Father

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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.

The Littlest Me

Published June 30, 2012 by KalamityK

I could start at the beginning but I’m not sure how much I remember. I remember bits here and there but it’s a little bit vague before the age of about 8. I have been told some stuff which helps so maybe I’ll start at the beginning and see where it takes me.

I was born in 1972. That means I’m 40 this year! Well old! Except I’m still waiting to grow up ‘cos I don’t think I have yet. Anyway, I was born into a family of 3 so my arrival made 4. I arrived to find I had a mum, a dad and older brother.

 

I don’t remember but apparently life wasn’t very happy in our house and my parents got divorced when I was 2.

I don’t remember ever living with my dad but mum tells me I was a daddy’s girl. My big brother was 5 so he has some memories but I don’t think they’re all particularly nice ones.

After the split, we lived at my granddads for a while, in the house mum was born in.  I think I was happy. I don’t have any memories of not being happy.  I do have a few memories of infant school.

I remember playing kiss chase in the playground. I always chased the same boy. Kevin B. I loved Kevin but Kevin didn’t love me. Whenever the game was reversed, I would stand still so he could catch me and kiss me but he always ran off after my friend Janine instead.  I didn’t give up though. As far as I was concerned he was my boyfriend. It was my first introduction to unrequited love! Thankfully I’m not the stalker I was at the age of 5. I no longer stick around where I’m not wanted!

I remember one day at school they gave us curry for dinner. This was the 70’s. Curries weren’t established as Britain’s favourite food at that point. It really wasn’t nice. The dinner lady had to cut it. Seriously? The fact that they had to cut it shows they weren’t doing it right. So there was this square block of curry on my plate. There was no way I was going to eat that. Not in a million years. I stood my ground and no matter how hard the dinner lady tried to force that stuff into my mouth, I was having none of it. I could sit at a table and refuse to eat for hours and hours if I had to. I had quite a few meal time strikes as a child and this was one of the first. I won. You couldn’t fault the puddings though!

I also remember us going into the playground on Pancake Day.  I have this video clip in my head of us kids all in a line, each holding a tiny little frying pan. Whether they were real or toys I don’t know, but within each pan was a little pancake. They were real. The teachers must have cooked them previously for us. They took us outside so we could flip them into the air and I remember one of the pancakes getting stuck on a tree branch. The rest of the pancakes must have been flung all over the playground. Maybe taking us outside was a good idea after all. It was a fun day.

I remember a conversation I had with the dinner lady in the playground when I was 5. My mum was getting married and I was going to be bridesmaid! I used to go and hold the dinner lady’s hand and walk around with her. I think it made me feel special. I was so excited about being a bridesmaid at my mummy’s wedding that I must have told her my big news for a few days on the trot because one day she turned to me and said ‘Yes I know… but when?!’ Maybe she was sick of hearing me talk about it. But it made me think. I didn’t know when. Just soon and that was good enough for me.

I remember going to the toy library. I must have been only 3 or 4. It was at the bottom of the hill past the school. Once a week, mum would take us down there to choose a toy which we then got to play with for a whole week.Then we’d go back and either renew it or get a new one. I can remember choosing a rattley ball on a stick and pushing it back up the hill. It had lots of little coloured things inside which went round and round and round as you pushed it and it made clickety-clack noises as it went. I was so pleased with it. I felt so happy as I pushed it back up the hill. I loved that toy library and when I grew up and had my own little boy, we lived quite close so I took him there too.

One day I spotted my friends down the hill so I ran down to meet them and as I ran I sped up, my body going too fast for my little legs and suddenly my feet went out from under me. I tumbled to the ground and ended up with stinging grazed palms, a bump on my chin and bloody, gravel-filled knees. My friends were forgotten. I got up, saw the blood running down my leg and turned around, crying and limping back up the hill to the safety and comfort of my mums’ arms. I HAD to get to my mum. She’d make it better.

I have a vague recollection of the Queens Silver Jubilee in 1977. Just along the road from our house was a big green area. For the Jubilee, the grownups had set up a street party or some sort of fayre. I just remember there were tyre swings and lots of little triangle flags everywhere you looked and cake. I wasn’t allowed to go on the green on my own as I was only 5 so I think I was with my brother. I still have the Silver Jubilee coin that us kids got given. I found it the other day in a little bag along with the coin from Charles and Diana’s wedding.

