For quite a while now I've been contemplating blogging. On Saturday 16 June 2012, the eve of Fathers' Day, the impetus I needed to start writing happened upon me. It was a poignant, tear-pricking, chord-striking moment.
I was on a pre-planned visit to London with a dear friend, unaware that it was Trooping of the Colour in the Queen's Diamond Jubilee year. I was aware, however, of the Fathers4Justice march from the Olympic countdown clock in Trafalgar Square to Downing Street. I cannot put hand on heart and say I support everything that Fathers4Justice do, but I can state that I follow news of their campaigns closely. I may not agree with all of their statements and all of their actions - but I firmly believe in a child's right to a close, loving, appropriate relationship with both parents and their wider families - irrespective of the relationship between those parents.
I count myself as fortunate and lucky: I have an amicable separation with my former partner - and my children enjoy a "normal" relationship with us both. Neither of us would contemplate frustrating any contact with the other. Our children can be with each of us, as and when they wish - they can talk to us, telephone us, email and text us whenever they choose. We both share daily routines and special occasions with our children. We both share their excitement, their disappointments, their normalities and their out-of-the-ordinaries. It wasn't until I met my dear friend and his daughter that I realised this isn't always so.
I witnessed at first-hand a young girl who enjoyed her dad, who openly showed her affection and love towards him, who laughed and cried with him, who hugged him. A young girl who was manipulated, taught to hate, to denigrate, to deny - to ultimately reject her loving father and become estranged. A young girl, I can only presume, who could no longer manage the emotional stress involved in trying to maintain both relationships in the face of such hostility.
When my friend expressed his wish to witness the F4J march - I was happy to accompany him. When he decided to join the march, I walked the route and waited for him. To be truthful - few people I passed along the way showed any interest in the rally. Few seemed to question the purpose, the cause, the issues at play. Most people just went about their day, enjoying their visit to Whitehall on this day of celebration.
As I walked ahead of the march, returning from Downing Street to Trafalgar Square, there was one man however, who was in clear distress. His distress had nothing whatsoever to do with the F4J march. This poor man was rapidly scurrying along a crowded Whitehall, clearly anxious and concerned, fretfully shouting "Harry! Harry!" and again "Harry! Harry!" - again and again. Much the same as the march, most people ignored him, showed no interest. Whatever his problem, his issue, it was nothing to do with them. Just one woman pushed forward and asked - "Are you looking for a little boy?" I could not keep back my tears.
In that one brief moment I was acutely aware of this dad's distress at losing his young son for just a few minutes - and profoundly aware of how magnified the distress, the loss, the grief of all those people taking part in that march. All of them who had lost their child not just for a few moments - but for months, for years, for some - forever. Unlike that fretful dad so quickly re-united with his son - so many dads, including many on this march, faced yet another Fathers' Day full of sorrow, not joy.