If only hindsight came first

Published July 3, 2012 by KalamityK

Did I make the right decision only having one child? I always wanted more than one. When I was young and before I had any kids, I wanted about 6. As I got older and realised what having children actually entailed I lowered my goal to 2 or 3. But in the end, I had just one. I used to joke that I wasn’t crazy enough to do it again but really, the opportunity didn’t arise. I wanted my child so badly. I’d previously lost two babies due to miscarriages so he was my third pregnancy. Third time lucky!

I split with his dad when I was pregnant. I was 21. I really didn’t choose very well. I was too young to understand that his dads’ lifestyle and history meant he wouldn’t be a good father, and if I’m honest, I didn’t think it was all that important. I was proud and arrogant and stubborn. I could do it on my own. I didn’t need a father for my kid. After all, I was born to have children. It’s all I’d ever wanted. I knew having babies was my destiny. Sounds daft now but it made sense in my silly young head. I never wanted anything else.So I had my son and I raised him on my own from the day he was born. Except I didn’t. Yes I was a single parent but I wasn’t raising him alone. I had my parents, my family and my friends to help me out. When it got tough they helped me. When I ran out of money they helped me. When I got sick they took over. When I got a job, they looked after him and picked him up from school so I didn’t have to fork out child care costs. No way did I raise this kid on my own. I had post natal depression too so without help and support from the loved ones in our lives, we would have been doomed. I can’t thank them enough.

As he grew up, I began to understand just how important dads were. When the manchild reached 6 years old, something changed in him. He became uncooperative and naughty. He refused to do as he was told. He was blatantly disrespectful and disobedient. But here’s the critical part… he was only like this to the women in his life.  My son needed a dad. His real dad had left the country just after his sons 2nd birthday and couldn’t return due to his immigrant status.  So I asked my dad and my brothers to step in. They got on board and spent time with him, taking him swimming and to baseball practice and doing other boy stuff with him. It worked. He responded well to the male input and soon we had our little manchild back to his fun self. But it showed me that children, particularly boys, really do need their dads. They can manage without them but they do better with them. It was wrong of me to decide I could raise this little boy without a father and my biggest regret will always be that I chose badly for my son.

I’m not saying all dads should be involved in their kids’ lives no matter what, or all mothers for that matter. Some parents just aren’t fit to raise their kids and can do more harm than good…. But where possible I am a firm believer that children do best with input from both mother and father IF both are capable and dedicated to loving and raising their children responsibly. If I could I would shout from the rooftops to all the girls who think they can do it alone, STOP! It’s not about YOU. It’s about those babies and it’s unfair of you to not even give them the chance of having two parents! Should the dice roll so you end up a single parent, fair enough but PLEASE don’t do it by choice. Your child deserves better!

Extended family does their best and everything they do is extremely valuable but nothing quite fills the boots of a father like a father. Whether that is a biological father or a man who willingly steps into that role isn’t necessarily important. My dad has done everything for me a father should and he chose to marry our mum and be dad to a 5yr old and an 8yr old. He didn’t have to. My son needed a father to show him how to be a man. That was something I could not do, no matter how hard I tried.

I watched some of my friends produce child after child. They gave their first child siblings but with no thought to stability and no fathers. I thought it was irresponsible. I did not want to bring another child into this world without being in a stable relationship. That relationship didn’t happen and I wasn’t willing to raise another child with no father. It wasn’t fair and it wasn’t right.

Rightly or wrongly, I also wanted my children to be the same colour. My son is mixed race. I’m white, his dad is black. Maybe that shouldn’t have been important to me but it was. I didn’t want him to feel like the odd one out because his skin colour was different to the rest of the family. (How ironic that he now feels different to the rest of the family anyway). So until I found a good, decent black man to settle down with, I set aside my desire for a daughter, my desire for siblings for my son and got on with trying to raise the manchild to the best of my abilities.

He was a great kid. Everyone loved him, adults and kids alike. He was kind, compassionate, caring and very funny. But sometimes he was lonely. His first cousin didn’t arrive until he was 8 years old so he was the only child in the whole family until then. We didn’t live near his school and I worked til 5pm every weekday so it was impossible to have friends back after school. I didn’t drive and couldn’t afford to learn so we were trapped in this grotty little flat above a stinky butchers shop. The only way out was a 30 minute bus ride into town on an unreliable bus service, then another bus to our destination. It would take well over an hour to visit anyone. Getting home could take 90 minutes or more unless we were given a lift. I had to be mum, dad AND friend to him.

His dad had been in contact here and there over the years and he was due to go stay with him in France for a week. Unfortunately, after weeks of building up his excitement, his dad cancelled the trip right at the last minute. His dad also had a new baby at around the same time so when he phoned to tell me that he couldn’t afford to have him over to stay, it was a bit of a slap in the face, especially as it was left to ME to break the news to him. He didn’t have the balls to tell him himself. He broke my child’s heart. I heard it break.

