Three

Please don’t go. Stay here with me. It’s not my fault, I’m only three. I’m only three!

Giving adult voice to the thoughts and feelings of a three-year-old who misses their parent, this song tears me up: in more ways than one. It hit me like a silken sledgehammer with all those feelings of loss, of separation, all the guilt and recrimination that go with it,  and the “what-if” / “what could I have done differently?” thoughts that torture and taunt.

How old were Jake and Ellie when our separation became formalised?

Three.

‘We’ had been living here in Wales in a good-sized family home we were renting while we tried to sell our old place in the Midlands.  I was splitting my time between there and the little temporary place we first moved into which is now my home. The twins were just starting pre-school and only for a few hours a week, so I was still spending a lot of my time looking after them there. It was a ‘trial separation’ in all but name; “need some time apart” I was told.

I’d found a great new home for us all, right next to their school, in a quiet cul-de-sac; with a good-sized garden, a communal green outside and with friends they could play with nearby. It was perfect for ‘us’. I’d stayed up all of Christmas Eve cleaning up the incredible mess that a family with 3-year-twins will inevitably make, and finalising the packing and moving. I then drove through the night to London to join the family with my in-laws for Christmas. I didn’t want to miss opening the presents around the tree! It’s such an important and joyous time for young children.

I did all this in the full expectation that this would be ‘our’ new family home, that we would all be moving in there together as a family. I was wrong. That’s when our separation started for real.

They all moved in and I stayed where I was. Separated.

My wife had gone back to work after her maternity leave while I carried on looking after the twins when they weren’t at school, so for financial reasons (I thought at the time) it was only her name on the title deed. I hadn’t stayed overnight there so I couldn’t claim any right of residence.

I would still come over for evenings, have dinner there & play with them until their bedtime: that’s when it it became – for want of a better word – ‘difficult’.

In my life I’ve experienced grief and pain. My favourite uncle died when I was a young boy; I was a pallbearer at his funeral. I had to take the day off school and I think I spent most of it crying. My Dad died in 2005; he’d lived to a good old age, and I’d seen him only a few months before, but it was still tough. I’ve had abscessed teeth (several times), I’ve woken up in the middle of the night after a knee operation when the anaesthetic had worn off in such pain that – as an agnostic – I prayed to die.

None of that compared to what I experienced here though. As it became time for me to go the twins would become distraught. They would plead for me to stay, shouting, screaming, crying uncontrollably. They did everything they possibly could with their little 3-year-old bodies to stop me leaving. They would grab a leg each and hang on as hard as they could, gripping me like limpets and refusing to let go. They would throw themselves between me and the door to try to stop me from leaving: all the while screaming, crying & shouting “DON’T GO DADDY! STAY HERE!”. They’d try distraction, delaying tactics, everything they could think of, to stop me from going.  And I didn’t want to go!!

But what could I do?! It wasn’t my house! They were no longer under my care!

It was, is, and I think always will be the most painful, distressing thing I’ve had to go through.

You say you love me, then you walk right out the door; I’m left here wanting more.

I was left high and dry and didn’t feel I had the means or resources to look after them as they needed any more. They would come over to my little place, and still do, but when it became time to leave it was the same distressing scenario all over again. This went on several days every week, for many months. Over the ensuing years it’s lessened but it’s still there. To be honest, I’ve lost track of time for it all now.

I only found out quite recently that they blamed me for all this. They thought that I had left them, when the opposite was true!  It’s only in the last year or so as they’ve grown mentally and emotionally that I’ve been able to explain to them what actually happened – that I didn’t leave, didn’t want to, it wasn’t my choice and that it was the last thing I wanted to do! They thought this about me, that Daddy had left them, betrayed them – for all this time! Awful!

They’re great kids, balanced, largely happy, smart, doing well at school and socially, etc. I still see a sadness in them however, a Dad-shaped emptiness, and I just can’t help feeling – despite the circumstances – that I’m to blame. All those “if only”s!

