I remember telling my daughters’ moms that I couldn’t get the girls that weekend because I had something work-related that came up and I had to go out of town for something more important.
The truth is that I lied. I was broke.
Not only was my electricity about to be turned off, but so was my water. Payday was far away and I scrambled trying to figure out what I’d do, what I could pawn and how I could make just a little bit of money to get me through. My car payment was grossly overdue, rent was already ten days late, and I owed the neighbor $200 for helping me keep my water on from the prior month. The stress kept piling on, bills kept rolling in, and I was sure that I was destined for a busy intersection with a cardboard sign.
One of the most humbling experiences was going through my daughter’s piggy bank and taking her money. I remember making a promise to myself that I would pay her back one day. She didn’t have much in her bank but to her it was her life savings, and for me, it felt like I was trying to save a life. Mine.
After removing all of the couch cushions and finding mainly cracker crumbs and hair ponies, I went upstairs and started looking for all those little piles of coins I never valued before. All of a sudden they were like little mini jackpots to me. I started looking around the house deciding on what I could pawn. Most of what I had had little value, except my old wedding ring, which got pawned for $100 eventually. Those days were stressful, and my income wasn’t enough to keep me afloat. It seemed to me that I was slowly dissipating into a life of burden, and I began to feel what I never wanted to feel: Poverty.
Not having my girls that weekend made me cry, and I deserved it. I lied. My mind intertwined the fact that I was broke, therefore I must be a broke ass dad, which is what happens right before being a deadbeat one, so I thought. I started to believe that I wasn’t fit for the job of dad, and that I’d be a drain on society and a depressing experience for my girls every other weekend. I was afraid that they’d tell their moms that they didn’t want to visit me because dad’s house is boring. This was a very dangerous spiral for a single dad without hope.
But then I found hope. I found it through not giving up. What I learned though is that I don’t need money to have a good weekend with my girls. When I removed those couch cushions I realized I had more pillows and blankets throughout the house. I created a gigantic pile of fun to jump on.
When we went to Target, I started spending the first hour or so playing hide-n-seek with them in the clothes section. I didn’t have a bike for my littlest one so I’d take her to Dick’s Sporting Goods to ride their demo one throughout the store. (Santa eventually bought that bike for her for Christmas by the way, so I’m sure Dick’s doesn’t mind)
And when my oldest and I get together, we do stuff like this for hours:
My problem existed in valuing money over time. Money will come and go. Time simply goes. That weekend that I missed was the best weekend I could have ever missed. That lie that I told was the best lie I ever told. It helped me realize that I don’t need money to have these unbreakable relationships and unique experiences with my daughters. Needing money to have a good time is a lie. You need time to have a good time, and don’t let the time run out, you never know how much you have left.
Jon Vaughn is a single dad with two daughters. Feel free to write a comment, post an idea, or contact him through JonVaughn.com. Oh, yea, he would like your pledge too. Don’t forget to visit Jon’s Kickstarter Campaign and support Genesis, a mobile application that tracks custody, visitation and support for single and separated parents.