Let's Be Frank: The Diary of a Divorced Gay Dad
It’s a sunny Tuesday afternoon at 3:15 p.m. I’m perched midway up a grassy knoll directly in front of my kid’s school playground. Tons of other parents surround me, some with complacent looks on their faces, some talking to their suburban make-me-gag cliques, and others staring intently at their phones. Not me. My eyes are as focused as an eagle’s on a small green cafeteria door that will be opening at any moment. Time is irrelevant, as each minute that passes feels like a year. My anxiety peaks, but I have to play it cool so I don’t become an emotional hot mess. And then it happens – the frumpy “door lady” does her job and, one by one, the kids start pouring out. Some of them are so tiny it’s hard to imagine they’re even in school. Others are big and gawky and carrying instruments that are sure to get them made fun of later in life. Through that sea of children, my gaze is fixed, until I see the precious face that I’ve raised since birth.
When my son spots me, his reaction is always the same. He gently pushes his way through the crowd, speeds up the hill, and gives me an ecstatic hug. Little does he know that I purposely situate myself far and high so I can watch this scene unfold in what seems like slow-motion. It’s my favorite moment of the week. It’s the moment when he’s with me again, at the beginning of our time together. It’s the moment that I’m 100% less alone than I was a few minutes ago. It’s when I feel like a family.
I pick him up and carry him all the way to my car, which isn’t an easy feat considering he is an enormous first grader. I inquire about his day and receive an identical response each time: “I did writing, math, and played.” I cherish every bit of it. I’m usually fighting back tears, because I recognize that this is my new life. No more waking up each morning to see him sleeping in his bed. No more making him smile, joking with him, and being around him every day. I have to share him – rightfully so – with my ex-husband. And truthfully, it fu*king sucks.
One of the biggest no-brainers of our divorce was our decision for joint custody. Research has proven that it is truly ideal for the child, but we didn’t need statistics to tell us what he needed. The time he spends with us is an exact 50/50 split, and we live one town away from each other to make the transition easier for him. Even if he isn’t with one of us, the other calls at a scheduled time so we’re always in touch. I am actually quite proud of how well we have navigated this situation together, despite any adversity we may have had in our marriage. Our son’s name is Briggs, which originates from the word bridge, and ironically he has been exactly that for us. The love we have for him has usurped any negativity that came our way.
In terms of Briggs’ adjustment, we are continually monitoring and discussing it. Some days, he is all smiles and seems amazing, and others it’s clear he has a heavy mind. I can’t help but feel guilty about this entire thing. Selfish, almost. However, my ex-husband and I made a decision that we both felt will ultimately be the best for the entire family. As the old adage goes, only time will tell.
When it’s his last night with me each week, he holds me extra tight before he goes to sleep. Later that evening, I sneak into his room a couple times just to see him sleeping in his bed. Dropping him off at school the next day is the loneliest feeling in the world, because I know my life is on pause until he’s back in it. I become that weird parent who lingers and doesn’t want to let go of his kid. I whisper into his ear something I’ve said to him since birth: “I love you more than anything else in the world,” and he replies “I love you too, Daddy.” Those five words carry me to the next time I see him, just how I carry him across the parking lot to my car. I’m his father – his rock, and he will always be mine.