to be a Weekend Dad.

I see my son every Thursday evening to do bedtime stories, and we have him overnight for three weekends in every four. Additionally, we also take my former stepson, as his father only visits once every five weeks (if he’s not doing anything else) and let’s face it – every boy needs a regular male influence. Both The Darling G and I (and, I’m proud to say, the rest of my family) make a point of ensuring that Josh and Jay are treated absolutely equally, and both are referred to and treated as my sons. (But that’s another post).

I think it’s important, though, that weekend visits and the like don’t descend into the ‘easy stuff’ – cinema, wildlife park, McDonalds and so on – because in doing so, the Weekend Dad is making it easy for himself, not his child.

Rather, I believe that it’s better to take the harder route – involve the children in the normal minutae of weekends, with the normal treats that would come to a child in a normal relationship. For us, this can mean taking the boys to Argos to choose some new bedding for their bunks, then to buy some new shoes for Joshua, and stopping for a drink in Mostly Books in Abingdon rather than a fat-laden snack at Burger King. We do Jason’s homework together and in the evening we eat together at the table, with no TV (and no multiple-choice dining either, there’s only one choice). They get a joint bedtime story, with Jason helping me read to Josh, and they don’t get outlandish bedtimes.

We keep to the same rules and discipline as anyone else would, with the same consequences.

Instead of the guilt-trip overload of expensive substitutes, the boys get regular love and affection as a child should. They get stability, a degree of routine and the ability to talk about things normally rather than, as Mr Weekend Dad was doing, an interrogation on what’s happening devoid of emotional understanding.

Being a Weekend Dad is not an easy thing to do (it’s even harder when one of the children has no biological link to either of you at all). I wouldn’t profess to have all the answers. But I do think that by creating a family unit for the times you see the kids, rather than making every time a special occasion, you get to know your children better and establish a more stable, lasting and positive relationship.

  • http://www.whatwoulddadsay.com GL HOFFMAN

    Just found your site and blog…well done…anything about dads I am all over it.

    GL HOFFMAN
    Minneapolis

  • http://www.whatwoulddadsay.com GL HOFFMAN

    Just found your site and blog…well done…anything about dads I am all over it.

    GL HOFFMAN
    Minneapolis

  • http://www.simonsalt.com simonsalt

    Neil

    Great post. As an estranged Father, who actually lives in a different country to his children, your points are absolutely spot on. No one has all the answers, but your points are a great way for distant fathers to close the distance.

    Simon

  • http://www.simonsalt.com simonsalt

    Neil

    Great post. As an estranged Father, who actually lives in a different country to his children, your points are absolutely spot on. No one has all the answers, but your points are a great way for distant fathers to close the distance.

    Simon

  • http://www.disfordad.com Chuck

    Interesting post. I used to be a weekend dad. There are many reasons a lot of dad’s fall into this chief among them is the fact that they love their kids and feel awful about the situation. Weekend dad or not I applaud them for trying even if they may be getting it wrong. If they didn’t care about a real relationship they would just walk away, happens all the time.

    I now have years and years of experience being the “non-custodial” parent and have come to the same realization you have. It was a journey though, for me and the kids. We continue to learn.

  • http://www.disfordad.com Chuck

    Interesting post. I used to be a weekend dad. There are many reasons a lot of dad’s fall into this chief among them is the fact that they love their kids and feel awful about the situation. Weekend dad or not I applaud them for trying even if they may be getting it wrong. If they didn’t care about a real relationship they would just walk away, happens all the time.

    I now have years and years of experience being the “non-custodial” parent and have come to the same realization you have. It was a journey though, for me and the kids. We continue to learn.

  • http://www.hipmomsguide.com Kirsetin Morello

    This is really well said. I’m a little taken aback by how much thought you’ve put into this — shame on me, I guess. Full credit to a dad who’s got his heart and head in the right place. Lucky kid!

  • http://www.hipmomsguide.com Kirsetin Morello

    This is really well said. I’m a little taken aback by how much thought you’ve put into this — shame on me, I guess. Full credit to a dad who’s got his heart and head in the right place. Lucky kid!

  • James Holt

    Excellent ideas, thank you. I get my boys every week end pick them up at 3pm
    Saturday and drop them off Sunday night. I also pick them up from school 2 or 3
    days a week and on Wed Karate and dinner. It is easier to do the Burger joints
    and movies etc because I am in rather ordinary accommodations at the moment and
    feel guilty about having them spend too much time there.

    I am finding it really hard at
    the moment with winter here and opportunity for outside play very difficult. I
    also know that by being with me and as much as they want to be with me taking
    them out of their comfort zone of their home is a source of anxiety for me.

    My plan this Sunday is Church
    followed by movies but there are not always movies on and when they are it is expensive.

    It would be great if Dads in
    similar circumstances could get together and maybe book out one of those FUN Time
    type places for say 4 or 5 hours on a Sunday so guys and kids in similar
    situations can get together and get some support.

    Is this already happening
    somewhere? If not how do we get it started?