How can a child of three know your pain? Why should they? Don't place that burden on their little shoulders.
Ah, yes! A public holiday! Liberated from our spreadsheets, SWOT meetings and pale blue office cubicles to remember brave men torn apart in faraway wars.
But yesterday I couldn't help but mourn for what seems like the endless stream of wounded single fathers.
"You might cry and howl in private, but this your child never has to know. You're a man and a man must be brave, no matter how hard his heart beats and flutters."
Men who walk the streets shell-shocked, unable to believe the woman they once loved is hell bent on their emotional destruction. Women so driven by revenge they make the Taliban seem like a bubbly boy band.
I went through the worst kind of psycho-gal-determined-to-crush-my-world scenario at 23 and it only ended – and I ain't kidding here – one year ago.
So, when I'm hanging on the boardwalk at Bondi, watching my wife and my two small boys playing games on the sand, I ain't so dumb to take it for granted.
I know it's a rarity. I know that for every complete, humming family unit there's a man in a studio apartment staring at the walls, staring at his phone, staring at photos of a kid with that dumb innocent smile that he knows has to be fading as the fights worsen and as the invective ramps up.
I know this because while I'm watching 'em, a single dad swings his arms around the railing, lifts his glasses and says hello. Last time I saw the guy, I got half-an-hour of woe about his gal, about missing his kid. I get it again.
And I feel for him.
It's the worst sort of powerless rage. Playwright Bill Congreve knew it when he wrote: "Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned."
A man has two choices. Join in a battle that's as futile as Afghanistan and as mutually destructive as Iraq or disappear into the woods, surfacing when your world is pillaged and your foe is exhausted.
Eventually, you'll survive. The man you become afterwards is up to you.
Here are five things I learned about being a single father.
1. Know her hurt and therefore her capacity to Stalingrad your life
Why do couples split? Infidelity. If it was your twitching desire that tore the unit apart, war is declared and don't expect any kind of mercy. Expect the battles to be brutal and endless. Your gal will take shock and awe to shocking, awesome levels. Why? She's cut to the core. She bore your child and you took off, if only spectacularly briefly. What do you do? Bow to her moral supremacy and take what's coming in as dignified a manner as you can muster.
If it was her scratch, you're lucky. Pat yourself on the back. Yeah, hard to believe, especially when you can't lose the theatre of their sexual union playing on a loop in your head. But, if the guy sticks around and he's a decent human being, this is a good outcome. Sure, he'll be hoisting your kid on his shoulders and, in time, might even become her "second dad" but all that matters in the single dad game is the happiness of the kid.
2. Don't give the fire oxygen
A war needs a back and forthing of bullets. Don't respond to hysterical emails, text messages or Facebook taunts. This'll drive her crazy in the short term, and the missives will become increasingly loon-ball the longer you ignore 'em, but, after a time, every gun runs out of ammunition.
3. You and the lawyers
As reasonable as you might be, get a lawyer and listen to him. Pay what's fair and don't be a delinquent. Money unhinges all of us at times and your future wellbeing depends upon you being fair, but not stupid. How many men do you know in their desperate, hopeless state say, "Just give her what she wants." Life will continue without her and it's extremely likely you'll meet the gal of your dreams one day. Don't be pointlessly destitute when you do.
4. You and custody
Custody arrangements aren't perfect. How could they be? How do you legislate human habitation? If it's one weekend a fortnight, accept it with grace, and treat your kid to a breezy time. Don't get heavy and weepy with someone who is already feeling like a ping-pong ball.
5. Forget your sentimental needs
This is a test of your dignity and, in the most profound way, of your manhood. Don't ever mutter a bad word or insult about your ex in front of your kid and, if you have to unleash, do it only in the company of your closest friend. It wasn't supposed to turn out this way, I know. It has and now you're in damage control. You might cry and howl in private, but this your child never has to know. You're a man and a man must be brave, no matter how hard his heart beats and flutters. How can a child of three know your pain? Why should they? Don't place that burden on their little shoulders.
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