So, my nerves from earlier were entirely unfounded, which I wrote about in my previous blog post and the whole experience at the contact centre was good. Good, such an OK word though. Let me explain why not excellent.
Firstly, the volunteers were amazingly kind. They were not hovering or judging, even bringing round some snacks and a constant offering of what seemed like bottomless cuppa’s. The contact centre was not a place to be afraid of after all.
I was so nervous over how my little man was going to be, still being aged one, he has no understanding as to the horrible situation and his reaction to seeing me could have been anything. I need not have been worried. OK, he was a little nervous for the first, oh I do not know, 5 seconds, but straight after that, we were back to being the best play mates ever. Within the first few minutes, he was back running cars over my face and laughing his face off having fun. It was magical to see and be part off. The most difficult bit for me however, was the fact I barely recognised him after 4 months, he had changed so much and looked so much older. I did not expect that at all, he looked so much like I did when I was his age though.
The contact centre I went to, was a large room with a few other Dad’s all going through similar situations where the mum’s had denied access and court proceedings were underway. A saddening state of affairs to witness and obviously, I can not talk to much about it. The room was laid out almost in sections with different “zones” of toys and activities. My son being my son, went straight for the cars. That’s my boy!
So when arriving at the contact centre, I had to be there 10 minutes early like the other Dad’s, the was a 10 minutes that seemed like 10 years of waiting, the childrens music playing and just twiddling your thumbs. The site of seeing my son for the first time in so long made it worth while though and all the insecurities I had, gone. So far though, it sounds like I should be saying the experience was excellent (taking away the feelings of “why should I be here, it is degrading”), so why only good?
There were certain times, mainly towards the end of the session of 2 hours, that made it a bit of a struggle emotionally. The safeguarding measures that the contact centre’s have to have in place, made it very awkurd when you are watched doing the simplest of things like changing a nappy or giving your child a drink from his own bottle rather than something they provide. The rules, there to protect all children in a wide range of situations, made it difficult for my little man. He was to young to understand why he could not go outside for example. The look of sadness on his face as he just wanted some fresh air and needing to tell him no when all you want to do is go out and explore with him. But for me, it was the feelings after the session.
We had to wait another 10 minutes before we left. This is to stop the ex-partners from seeing each other so understandable, but what a 10 minutes. The 2 hours had gone too quickly, your time filled with cuddles, kisses, stories, games, craft and toys only for them to be taken away by the staff and having to sit where you had just been playing for a further 10 minutes. I decided a busy mind was better so I helped pack up, the other Dad’s sat, others talked and overall, there was a sense of… what is the word for sadness for where once was happyness… reflection in the air. A very sombre feeling. Here one minute, gone the next. So difficult to explain, a horrible feeling with a walk home only seeming to compound it, the only way I felt I could deal with it was to collapse on the sofa and sleep. What an emotional drain. I now write this post after that snooze.
Do not get me wrong, seeing my son for the first time in 4 months was amazing. Truly it was. The bond between father and son was as strong as ever, you do not need to fear this as a father who is not able to see your child. The bit that makes the experience of a contact centre just good, is the fact it should not have to get to this stage. There are parents on both sides, forgetting one crucial thing, it is the right of the child to have both parents in their lives. A contact centre should only be there for those where there are serious safeguarding issues, not just becuase the ex decides to stop access.
My advice to anyone looking to get contact with your children, put your own feelings aside and book a meeting at your local centre, having contact at a contact centre is certainly better than none, and waiting for your ex-partner to book it, well, will be quicker you booking it yourself. I left it too long after promises that my ex was going to book it, the quicker you sort it, the better it is.
Leave your thoughts as a comment below and what advice you give to other Dad’s needing to go down this route.