Looking back I can think of things I might have said and done differently that may have made a difference. Who knows? I can’t rewrite the past so I’ll never know. “Hindsight is always 20-20”! At the time I was so shocked, distressed, confused, struggling with my own personal circumstances and, yes, depressed that I couldn’t see any alternative.

They were only three.

They’re older now, but they’re still children: my children. All I can do is try to do the best that I can for them with what I have, and that’s what I’m doing.

DIY Daddy
Shank You Very Much
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Memories, Old & New

Blog posts can take many forms. There are quick ones, funny ones, photo posts, wordy posts, posts for others.

Then there are those posts where you write from the heart, when you feel moved enough that you have something you really want to say.”Blackberries” was one of those posts.

Those first 2 years in what I still think of as our home, when I was with Jake & Ellie nearly all the time, weren’t without their difficulties but hold so many precious memories. Like picking blackberries together.
Continue reading “Memories, Old & New”

The Princess and the Poo

Jake was heading on upstairs & asked for my company.

What that actually means is that he wanted me to play music from ‘Frozen’ on my ‘phone while he had a poo. That’s become something of a tradition here. 

After ‘Frozen Heart’ (his favourite) & a little ‘For the First Time in Forever’ Ellie decided to join us.

“Hello Ellie”

“I’m not Ellie, my name is Shakora”

I don’t even know where she gets this one from.
Continue reading “The Princess and the Poo”

An Active Family

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My Tiny Dancer. Dressed as Snow White, for some reason.

When Jaime from ‘The Oliver’s Madhouse’ asked me if I could maybe join in with her new ‘Active Family’ blog-linky I have to admit: I sniggered, a little. I may have even actually ‘lol’d!

Trying to get our funsome twosome to be a bit active isn’t really a problem at the moment. Even when they watch TV it’s more likely than not to be ‘Lazytown’: a show whose main character is a health fanatic called Sportacus. Living on ‘sports candy’ (mostly carrots) & always going to bed at 8.08, this is a man who has never knowingly walked anywhere in his entire life. Why do that when you can double-flip, cart-wheel, run or jump instead? Lately Ellie seems to spend more of her time being his preposterously pink side-kick Stephanie than herself, & she loves trying to copy Stephanie’s dance moves. Jake is Sportacus of course; I get to be the chubby, middle-aged, bald Mayor. Yay me.

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Sportacus Jake!

No, it’s more of a challenge to get them to not be so active sometimes, please. Like when they’re jumping & doing forward rolls & headstands on the bed, or wanting to play ‘horsey’, when it’s late & they should be settling down for the night. Sometimes even after 8.08 (gasp)! Or a “Please stop climbing on the back of the sofa, especially when I’ve got a cup of hot coffee / a plate of lasagne!” sort of thing.

They’re at pre-school now for a few hours during the week, & that seems to use up a lot of their energy most days. We still take them to Monkey Music on Friday mornings, & have just started them in a dance class on Thursday evenings. They love both! We used to take them to a children’s gym on Friday afternoons & we’re looking for an alternative; that was probably their favourite activity & it would be a shame to lose it.

On the weekends we try to take them out for something active at least once a day: the country park, the fun farm, soft-play, swimming, or just scooting to the local playground. And there’s always the mini-trampoline & the flexible flyer in the garden!

So overall, yes: I think we’re a fairly active family.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I just need to have little lie down please…

For more ‘Active Family’ posts just click the pic:

 photo ActiveFamily150x150_zps28e829a4.jpg

Hair

Jake, Ellie & I all had haircuts yesterday. The Mummy had hers done a couple of weeks ago.

While I was having mine done Ellie came up to me & said “Daddy, you look gorgeous!”

Later it was “We all look gorgeous!”

Jake’s had been floppy for a while & he really suits a short smart cut, especially with a side parting.

I badly needed hair that accessorises with my bald spot.

