A Typical British Summer

Published August 25, 2012 by KalamityK

It was just another average British summer’s day as I was walking up the high street with my parents in a random but lovely little Sussex town, eating lemon flavoured ice cream… in the rain.  By the way, lemon flavoured ice cream is AWESOME! 

Anyhoo, it got me thinking about a favourite British summer holiday. CAMPING! It was the rain that made me nostalgic. It ALWAYS rains when you go camping in the UK. Every year for probably 90% of my childhood we went camping. This wasn’t ordinary camping though. Oh no. This was Bible Week Camping! And I LOVED it.

In the Beginning, there was Dales Bible Week (aka Gales Bible Week).

This was the year it didn’t just rain, but it poured…. And poured and poured and poured. I think I know how Noah felt. The ‘rents had gone to an evening meeting leaving my big brother in charge, although as he was only about 8yrs old at the time I’m sure there was an adult around to keep an eye on us. Well, that’s all well and good but when the heavens opened and the winds started up, it got pretty scary! The adults in the meeting hadn’t realised how bad it was but tents were being unpegged by the wind and blown away like paper as the rain lashed down around us. The designated adult was busy trying to save tents and no doubt see to other kids and no matter how loud we cried and yelled for help no one came. It was all we could to hold on to our A frame tent for dear life! A lot of people had to sleep in a barn that night. Luckily big bro and me were absolutely fabulous and managed to keep hold of our tent. No stinky old cow barn for us!

After Dales was Downs Bible Week.

For many years we went to Downs Bible Week. It was a lot closer to home, being held on the Sussex Downs. Downs was the scene for many an adventure, particularly with the crowd from Hastings when we met up each year, but  I won’t go into those stories cos it wouldn’t be fair to traumatise the ‘rents so many years after the events!

In the early days there weren’t too many rules and this resulted in more than a few tents being accidently razed to the ground. They were too close together so a rule was introduced with a minimum amount of space between each tent. This helped not only lower the tent burning incidents but also the tripping over guy rope incidents. One kid ended up in hospital because she fell over one guy rope, landed on another and split her chin open. If you forgot your torch, you took your life in your hands trying to get back to your tent. It was like an assault course. Survival of the fittest!

By this time us kids went to our own meetings which were much more fun but still the weather was an issue. Every year it rained. Even if it was just one or two days, it rained but sometimes it just didn’t stop and someone always got flooded out. I don’t remember too many actual disasters at Downs although I’m sure there were some. The worst year weather-wise is now only ever referred to as Drowns by anyone who was there. Ok, it wasn’t as bad as this pic… but it was pretty bad! I’m sure there was a year where tents got blown away here too. 

I didn’t really mind the rain too much, being a kid an’ all. I just walked around barefoot, squelching my toes in the mud, quite happy to look like I’d been dragged up in a mudpuddle. The adults weren’t so keen to walk around in bare feet so boards and hay were strewn around in a vain attempt to make certain areas walkable. It was a bit of a pain when you never had any dry clothes but seeing as we only lived a few miles down the road it wasn’t too bad. If it looked like there was no end in sight for the rain, one of the ‘rents would take our clothes home, wash and dry them and then come back. Sorted!

After Downs was Stoneleigh Bible Week

By this time I was an adult. The manchild was just a baby, one year old. He was walking already so to stop him wandering off I bought an extendable dog leads. I attached one end to his reigns and staked the other end in the ground in the middle of the surrounding tents. Who needs a playpen?! Job done.

We had a variety of interesting summers there. The following year it was so unbearably hot that I would go into the shower fully clothed to cool down and literally within 5 minutes I was bone dry again. It was the hottest week EVER. . Walking inside a tent was akin to putting a pork joint in a preheated oven. Your skin started to crackle!