After that, the manchild started having real trouble at school. He got in with the wrong crowd and started smoking weed. He stopped caring. Hell, after that he became the wrong crowd! His hormones kicked in and he shot up in height and in strength. And he got angry. There was a red hot anger simmering underneath the surface, waiting to explode. That combination of height, hormones and hashish was not a good one. He didn’t just go off the rails; he jumped off them and ran riot.

I had always tried to be a good mother and maintain the contact between the manchild and his father. No matter what I thought of him, I believed it wasn’t my place to stop them having a relationship. I was never going to be one of those mothers who use their child as a weapon. Seeing him at 6yrs old needing his dad meant I tried wherever possible to give him his dad. I even took him to Holland and France so they could spend time together. Sometimes I wonder if I did the right thing there too. Should I have kept them separate and cut all contact?  Overall, considering the damage that has been done with half-hearted attempts and a lifetimes worth of broken promises … maybe the manchild would have done better with no father at all.

It’s hard to say because my friends who were single parents to one child where the father had little or no contact have had different outcomes with their kids, but they had daughters. A mother bringing up a daughter is different to a mother bringing up a son. I have one friend who also had a boy to raise on her own and his life also involved a promise breaking father and my friend is now going through a similar experience with her boy. Is it really so different for boys and girls or is it the broken promises and constant rejection from dad that makes the difference? And what difficulties do single fathers have bringing up daughters compared to single dads bringing up sons?

Anyway, I’ve gone off on a tangent there but everything that’s happened is the reason I didn’t want to bring another child into the world without a good father in situ. What if I had more children and things were as crappy for them as they had been for him?

Although the manchild doesn’t think any of this has anything to do with his choices from then on, I believe it played a major part in what happened over the following few years, including his eventual run-in with the law. I suspect we might always disagree on this but that’s ok; I brought him up to think for himself, to be an individual.

Now, the only siblings the manchild has are on different continents, speaking different languages.  He’ll probably never know his older Spanish half-brother who we think lives in America now and whether or not he maintains contact with his younger half-sister in France currently depends on him communicating with his father, a man who has no real importance in his life after everything that has happened. In a few years she’ll be on facebook and maybe he’ll be able to keep in touch that way.

Well, what’s done is done. I can’t go back in time and make wiser choices.  I can’t make different decisions. I don’t have a time machine to fix the mistakes I made along the way. I did what I thought was right at the time.

I worry for his future with no brothers or sisters. I’m sad that he’ll never be an uncle unless he marries. His extended family will have to come from whomever he chooses to settle down with. He’s 18 now and growing up, maturing. We’re over the worst and we have lived to tell the tale. I can only hope he has learnt what NOT to do when it comes to being a father himself one day. And I hope he has more than one child.

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2 comments on “If only hindsight came first

  • You have basically written my life story here. I have had similar experiences with regards to raising my son with a semi-absent father (but he at least tried to see my son once a month) – but I still feel that is not adequate enough to establish a meaningful relationship with a child. I too have a wonderful support system and both my brothers and father have taken it upon themselves to treat my son as their own. I have also encountered many heartbreaking situations where I had to disappoint my son on behalf of his father’s empty promises. It’s tough and taxing and extremely unfair to the child. I am still single and most likely will remain so for a very long time, I find it very difficult to share my spare time with socializing and raising my child. I do not mind, but I too would have loved to have provided my son with a sibling, coming from a family with two siblings I know firsthand of the benefits that that would of brought to my child’s upbringing. But I can’t change my past and can only look forward to my son’s and my future. He is only 8 years of age and I still have the whole dreaded teenage years ahead of me. I pray every day that the role my parents, brothers and I play in my son’s life will influence him in his future decisions and he will model his responsibilities of being a father to that of my father and brother’s and not that of his biological father. I like to think that prayer, hard work and positive thinking is the key to raising a child of only one parent.
    It sounds to my you have done the best you could given your situation and are still doing your best. He is very lucky to have a mother like you and even though he may be 18 years old, your role as his mother will never end. Your positive influence will no doubt rub off on him and provide him with a brighter future.

    • Thanx for your comment, Solo. I think my son realises now how lucky he is to have me 🙂 We have a pretty good relationship nowadays.Throughout our roadtrip through his teen years, I had to keep reminding myself that I’d instilled the good stuff in him early on and just pray that it would reappear again some day. I catch sight of it a bit more often lately. I also have to remind myself of what I was like as a teen. (I was horrible). We’re quite rebellious and independent creatures in our family and basically, at 18 I was an idiot! So is he. But I’m awesome now and I just know he’ll follow in my footsteps of awesomeness 🙂
      I hope your roadtrip with your lilttle’un is slightly less bumpy than ours was but always remember that what you’re putting into him now might get buried for a little while but it never goes away and it will shine through again in the end. x

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