Ellie looked great with long hair but it was getting hard to brush & untangle & kept getting in her eyes.

She was happy with her new haircut initially but in bed last night she became really upset! More to do with tiredness than anything else I think.

For a solid 5 minutes at least she cried horribly, shouting repeatedly “I WANT MY HAIR BACK!”

(She was fine this morning & we haven’t heard a word about it since).

Jake was a little star! He was casting magic spells to help, trying to swap Ellie’s hair with Mummy’s. Using a large pot of skin cream as a wand.

“Abra-dabra, MUMMY HAIR GO!”

And when there no obvious result he would try a variation, like “Abra-dabra, HAIR BACK!”

He was brilliant. He made us laugh &, more importantly, helped calm Ellie.

After quite a few tries he got quite discouraged when his magic didn’t seem to be working, so I had to tell him that I was sure that I’d seen some of Mummy’s & Ellie’s hair swap over.

He seemed happy with that; soon Ellie was too, then they fell asleep.

Toy Story

Ellie has a bad habit of tipping the contents of toy boxes on the floor then walking away without having played with the toys much, if at all. It’s a particular problem here as we have so little space. If we let stuff pile up we’ll start tripping over it. Then, as the teddies & toy trains pile higher & higher, we’ll end up not being able to move & will find ourselves walled up inside. Again.

We’ve been trying to get her to tidy up afterwards, to put the toys back in the box. She’s nearly 3 so she should be able to do that now, right?

We haven’t had much success.

“Ellie, will you pick the <play> food up please?”

“No”

She’s a good girl – as she’ll tell you herself – but, like any 2-year-old, she has her moments

“Ellie, please pick the food up”

“No. I don’t want to!”

“Ellie, you tipped it on the floor; you should put it back”

Appealing to logic to a 2-year-old. Yeah, that’s going to work…

“No. You do it!”

Then she goes upstairs to get ready for bed with Jake & the Mummy, while I clear up after dinner. And tidy up Ellie’s toys.

But no more! We’ve decided to get stroppy!

So next time we added:

“Ellie, if you don’t clear up your food we’re going to take it away”

“No!”

“Ellie, Daddy will take it away” (Daddy shoots the Mummy a look that says: “Thanks!” Sarcastically) “& you won’t be able to play with it any more. Isn’t that right, Daddy?”

I understand cabinet collective responsibility & the need for parental unity & all that, although I can’t help feeling a bit like Nick Clegg.

“Yes, that’s right. I will take your food away”

“OK”

Er…what?

“Ellie, do you understand that we will take those toys away & you won’t be able to play with them any more?”

“Yes. That’s OK”.

She called our bluff! She’s only 2, for crying out loud!

Note To Self: Never play poker with Ellie. Unless she’s on my team…

Then they all trotted off upstairs as usual & I wore some more holes in my jeans clearing up toys. As usual.  Although I did take the food away. For a few days

You see what we’re up against here?

Flying Solo, in the Dark

Getting the twins off to sleep on Saturday night was…a bit different.

We’d given the Mummy a night pass; she was out having dinner with a friend, or some such frippery. Between the two of us we’d got as far as getting us all into bed together, as they still co-sleep.

Usually the Mummy is in the middle sandwiched between children, with me on the side reading stories. After they’ve finished their milk & seem settled enough I’ll get up & sing a song* while slowly turning down the light. I then sneak out while quietly saying goodnight to each of them & she stays with them until they’re soundly asleep before getting back up herself.

Tonight however roles were reversed. I was on my own, in centre stage where the Mummy usually is. She’d read the stories, turned off the light & made the Daddy’s exit. I was flying solo! In the dark…

Jake at least did seem a bit unsettled. He grizzled for quite a while, probably 10-15 minutes, them went into a stint of ‘Tree Fu Tom‘ magic spell-casting.

