“I had been divorced for five years when I saw a billboard with the dire message: ‘Nothing makes up for failure in the family.’
My immediate reaction was to start an argument with the billboard evangelist, to defend myself and the multitude of my fellow divorcés who had broken up families for what we considered the best of reasons. ‘That’s asinine! What a guilt trip! A good divorce is better for the kids than a bad marriage. And, besides that, my kids are living with me and I am ‘making up’ their loss to them. And, and, and…’ Not until I had exhausted my self-defense did I simmer down and let the full weight of the proposition sink in and think about it in a calm manner.
It has now been 12 years since I saw the billboard. My daughter and son from my first marriage are grown and lovely. I am remarried and I have a 10 year old daughter. After considerable meditation on the matter, I have come to believe that the message of the billboard is both true and prophetic. In watching my children struggle with the hurts and discontinuities that are the inevitable result of the irreconcilable differences between their parents, I have learned what many men learn only after divorce.
There is nothing more precious than our children.
In the quiet hours of the night, when I add up the accomplishments of my life in which i take justifiable pride – a dozen books, thousands of lectures and seminars, a farm built by hand, a prize here, an honor there – I know that three that rank above all others are named Lael, Gifford and Jessamyn.
In the degrees to which I have loved, nurtured and enjoyed them, I honor myself. In the degrees to which I have injured them by being unavailable to them because of my obsessive preoccupation with myself or my profession, I have failed as a father and as a man.”
Fire in the Belly: On Being a Man