single dad

Yesterday my youngest son wished me a Happy Mothers Day. It was a light hearted, innocent remark, and that is how I took it. However, since I am the sole parent living with him and his sister, there are times when I get to wear the mother apron. As all single parents discover, we are doubly flummoxed by parental challenges.

When I first embarked on this blogging lark, I considered launching a blog that chronicled both the delights and the nightmares that come with being a single dad. I decided against it, because I realised that despite my best efforts not to, I would inevitably embarrass my children. Being a teenager is tough enough without having one of your parents highlight the details of your tender years on the internet. Also I would never claim to be anything approaching an authority. I’m just another bewildered single parent.

However, to never mention my single dadmanship would be to deny a large part of my daily life and what occupies my conscious mind. So beginning today, I shall from time to time report episodes and a few thoughts as this ongoing, great adventure unfolds.

Part of my own personal struggle has been altering my perception of what I do. When my two younger children first came to live with me, I was constantly torn between doing my best for them, and maintaining the commitments I had barely managed even before they joined me. The transition period was painful for us all, and this was largely my fault.

After two and a half years, it is only recently that I have come to accept the blindingly obvious. They are my first and largest obligation. Everything else can wait. Parents who have been with their children since birth may find it difficult to fathom such sheer, pig-headed stupidity. I have no excuse, but perhaps a short history will help explain.

In 1983, in New York, my then partner gave birth to twin boys. When they were 4 years old we stopped living together. The millions of ‘absent dads’ worldwide know what a torment this is. For the next few years we at least lived close enough for the boys and I to see each other regularly. Then events conspired against me and I wound up stranded in Europe. From then on for several years they would spend summer holidays with me. I got married and my wife gave birth to first a girl and then a boy. These are the two who are living with me now. At the end of 1996, when my daughter was 4, and her young brother was 18 months, their mother and I stopped living together. I was in England and she went to live in Spain, taking the children with her.

I now found myself the father of 4 children, all of whom lived thousands of miles from me. I wont go into the daily misery this caused me. The point of all this is is to explain my survival strategy. Over the next couple of years I became increasingly adept at putting thoughts of my children aside. Rather than fret and beat myself up about them, I just changed the channel. I saw them all when I could, albeit intermittently. I did my best to speak on the phone to them once a week. The rest of the time I threw myself into work of all kinds. I taught, wrote, played, wrote and recorded music, and saved money for short visits, either by my children to me, or vice versa.

And so it was that to begin with, when they first came to live with me, I quickly became quite scattered, as I tried in vain to constantly juggle my priorities. I wanted my children, my employers, and my colleagues all to feel they were getting my best. I never stood a chance. Happily, over the next 2 years, I took on less and less work commitments and contrived to be at home more and more. It sunk in that I no longer needed to put the children out of my mind. On the contrary it was important that I DO think about them a great deal. I came to realise that during all those years on my own, my survival strategy had in fact been a form of denial, so that I had not been completely myself, and therefore no aspect of my life during that period had been addressed by a complete version of me.

Last September I stopped working, and now do some music and writing work in my bedroom studio/office, in between caring for the children and our home. There is precious little money around, but that never concerned me much. I know that by sheer good fortune we are still better off than millions in other parts of the world. I am humbly grateful.

Touch wood(!), we seem to be doing OK. This is at least as much to their credit as mine, probably more so. I am blessed with resilient, sound-minded, loving children.

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