Another year almost everyone onsite was getting flooded. It reached a point where everyone was moved into the onsite buildings for safety. It was a squeeze but if there’s one thing us Brits are good at, it’s pulling together and making do. My sis in law was running around barefoot trying to help organise people and provisions. She’s good at that. As she hurried around the corner there was no carpet and where her feet had gotten wet they slipped on the tiles, flew out from under her straight up in the air which threw her whole body backwards. She landed on the back of her head with such a thud, knocked herself out completely sparko! She wouldn’t wake up for ages and had to be taken to hospital. Still, somehow she managed not to drop the walkie talkies so that was good! (She was fine in the end but we did have to keep an eye on her for the remainder of the week as she wasn’t entirely sure whether she was coming or going for a while.) 

The final straw for the ‘rents was the year mum had a teensy bit of an accident involving a gas lamp and their trailer tent….

There’d been a strong gas smell lingering and suspecting it might be the camping fridge, mum took it outside, cleaned the pipes, brought it back in and relit the pilot light…  WHOMP!

A flame erupted and shot up her trouser leg! It wasn’t the fridge. It was a leaky gas lamp in the little closet area next to the fridge. When she lit the pilot, it ignited the ball of gas that had been trapped. She quickly tried to put out the flames and I ran outside, tried to soak a towel and ran back in with it but it was barely wet and did nothing. Instead of running out of the tent, we kept trying to put out the fire. A neighbour ran in and grabbed up the little manchild who had only just been put to bed, and whisked him out of harms way. We just had to leave the tent to burn. There’s something rather silly about watching your underwear drying  on a clotheshorse, through the sides of a burning tent. But guess what? Although it was a little breezy and some sparks floated off towards nearby tents, no other tents burnt down! That minimum space rule really works. And something unexplainable happened that day too. Almost everything in the tent got damaged by the heat or flames; everything except the bibles. There must have been at least 4 or 5 bibles in the tent all in different places and not one was burnt. They were wet from the fire brigade hoses and smelled a bit smokey but mum separated all the pages with tissue paper and they dried out  absolutely fine.

 Mum wasn’t really keen to ever go camping again. As for me, I woke up the next morning with tonsillitis from all the stress but I still love camping. 

After Stoneleigh there was nothing for a while. Now they do bible week for the kids. 

5,000+ teens all meet each year for NewDay and it’s a fantastic atmosphere. I’ve gone a few times as a volunteer, helping to feed a churchload of hungry teens and workers. The pink tent was mine. Cos I’m cool!

Although it has rained at Newday most years, I don’t know of any major disasters… unless you count 2008 when the manchild got kicked out and sent home for breaking all the rules! I know I smoked at camp when I was a teen but never INSIDE the tent anywhere near the grown ups, you dozy boy! I think he got it mixed up with Glastonbury.

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Left on the shelf? No, I like it here!

Published August 10, 2012 by KalamityK

I’m 40 and still single. Didn’t find the right guy. If you did, you’re lucky and this post isn’t referring to you. But feel free to carry on reading!

Considering my dating life for the last 10 years has mainly involved internet dating, it’s not exactly a surprise that I’m still single.

What IS surprising is that a part of me likes it. If I’m being honest, I expected to be married at this point in my life but I didn’t have a script to show me how to get to that ending and this is where I find myself. 

I don’t know what people see when they look at me. I think people who don’t know me very well see a slightly sarcastic unmarried fat woman who sometimes lacks confidence. They’re right. I am a slightly sarcastic unmarried fat woman who sometimes lacks confidence. But that’s not the sum total of me. I’m occasionally funny, a bit complex and sometimes moody. I’m also strong; mentally and physically, and occasionally I’m wise, like an owl. 

I’ve got used to living on my own. Why on earth would I want to give up my space, fight over the tv remote, faff around trying to share a duvet, get all hot and bothered by a fella who thinks I’m his perfect pillow and then have him snoring his head off stopping me sleeping?  Nuh-uh! No thanx! I’m not doing that unless I’m completely smitten.

*Married woman = shared bedroom

Me = double room to myself and STILL not enough room for all my junk. There’s no space for anyone else’s stuff!

Over the decades I watched friends and family marry for a variety of reasons. Not always for love, even if they told themselves it was. Some are now divorced. Some are still married. Some are ‘surprisingly’ still married!