This basically involves raising the arms in the air, pushing them quickly out in front of you & shouting “Eh, Eh, Go!”.  Again. And again. And again. He’d been doing this a lot between bath & being dressed for bed, but in front of the mirror so he could admire his smooth moves.

Now children learning by repetition is fine, but not when Daddy is trying to get them to sleep. And he wants to get up & watch the rugby. That he hadn’t been able to during the day when it was shown live. And that he had already accidentally seen the result of earlier despite trying hard not to due to a fleeting glance at twitter. Grrrr….

By this time Ellie was fast asleep. The ‘Tree Fu Tom’ sleep spell I was throwing in Jake’s direction had rebounded onto her, obviously. Ellie falling asleep is usually a cue for Jake to point it out to us, often loudly: “Lellie: aleep!”. Also to Ellie: she clearly is unaware of the fact that she is asleep & obviously needs to know. This is always followed by “Shhh, Ellie is sleeping”s, & carries on until he seems satisfied that everyone has been thoroughly briefed on his sister’s current status.

So he chatted & moved around a bit more, probably for another 10-15 minutes, but thankfully soon calmed down, settled under his “banky” (trans.: “blanket”), snuggled on my shoulder & –  again after a while – fell asleep. I snoozed too then & when I thought he was unconscious enough very carefully extricated myself & crept out.

I actually managed to watch all of the rugby I was hoping to, & I was still busying myself with that vital work when the Mummy came back. Suitably impressed, I might add. With me, that is, not the rugby. Although that was great too…

So one up for the Dads, I say! Getting two toddlers to sleep by yourself? Yes: it can be done!

* the CBeebies goodnight song, if you must know. “The time has come to say goodnight, to say sleep tight ’til the morning light….”

For The Crumby Mummy’s ‘Terrible Twosday’ blog hop. Click the pic for more!

Dear So & So

Dear Man at the Ironmongers Next to the Nursery Who Thinks it’s Funny to Detain & Distress Young Children & Their Parents

You’re horrible.

Please stop making the world crappier than it should & could be

“May all your nails be rusty”

More-than-you-deserve regards,

Still annoyed me

——————————-

Dear Jallie

When I ask, or even tell, you not to throw more food on the floor that you means you stop. It doesn’t mean you do it again deliberately. Especially with that look on your faces.

The same applies to pouring water out of the bath onto the floor, pouring drinks onto the floor / into the toy train /  onto Peppa Pig, or running away when I’m trying to dress you.

You’re 2. I get it, OK?

Love, Daddy

—————————–

Dear Oh Thou Great Billjobs,  God of Technology & All Things Gadgety

You know I’m a gadget-freak & I that I love Tech. And it clearly amuses You to ensure that most of the Tech I own only half works. While it is gratifying to know that You have a sense of humour, it would be greatly more gratifying to have things in my life that I so depend on to actually do what they are supposed to.

I remain Your humble yet frustrated servant

JallieDaddy

 

Click the pic for more Dear So & Sos:

Dear So and So...

The Things They Say & Do – Week 6

Some of Ellie’s new words & phrases this week: “Yippee!”, “Wow…”, “Oh dear dear”, “I love cake!”, “Tea Party!”, (in the bath, to Jake) “Can you swim?”

Both Jake & Ellie have a ‘thing’ about food being too hot, being a bit nervous of it sometimes even when it’s barely luke-warm. Breakfast, porridge, Jake decides Ellie’s is too hot & blows on it. Ellie says “Thank you”, then blows on Jake’s porridge. Jake: “Thank you”, Ellie: “You’re welcome”. We’re just watching them, delighted.

They’d managed to dismantle a toy garage & Jake was wearing a plastic support rod on his arm. I grabbed another one & wandered around pretending to be a robot, doing my best (meaning very, very bad) robot dance, with sound effects. This was the most hilarious thing EVER & they spent the next million hours trying to imitate me. Come to think of it, I may have videoed it…

I’m lying on my back on the bed during their bedtime routine. Jake is standing on my chest. Feeling tall, he says “Mummy, Daddy, I’m a man!”.

