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Dan Pearce is writer of the hit-blog Single Dad Laughing and author of the book The Real Dad Rules. Father to Noah, brother to nine, and thoroughly but barely educated on the street, Dan tends to hit nerves or funny bones with his (sometimes humorous, sometimes heavy) musings, rants, and calls to action. He lives with his son in Salt Lake City, Utah.

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Putting my child first

By Dan Pearce |

Today I’m just in the mood to reminisce and ramble for a moment.

Noah is about to turn five. Not to sound cliché, but these five years have really flown by. From the very beginning, I have done everything I could to put my child first, to never mess up as a parent, and to always keep everything in my own life in perfect order so as to give him the best advantage possible.

Ummm… yeah, right.

As it turns out, keeping my own life in perfect order hasn’t been something I’ve been very good at. One divorce later, I really questioned that. Two divorces later, there was nothing left to question. Perfect order became a fantasy to me. A holy grail of sorts.

Never messing up as a parent, that also wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. Sure, since the day he was born I proudly exclaimed that there is no such thing as a perfect parent, but it doesn’t mean that I didn’t secretly think I was that perfect parent. Then I yelled at him once for almost no reason. Then I tried to spank him once even though I swore I never would. Then I learned that sometimes I couldn’t give him the time he should be getting from dad. Yep, as it turned out, being a perfect parent wasn’t something I was very good at either.

But putting my child first… that is something I have come close to perfection with. I haven’t been perfect with it, but rarely a decision has been made in the last half decade in which my son’s little face didn’t immediately flash in my mind first, and I wasn’t able to base the entirety of my decision on what was best for him. And yes, that includes the divorces.

This isn’t to say that sometimes I didn’t make wrong calls. In fact, there were times when I would do something that I thought was putting my kid first when in all reality, it was probably the worst thing I could have done for him in the long run. Oh yes, I’ve learned some heavy lessons along the way.

But at the end of the day, I look at everything my kid has been through, I look at the champion he has become in spite of the challenges, and I can’t help but think that maybe, just maybe, I did a lot more of it right than I did wrong. Maybe, just maybe, a broken dad makes for a stronger dad, which in turn makes for a stronger son who will be able to survive the times life breaks him in the future.

Five years.

Kind of scary that as quick as that went, it will go again and he’ll be blowing out ten big ones on top of his birthday cake.

I wonder if I’ll be able to look back then the way I can look back now and know that I did my damndest. I wonder if I’ll be able to say, “look at all the ways this kid is stronger because of decisions that I made.” I wonder if I’ll be able to look at him then like I can look at him now and honestly think, I put my child first, every single time.

Oh, I’ll make plenty of bad calls. Every parent will because there’s no way they can see the future to know if their calls are good or not. Let’s just hope the majority of ‘em are good ones.

Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing

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About Dan Pearce

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Dan Pearce

Dan Pearce is writer of the hit-blog Single Dad Laughing and author of the book The Real Dad Rules. Father to Noah, Dan tends to hit nerves or funny bones with his (sometimes humorous, sometimes heavy) musings, rants, and calls to action. Read bio and latest posts → Read Dan's latest posts →

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8 thoughts on “Putting my child first

  1. Genevieve says:

    Bravo, I’m sure you are doing a fantastic job. I was raised mostly by my father who had countless relationships, jobs etc… But he ALWAYS put me first. My dad to this day is my best friend and I love him more than anything, none of my friends have relationships with their fathers like I have with mine. Please don’t feel discouraged because you have been divorced etc, sure it was hard at times, but I do not believe I have been disadvantaged at any point by my fathers failed relationships. Oh and here is fodder for the argument that kids from broken homes will never themselves have stable relationships…. I have been with my partner for a very long time, and I see no sign of us splitting up. My dad loves him too…love love love my dad… Just as I’m sure Noah loves you.