I’ve lived with 3 boyfriends in my lifetime. The last one was the manchilds’ dad 19 years ago. Since then it’s been just me and the kid. I’ve had other relationships but they haven’t worked out because it turns out I’m attracted to bad boys and idiots. I figured this out years ago but still couldn’t manage to change it. The reason I’m not married isn’t because no-one ever wanted me. It’s because I didn’t want to marry the men who asked. If the right fella came along then great but he’s not arrived  yet and I’m not settling. 

I came quite close recently to getting married but as it happens, he was an idiot too. I’m not saying I’m perfect… far from it. I’m just more perfect than them 😉 

Despite it being 2012, there is still an inbuilt fear for women of being left on the    shelf. Seriously. That’s so sad. Girls,  change the way you think. Don’t see it as a negative.  Enjoy your singleness while you have it. There will be times you’ll miss it once it’s gone. Yeah it’s nice to be in love but if it aint happenin’ then why not enjoy where you’re at? 

You know what? Leave me on the shelf. Please! All those other women who jumped off too soon for fear of being left behind have left me loads of room. This shelf is nice and comfy now and it has books.

It’ll take some super special man to entice me off it. 

Earlier today I was making a list of attributes that would make the perfect man for me. I decided that as I like it here on my shelf, I’d order exactly what I want or I’m staying put;

  1. Tall, dark and handsome with smiley eyes and a nice bum. He doesn’t have to be perfect, just perfect for me. 
  2. Solvent with a good job
  3. Hard working but not a workaholic
  4. Likes camping/picnics/walks on the beach
  5. Is good at DIY
  6. Likes a cuddly woman, preferably me.
  7. Enjoys cooking (I hate it).
  8. A non-smoker who isn’t tee total (last fella was tee total and it’s BORING!)
  9. Likes to be tactile but does NOT  want to snuggle all night (I’m a fidget until the coma hits). In fact, wants to live in separate houses (next door?) or at least have separate bedrooms
  10. Can SING like Andrea Bocelli  (I’ve never had a fella who could sing and if I’m ordering, I want a singer)
  11. A driver who likes motorbikes and will buy me one  for Christmas
  12. I can’t write this one out loud cos my mum n dad read this but … yanno!… A man’s gotta have skills! Know what I’m sayin?! 😉
  13. Ideally, he’ll be a bit of a romantic soul
  14. Should be funny but not too sarcastic
  15. Into Sci~Fi and gadgets
  16. MUST BE SINGLE (you’d be surprised how many blokes on dating sites don’t understand that concept)

Is that too much to ask for?!!!! Anyone know him? No?……. Then excuse me whilst I make myself a lil more comfy up here on my shelf! 

*For married, read also – living with a partner. For you lot who might need clarification.  

Virgin, you SUCK at customer care.

Published August 7, 2012 by KalamityK

As this is my place to rant, I’m gonna rant right now….. before my internet provider cuts me off, which is probably just hours away from happening. I imagine I’ll be cut off by morning. They’ve already restricted my landline. 

I’m late paying my bill. I’m always late paying my bill and it’s on principle. I’ve been a customer with Virgin for at least 15 years, probably longer. When I moved home two years ago, I stayed with Virgin. What happened was that they changed me over from Virgin Media to Virgin National. I didn’t get a choice. Since then their customer service has been shockingly bad. I don’t give a stuff which department takes my money. As far as I’m concerned as a customer, it’s all Virgin. The bonus goes to Richard Branson, end of.

The problem with Virgin National is that they claim they are trying to be a paperless company, so they don’t send out bills. I always got one with Virgin Media. I want a bill! I could go online to view the bill but I ALWAYS have problems signing in on their crappy website so now I’ve given up trying. It’s too much aggro. I’d even accept a bill via email but despite being adamant that they DO send me an email with the bill every month, I’ve yet to receive one. They do however, send out a reminder letter every month telling me that I haven’t paid my bill and telling me how much I owe, plus I get  junkmail every bloody month without fail from them. Virgin, don’t go on about being paperless all the time you insist on sending crap I don’t want through my letterbox. If they can send out a letter and junkmail EVERY month then they are NOT paperless, so why not just send a bloody bill?  It doesn’t make sense! When I get that letter with the amount on it, I then phone up and pay my bill. Every month. Without fail. For the last two years.