Later, more chest-standing. Me: “You’re Jakezilla, grrrr!!”. The Mummy: “I’m Mummyzilla!”, then Ellie: “Elliezilla!”.

Jake has done great things with some stacky cups, then says: “Daddy: I finished!”.

They both have a fascination with the moon. Spotting it while in the garden, Ellie looks up at it & says: “Amazing…”.

Jake is pretending to spoon me my coffee. With every ‘spoonful’ he says: “Nice?”.

Jake wants to wear the Mummy’s watch. She has a bit of trouble putting it on his wrist, but when she succeeds he says: “Well done!”.

We were drawing outside with chalk. They both decided that the chalk was better employed as pretend ‘phones. Jake is pretending to talk to Mummy Pig. Me: “Did you ‘phone Mummy Pig?”. Jake: “Yes”. “What did she say?”.  He snorts. I laughed. A lot.

We’ve had an eventful week! A lot of these words & phrases they’ve picked up from us, but I really don’t know where they get some of it from!

These may not seem be very exciting to some, especially non-parents, but to us these moments are golden.

This post is my entry for this week’s ‘Things They Say & Do’ blog linky over at Chris’ ‘Thinly Spread‘ blog. Have a look the other posts there: I guarantee a good read!

The Children in the House Go Chatter, Chatter, Chatter

This was to be a post  in my ‘3 Brilliant Things‘ blog, but there were so many great things yesterday, mainly to do with communication, that I thought it deserved a post here in my main Daddying blog.

I’ve been banging on for some time, mostly in that 3BT blog, about how surprised I am at their communication skills. I don’t really know but they seem pretty good considering that they’re only 23 months old.

Ellie’s pronunciation is really good, her vocabulary seems to grow every day & she seems to learn really quickly. She’s like a parrot; she often immediately repeats a word or phrase she hears us say. Jake’s pronunciation isn’t as clear, but his (it seems to me) social awareness compensates for that.

For instance: towards the end of the day we were watching TV & I put ‘Baby Jake‘ on. Ellie, word for word & in perfect timing, copied a part of the spoken introduction, “J is for Jake, our baby brother”. A 7-word sentence! Jake then said, really clearly: “No, not again!”. He then repeated it & I then asked him if he didn’t want to watch Baby Jake & he confirmed that he didn’t. To be fair, it was a repeat…

Earlier, in the garden, we were playing a game. 1 would pretend to be stuck on the ground (it started with Ellie actually stuck, sitting with a leg folded under herself), & then the other would pretend to help them up, along with ‘Daddy’ who did the actual lifting. Great fun. Ellie was consistently saying “Daddy, Jake: I stuck!”. An original 4-word sentence, used correctly in context, & using a personal pronoun (“I” rather than “Ellie”). I’m pretty sure children that age aren’t meant to do that.

During their bedtime routine Ellie was carrying a book. She said what I’m almost certain was “I can read the big book”, then sat down & did exactly that. An original  6-word sentence, again used correctly in context, & again using a personal pronoun.

I’ve mentioned before how Jake, when the Mummy told him that he was her little baby, said indignantly: “I not a baby, I’m Jake!”

I’m constantly amazed by all this. Our little babies – who not so long ago, it seems, were just little confused, immobile, inarticulate (& often smelly) bundles  – are talking, & talking to us! We’re actually having conversations with them, & they with each other!

But I’m also a little confused. Is this normal for children of this age? Are they ahead of the curve? Or am I just looking through the rose-tinted glasses of a doting Dad? I do actually need new glasses…

What are your experiences? Are /were your children little chatterboxes, or quiet as church-mice? I’d really appreciate some feedback here.

This post is my entry for this week’s Things They Say & Do’ blog linky over at Chris’ ‘Thinly Spread‘ blog. Have a look the other posts there: they’re really good!