  2. KAY says:

    I am so inspired by your stories. This one brings to mind a lesson I learned from my dad when going through my divorce. ” remember that life is full of ups and downs, and everything you do is a memory to somebody (your ex, the person you are dealing with, your children, your family, etc.) They need to see how you handle the downs as well as the ups because that is what builds character and theirs will be stronger because of the memory you gave them.” Keep struggling through the downs and enjoying the ups! :)

  3. emmy says:

    I’m a single mom, and like you and Genevieve’s father, I was plenty imperfect but every decision the swing vote was how it would effect my children. Even when I was desperately ill and had to put myself first so I could be alive for them, they were still weighed in the decisions. Honestly, I think it was the one thing I did right.

  4. Chris says:

    Ditto the single dad. Mine is awesome. My mother split when I was about 1 and Dad, who was 23 at the time, has done all the heavy lifting since then. We didn’t always get along, a child of divorce always has this unrealistic fantasy of what the other parent would be like. Now that I’m a mother, I have even more respect for my dad….and less understanding for my mother but that’s a different post. One thing I loved was that even though Dad worked 50+ hrs a week, he always made special times for me, like Indian Guides at the YMCA. He also never spoke ill of my mother. Well, not until I was an adult! ;-)

    Your son is adorable and you clearly adore him. That’s a recipe for awesome.

  5. Jenna says:

    I honestly think, as a single parent myself, that as long as we are trying our best, we are being the best parent we possibly can be. I love my daughter more than the world and every decision I make is with her in mind. I’m not perfect and I have messed up. Right before she was born I swore I would do things by the book and I couldn’t understand why other parents messed it up so often. Needless to say I’ve slipped more than once, and I know better now. I’ll never be the perfect mother, but I will be the best mother I can possibly be. I know that because I love her and I would do anything for her. She makes me want to be a better person. I hope that she looks back and is happy with her childhood. That is all I could wish for.

  6. Lessons Of A Dad says:

    We all mess up from time to time (sometimes most of the time). The key is to have the right motives (and putting your son first is surely that) and to do the darnest best you can.

    Thank you for your honesty in this blog post (and your other blog posts as well).

  7. Chris Efessiou says:

    Dear Dan, I must admit that after reading your blog post Putting My Child First you managed to transport me back nearly 20 years ago when my Persephone was Noah’s age.
    Like you, I was divorced twice. Like you, I raised my daughter as a single dad. Like you I questioned everything I did and how I did it, but I never questioned the validity of my belief that she should Always come first. After all, she hadn’t asked for this, and I refused to treat her as “collateral damage.” And like you, I spent many sleepless nights wondering how my relationship with her will turn out when she became a teenager or an adult. My only solace was that I knew I’d had always and without fail done what was right for her, and I hoped and prayed that at some point in her adulthood she’d understand that and reward me with her love and with wanting me in her life. I know you wonder the same. It is only natural.
    Here is the good news. Years later I realized that the decision to put my child first each and every time was the easiest, most natural decision I’ve ever made. Putting Noah’s wellbeing ahead of yours is not a decision you make consciously. You spend no time thinking about it, you just do it. It is nothing short than being part of your DNA. So, reflect on your actions and his reactions to date, and use them as your comfort of what your future relationship is likely to be.
    This I can guarantee you because I live in your future. Persephone was 7 when I became a single dad. She is now 24, and will be getting married in May. She was a wonderful child, a great pre-teen, a very reasonable teenager and a phenomenal adult. She’s an independent thinker, a self-motivated, well-grounded, well-balanced individual, a highly ambitious highly successful professional, and a tender loving daughter that seeks any opportunity to spend time with dad. So successful and enjoyable were the past 17 years, that late last year she and I co-authored a book titled CDO Chief Daddy Officer which outlines my philosophy in the way I raised her, and her actions and reactions to that upbringing captured in her own words. I would love to send you a copy of this book because if nothing else, it may brighten the tunnel enough to convince you that the light at the end of it is not a train coming.
    In the meantime go to your mirror, wipe all doubts and a tear or two clean, and pay attention to the words of the man looking at you saying “Dan, you did do your damndest. Look at all the ways this kid is stronger because of decisions that you made. You put your child first, every single time.”

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