The letter didn’t come this month. Now I’m screwed.  I pay my bills with cash or I use my top up credit card to pay over the phone or online. It’s perfect for me.  Now they’re telling me that my services are getting cut off and won’t be reinstated until I set up a direct debit. I haven’t paid anything by direct debit for over 5 years. I don’t use the kind of account that I can do that. I tried to pay my bill today but they sent out the next bill yesterday (except they don’t send out bills) so my outstanding balance is now over 100 quid. I don’t have the funds to pay two bills at once so I’m screwed. I’ll soon have no services, am in debt to the tune of over £115 and will continue to get NO services until I set up a direct debit, EVEN if I pay what I owe. They’re telling me to set up a DD via a family or friends’ account and then cancel it two days later. That’s absolutely stupid. Why should I have to involve other people who are nothing to do with it? Just change the damn system. You managed to sort it in order to keep me as a customer two years ago Virgin so why not now?

The thing is, everything they’re telling me is in the terms and conditions so I haven’t got a leg to stand on. I just think they should take better care of their customers. There should be more than one option to get people reinstated, particularly taking into account the  amount of time I’ve been a loyal customer and the fact that I’ve paid my bill every month and never missed a payment. It just  feels like they don’t give a f*%&. Let’s face it, they don’t. I’ve just realised I can probably set up a direct debit on my top up credit card. It runs out next month and becomes null and void so good luck trying to take an actual payment from it. Looks like I have no option. But I still can’t pay them what they want for another two weeks. 

Shame on you Virgin!  As soon as I’ve paid them off, I’m leaving. They can kiss my derrière if they think they’re getting another penny out of me. It’s just a shame my pathetic few £s each month isn’t gonna put a dent in anyone’s bonus. They won’t even notice it’s gone.   

On top of all that, that bloody manchild has drunk my last bottle of cider! Is it too much to ask that my one treat is where I left it when I get home from work? You want cider, go out and buy your own! Grrrrrrr. It’s not even Monday. 

Spare any change luv?

Published July 26, 2012 by KalamityK

Last month at the hospital as I was leaving work, a troubled young woman stopped me and asked me if I could help her out. She gave me a fairly plausible story about just getting out of hospital and having no petrol for her car and needing a helping hand. To be honest, she looked like she’d just got out of hospital. She asked if I could spare £8. I wasn’t sure if she was legit or not but I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt. I had just been paid for the month so I gave her the £10 I had in my purse. It felt good to help out someone in need. I’m not a mug and I don’t have gullible written all over my forehead. I just have compassion for people worse off than me. I used to be worse off than me and I know how it feels. Sometimes all you need to make a real difference is for someone to notice and show a little compassion.  Sometimes all it takes is a helping hand for a life to be changed forever. 

 

I’ve just seen the same young woman outside the supermarket near my home. She came up to me and as soon as she started talking I remembered her. She gave me the EXACT same story and asked for money again. I didn’t tell her I recognised her. I didn’t tell her she’d already scammed me because it wouldn’t have stopped her. She would have carried on once I’d gone. I’m now 99% certain she’s a junkie and when junkies need a fix, they have no conscience. She’s playing on the compassion of other people to get her next fix. Me pointing it out to her won’t stop her.  She doesn’t look any better than she did last month. If anything, she looked worse and her face was all scabby.  The sneaky mare! The thing is she DOES need help. She DOES need compassion. But what she doesn’t need is money for drugs. 

I don’t mind helping out someone who’s really in need. If I can I will. The real shame of it is that now, because of her, I don’t know how I’ll react the next time someone asks me for help. I think maybe I still have to follow my gut instinct and do what I feel is right at the time.  So as I’ve been writing this, the more I think about, the more I don’t regret my decision that day, even though she proved me wrong. Because it’s not about who she is as a drug user and a liar. It’s about who I am as a caring person. I won’t make the right call every time  and people will think I’m stupid. My friends on facebook are already cracking jokes and implying I’m a push over. That’s fine, I’d expect no less…. but if just one of my decisions does one day make a real difference to someone’s crappy day then it’ll be worth all the wrong ones. I’d rather do that than ever be a person with no compassion at all. My life was once changed by someone giving me £1.50 to buy a bus ticket.

