Dear Dianna Divingnzzo,
I read a book recently I would like to recommend to you, “Home, Away” by Jeff Gillenkirk. I think it may help you understand why what you did was wrong.
Two weeks ago, I read in the Omaha World-Herald that you were ordered to pay your ex-husband $120,000 for illegally recording him with a listening device inside your daughter’s teddy bear.
You were clearly concerned about the safety and well-being of your daughter and hoped that these recordings would prove he was an unfit father.
When your ex-husband, William “Duke” Lewton, sued for custody of your then 4-year-old daughter for the first time since the divorce more than three years earlier, I am sure you feared your daughter would not be cared for as well by her father. And that, I assume, is why you began secretly recording him.
Many moms feel this way – that men aren’t as good at caring for their kids. Many moms feel dads shouldn’t be given equal parenting rights in a divorce because of this.
According to the U.S. District Court order from two weeks ago, you alleged in your deposition that your ex-husband abused alcohol and drugs and was abusive to your daughter.
One of the abusive incidents that you described was your ex-husband not allowing your then 3-year old daughter to ride her big wheel into the street.
I can assure you as a father of four, that is not abuse. The U.S. District Court agreed and found your claims of child abuse were not substantiated, nor were any of your other allegations against your ex-husband.
I’m sure that being stripped of any time from your daughter was very difficult for you. You love her and were scared that if you weren’t with her, something bad could happen to her.
I think your ex-husband probably felt the same when he wasn’t with her. Not understanding that is where you went wrong and why I think you should read “Home, Away.”
The book is about a baseball player whose ex-wife uses his anger toward her to prove that he would be an unfit father. She is granted full custody and does whatever she can to make it as difficult as possible for her ex-husband to have any contact with his son, despite court-ordered visitation.
This effectively pushes the dad out of his son’s life.
It seems that this was also your goal in secretly recording your ex-husband: to get someone who could not maintain a good relationship with you out of your daughter’s life.
The problem with that is you are forgetting about your daughter. She needs her father. While your relationship with your ex-husband is over, it doesn’t mean that your daughter’s relationship with him should be.
When the son in the book hits his teen years, he begins to get into trouble. It gets so bad that his mother calls her ex-husband begging for his help. He retires from baseball, giving up a $42 million contract to devote the rest of his life to helping his son, who he never stopped loving.
He becomes the hero his son needs.
While this story is fictional, it describes one thing I strongly believe: Fathers matter. We dads are more loving and competent caregivers for our children than you can understand right now, Dianna. Many moms, society and even our courts often don’t believe this. The result is that dads are forced out of their children’s lives, just like you were trying to do to your daughter’s father.
But what happens is the child suffers tremendously. The child is missing half of the parenting he or she needs to become a whole person, and for what? Your selfish perception that you are the better parent just because the child came out of you?
No. What makes a good parent is one who passionately loves his or her child and does everything he or she knows how to care for that child, not who birthed him or her.
Besides, you never know when your ex-husband just may be the hero your daughter will need some day.
Al Watts is the president of Daddyshome, Inc. – The National At-Home Dad Network and an at-home dad of four children living in west Omaha.