When I was little I wasn’t allowed to cross the road on my own and on the other side of the road, in the gutter, was a dead cat. Some local kids were all standing around looking at it and I wanted to see it too. I’d never seen anything dead before and it was too far to see properly from my side of the street. I was curious. My brother could cross the road because he was 3 whole years bigger than me. He went to look at it but when I asked him to come and get me and take me over he wouldn’t. Mums’ rule about not crossing the road on my own was like an impenetrable barrier. I just couldn’t step off the kerb.

We went to the church down the road and because mum was a single parent with two small kids she got support from the vicar and his family. My brother and I would go down the road to the vicarage and play with the vicars kids. These kids turned out to be not very nice.  I think there were quite a lot of them. They had this nice garden to play in with a big sandpit in it. One day when we were there, we went to play in the sandpit but we couldn’t because a dog had used it for his business. Rather than tell the vicar so he could clean it up, his kids went and told him that it was ME! I was absolutely mortified and pleaded my innocence. It wasn’t me! I would never do that! But he chose to believe his children, as they were all saying the same thing. He grabbed me by the arm and dragged me inside. I cried and cried and pleaded with him to believe me but he didn’t listen. He got a cane or a paddle or it might have been a wooden spoon, I can’t quite remember what it was, and smacked me with it on my bare backside. I was about 4 years old. I was humiliated and embarrassed and shocked that he could ever believe it was me and shocked that his kids, who were supposed to be our friends, would tell such a mean lie and not own up even when they heard my cries through the window. Maybe it wasn’t a dog. Maybe it was one of the them which is why they blamed me. I don’t know why they did it but it was my first memorable life lesson that some people were bad and would hurt you for no reason. 

After that I had a real hang up about the subject of poo. It embarrassed me.  I still don’t like to talk about it but I’ve trained myself not to react or get embarrassed when it becomes conversation.  30 years later when I told that story, my mum thought I’d imagined it or was remembering a bad dream but then my brother piped up and said he remembered it too. Thanks bro, I was convinced I hadn’t made it up!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Lucky for us that mum didn’t stay single! We still had our old dad (Bio) and saw him and his new family every weekend but now we had a new dad (Non-Bio) as well and didn’t need to go to the vicarage so often. Mum and dad got married and I was a bridesmaid. After the wedding had happened and life returned to normal, my brother wanted to wear his wedding suit to school. It was bright red and very cool and he wanted to show it off to his mates. Mum said he could but when I asked to wear my bridesmaid dress to school, she said no! WHAT? I was so cross. It wasn’t FAIR! Why could he wear his wedding clothes to school but not me? I didn’t understand that going into school in an floor length silky dress with added muff to keep my hands warm was slightly inappropriate whereas red denim trousers and a matching jacket wasn’t quite the same. I wanted to go dressed like a princess!

My granddad had a dog. She was a little poodle named Candy. In the summer when the ice cream van would come, we would hear the music and run back to our houses to ask our mums if we could have an ice cream. It was a nervous run because you wanted an ice cream so badly but you just had no idea if the answer today would be yes or no. The excitement and anticipation was almost too much. When you got there and mum said yes.. well… that was the best thing EVER! You got your few pennies and ran back as fast as you could to stand in the queue behind all the other kids that lived that little bit closer and got there first. You’d stare at the pictures on the window and try to decide which wonderful lolly or ice cream would soon be coating your lips and trickling down your grubby little fingers. Would it be a 99 or would it be a fab or perhaps a rocket? Maybe a milkmaid but then again, maybe not because they didn’t last long enough. Or would it be a screwball so you got a bubblegum at the end, which made it last even longer? It was NEVER an ice cream wafer shell because they were only for grownups. Nope, it had to be a 99, with a flake and some strawberry sauce if we were lucky. Because granddad would let us have an icecream if we promised to break the end off the bottom, dip it in the top, and make a mini ice cream cone for Candy the poodle. She loved her mini ice creams and it was funny to watch her snaffle them up as quick as anything!

It’s amazing how many memories come back once you get started. These are all from 5 and under. I’ll think of some more  another day. But for now I’m back in 2012 and I’ve got a flat to clean. Yep, it’s still waiting for me!

What’s your earliest memory?

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