£1.50. It makes you think twice. 

 

 

 

 

Over The Hill? Where’s my transport?!

Published July 13, 2012 by KalamityK

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I’m about to be 40. In a few hours time I’ll wake up and officially start my 4th decade on this planet.(No I’m not. I’m leaving that one and starting my 5th decade! Oh crikey) Cor, how did I reach ‘the hill’ so fast? So… Here I am. This is me… about to be over the hill. You know what? It’s actually not that bad. I’m assuming that if I haven’t become a grown up by now, I don’t have to? I’m not embarrassed about reaching 40 cos it doesn’t seem real anyway. I’ve never really understood why women lie about their age. It’s fashionable to get older. It’s all the rage, dahlink! Everybody’s doing it!

I still remember my mums’ 40th like it was just a couple of years ago and now suddenly it’s my turn. Mum wanted to do something memorable for it so her friends and family clubbed together and made it happen for her. She went up in a helicopter ride over her home town. Something she’d always wanted to do.

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I wanted to do something memorable too and mentioned ages ago that I’d quite fancy going in a hot air balloon. If I’ve got to go over the hill then I want to do it in style.  So guess what I’m doing next week? The ‘rents handed me an envelope and watched me open it. There was a ticket inside. Wow! A hot air balloon ride! Awesome!!!! It was shortly after that that dad decided to tell me all about the balloon that had recently hit the power lines and fried all the people in the basket! (Forget Kentucky Fried Chicken… how about some Sky Fried Human?) Brilliant! THANKS A BUNCH, DAD!

 

I’m excited and a little bit nervous. I’m going up up UP in a giant wicker basket with a bunch of strangers to float around in the sky, at all times avoiding looking straight down… because when I mentioned this fluffy dream of taking to the skies in a hot air balloon and floating around all serene and peaceful and at one with nature blah blah blah, I sort of forgot I don’t really like heights! It wasn’t until the manchild reminded me what I’d been like just going up in the Eiffel Tower lift that I remembered. I spent the trip standing in the middle as much as possible and generally clinging on to the centre pole for dear life!

         

Mind you, this balloon ride will only happen if the weather allows. Considering the soggy state of the country at the moment, chances are it’ll get postponed. I’m not sure if I’m praying for or against the rain just yet.

I’m wondering if now is a good time to take out some sort of life insurance?!

Sod it, bring it on. I’m a firm believer of when your time is up, it’s up. If my time is up, at least I’ll have already had my birthday dinner at my fave restaurant. And it wouldn’t exactly be uncool to put on the family tree ‘She went up and never came down!’ Chuckle. Just kidding. I’m sure I’ll come back down to earth with a bump. At least, that’s what the website says!

                                                                           

                                                                                                                        

ps. Note to family… Can I have a 40 balloon and badge for my birthday please? I’m gonna need it cos NO-ONE will believe I’m that old otherwise 😉

Revenge is a dish best not served at all

Published July 4, 2012 by KalamityK

Why do people want revenge? Do they think that it will make up for what’s been done to them?  I don’t get it. I really don’t. If you hurt me emotionally, then my first thought isn’t ‘How can I make you pay?’ It’s ‘Ouch. Let me get away from you!’ Does taking revenge really make you feel better in the long run? Not me.

Revenge isn’t sweet. Revenge can make you as bad as the person who hurt you.If someone breaks your heart, is it really going to be healed by you keying their car, cutting all the sleeves off his shirts or snapping the heels off her favourite stiletto’s? No doubt you’ll feel good for a minute or a day, but that feeling isn’t gonna last and then you’ll notice that your heart is still broken and the pain hasn’t gone. It was just hanging around in the background until you decided to notice it again.

I don’t know that I really believe in karma but sometimes I like to think I do. Sometimes thinking about karma is what stops me doing stupid things and getting myself into trouble. I think it means something different for different people. For me, it means that everybody gets theirs, in this life or the next… including me. 

When I was a teenager I met this lad through a friend. I didn’t fancy him when we first met. I actually thought he was extremely unattractive as he walked towards us and I couldn’t believe that my friend thought for one minute that I would fancy him! He was scrawny looking, his eyes were too close together and he had really crooked teeth. He was…. ugly. But it’s amazing what a couple of alcoholic drinks does to a 16yr old girl with low self esteem. Besides, he had tattoos and a tan leather jacket and he was 18. Yep. He was everything my parents would hate and I was fine-tuning my rebellion. So by the end of the evening, ‘him’ and ‘me’ had become ‘We’. That’ll teach me to get involved in under-age drinking.  

We were a couple for just over a year and a half and for most of that time, we lived together. I moved out of home and somehow, we ended up shacking up, first in his mates house where he was staying, then in our own bedsit. After the first few months, he started to abuse me. First emotionally then mentally and physically. I didn’t notice in the beginning. He was a bully and a control freak and he was brilliant at it. He jacked in his job shortly after we got together. He claimed benefits and lived off my wages. He used to tell me what I could and couldn’t wear, even to work and that was a uniform! He would decide whether I could go out or not. I was only allowed to go on a night out with him or his sister and only to certain places. One day my friend turned up at our flat uninvited. She was worried about me but I daren’t let her stay. I loved that she cared but I was scared that he would hit the roof and that she would be in danger or that he’d make me pay afterwards. He made me pay. Even with all that, I didn’t think of myself as a victim of domestic violence. He wasn’t stupid. Despite ending up in A&E a couple of times, I never had the broken jaw or the black eye and sometimes I gave back as good as I got.

 

 

I thought I was in love with him but the reality was that I was infatuated with the idea of him. It wasn’t love. Love isn’t controlling or fearful. Love would never make you feel so worthless that you want to kill yourself.

I eventually got out of the relationship when I found out he’d been cheating on me with the troll up the road. He was doing the one thing he’d been paranoid I would do to him. Cheat.

I finally kicked him out… but not before he’d kicked the crap out of me while his junkie mate (the trolls’ brother) watched. I was hurt and angry and humiliated. I thought of all the ways I could hurt him. I wanted payback. I wanted him to feel as bad as I did. Maybe I could have him beaten up. (I knew some quality people). Maybe I could have someone break into his new house  and destroy his record collection. THAT would totally devastate him. He loved those records. I could have done so many things. But I did nothing. At least, it seemed like nothing to some.

My revenge was to get on with my life and be happy, which is exactly what I did. I knew damn well he hated me being happy. I moved in with my friend, the one who’d come to check up on me, I found a new fella and fell in love for real. There was nothing better than seeing him in the street with his troll wench and knowing I was well out of it. I was scared stiff every time I saw him; actually frozen to the spot sometimes, but knowing he was her problem now, not mine… that was sweet justice. She was as bad as him, screaming at me and threatening various acts of violence. On the bright side, it showed her to be quite a creative person! They deserved each other. The look of jealousy when he saw me with my new fella was more satisfying than a thousand key scratches down a car!  It was priceless!

If I had that time machine I mentioned in a previous post, there are things I’d go back and change but that part of my life wouldn’t be one of them. Because of everything he put me through, I came out a stronger woman. Those experiences, alongside others, have shaped who I am today and that is someone who knows how to persevere when life throws crap in her direction.

A few months ago a mutual friend from back then told me that he died of cancer about a year or so ago. I didn’t need to do a thing to lower myself to his level. I kept my dignity. I wouldn’t wish cancer on my worst enemy, not even him, but a little voice inside my head whispered a question to me….. ‘karma?

Revenge keeps the fires burning. If you’re set on revenge you are giving that person control over you by making them a priority in your life. You may as well be their little puppet. All the time you are focusing on what they did to you and what you want to do back, you’re giving them a starring role in your life story. You’re feeding the hate and the anger that makes you feel bad. YOU, not them! They don’t feel bad! They’re just happy that they are still having an impact and making you miserable.

You’ll never convince me that revenge is a good idea, regardless of whether people deserve it. I’m not going to waste my time thinking about them. I’m just gonna get on with my life and let karma do its thing.

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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