Negotiating With An 8-Year-Old

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Ellie likes to play “Truth Or Dare” with me – and also Jake when he’s in the mood.

No, don’t look at me like that! It’s a child-friendly version, OK?! Although the ‘Truth’ options can be a little ’embarassing’ sometimes. It’s possible that I’ve had to be, shall we say, “economical with the truth” once or twice.

She’d chosen “Dare” on this occasion, and I think it’s fair to say that she wasn’t too happy with the outcome: “Wear a sign on your back that says “Kick Me” for the rest of the day”.

Negotiations ensued. I started using the word “Forfeit”. She began panicking. It’s amazing how competitive 8-year-olds can be! She eventually agreed to wear it, but just for the duration of the game.  For the sake of peace and a quiet(ish) life I agreed.

When Jake heard what was happening he immediately stopped what he was doing. This is a thing unheard of, as it usually involves a screen of some kind which seems to turn on a Star Trek grade tractor beam whenever he looks at it. No, he was very excited about this, and set about enthusiastically making the sign especially, just for his twin sister. What a loving, helpful boy he is!

By the way,  I coloured it in. Yes, thank you; I thought so too!

Probably as a result of Jake’s involvement, Ellie was having further doubts! She insisted on my also wearing the sign on my back, which she very helpfully made for me. By this time I’d given up, and just wanted to get on with the game.

Anyway I was winning! I can’t think where they get that competitive streak from….

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Something immediately struck me about her sign. She’d added “Please”! So polite!

I wore my sign. Did hers stay on for the rest of the game? Guess!

And the moral of the story? When you negotiate with an 8-year-old don’t expect the deal to stick, but at least when she breaks it you can expect her to be polite about it!

Shank You Very Much

 

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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

Confession Time

There are an increasing number of stay-at-home & hands-on Dads – more power to them! There are many Dads of twins. And of course older Dads. But there can’t be too many who are all 3. That was one of the reasons I started this blog; in the hope that whatever experiences I had might be of interest to others: Dads, Mums, or those just looking.

How this all began.

It was supposed to be about me, me as a Dad, an unusual Dad, and how the experience affected and changed my life. I intended this to be a chronicle of an unusual parenting situation from an unusual perspective: my perspective, a bloke’s perspective. That’s actually what gave this blog its strange name. 1-DSCF3705

Best laid plans, and all that eh?

It turned out that it wasn’t about me – it never was, really – it was always about them: Jake and Ellie, my wonderful – now 8-year-old – twins.

I guess that’s one of the reasons I haven’t been too personal here over the years: not much writing about how I’ve been, how I feel, how all this has been affecting me, despite my blog’s stated aims.

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Another reason of course is that I am a bloke, and generally we blokes aren’t too good at that sort of thing: opening up about ‘feelings’, and ’emotions’ – or at least ones that don’t involve shouting at a bunch of other blokes as they run around after variously shaped balls.  In that way at least I’m what you could describe as a ‘typical bloke’.

And I haven’t posted much here, for a few years now; certainly nowhere near as much as I used to. In this blog’s heyday I was posting daily.  A lot of that of course is just due to the twins just growing up. They’re 8 and in school, and are very active in out of school groups and activities: I just don’t see them as much or spend as much time with them as I used to, so there’s just less to write about.

DSCF5334There’s another reason however that I don’t spend as much time with them as I used to, and as much as I’d like to. I’ve alluded to it here a few times but have never written explicitly about it. I’ve always meant to, but there never seemed to be a ‘right time’ for it. There probably never is. Also I’ve always tried to be positive here, and present my experience of parenthood as a positive one, which it largely has been, and this particular aspect hasn’t been positive. In fact it’s been bloody difficult.

“C’mon, spill it man: out with it then!”. Alright; OK then! That sergeant-major is still in my head it seems: more about that another time maybe…

OK, so (deep breath): we’re separated, my wife and I. Have been for over 4 years now,  since Christmas 2013, about a year & a half after we moved here to Wales, soon after the twins started school, just as we were all set to move into the new family home – which I’d selected mainly as it’s almost literally over the fence from their school.

I’m not going to lie: it’s been, and is, difficult. Any readers of this blog will probably know that the twins were, and in many ways still are, my life. They’re the only thing in my life that has ever given it any meaning, really.

The reasons behind it? I’m not sure I will or even should go into that here. And that’s partly because I’m not really sure. I do know that statistically there is a higher than average divorce rate amongst parents of twins: it can be very stressful! “Double the trouble, double the fun.”

As for the future: who knows? We’re still officially married, and we even actually talk sometimes: amicably, mostly. We should probably do more of that sort of thing.

So, anyway, that’s my News. It’s out of the way, it’s off my chest. It’s not before time that I ‘came clean’ here; I probably should have a long time ago.

I’ve gone on long enough already; I’ll write more another time.

Thank you for reading, if you’ve stuck with me this far. More later 🙂

 

 

 

More Words to Warm a Father’s Heart

It was Jake’s turn to say the magic words that can make this here Daddy very happy.

The Mummy had cooked dinner & I was in the kitchen clearing up, as is my wont.

She & Jake & Ellie were all in the lounge watching TV together.

Suddenly there was the sound of rapidly approaching quick little footsteps…

Then a little voice, shouting

Wait for it…

“DADDY, COME AND WATCH FOOTBALL WITH US!!”

Yes, they were all watching football. Without me.

And they wanted me to watch it with them!

I was sorely tempted, and as much as I would have loved to accept the gracious invitation as a dutiful Daddy I carried on clearing up after dinner.

I did though get in to the lounge as soon as I could!

To find that they were all now watching Sooty. Apparently the match was very dull.

And anyway my first (sporting) love has always been rugby: I hope to introduce Jake & Ellie to its joys as soon as I can!

So, “Izzy Wizzy let’s get busy!”

 

For more posts like this just click the pic:

Wot So Funee?
Like this? Read this! Words to Warm a Father’s Heart

How to Get Through a Car Breakdown With Young Children

I’m speaking from experience here! I had the great misfortune of breaking down 3x in 2 weeks at Christmas, each time having to be rescued by the AA.

The 3rd time was the most concerning as I had Jake & Ellie with me. We were heading off to soft play in the Astra, & it just didn’t feel right: its usual acceleration just wasn’t there. It felt suspiciously like the little car did before its clutch failed (breakdown #1). Unfortunately I was right.

They’d fallen asleep anyway, & I decided to turn around & go back home. There was a hill though;  a long one. Try as we might the car just wouldn’t make it! The best I could do was to stop on the hard shoulder of a dual carriageway, just past the slip road. Hazard lights on, of course.

Continue reading “How to Get Through a Car Breakdown With Young Children”

Well, I guess it depends what’s in it…

At 3 3/4 Jake & Ellie are already at a point, & have been for some time, where – despite my best efforts – it’s become increasingly difficult to ensure that they eat well & that they avoid too much ‘junk food’.

We were having a little chat about this, as we parents sometimes do: you know, to help them along life’s little highway. Which at the moment often seems paved with chocolate, crisps, sugar & E numbers.

I’m sure you know the drill: we were trying really hard to distinguish between healthy ‘food’ that’s good for you (“Like Sports Candy!”; “Yes, that’s right, Ellie”, breathing a silent prayer to Sportacus & co.), & snacks that might taste good but can be bad for you, aka ‘treats’. 

They seemed to understand.

Then Ellie had a question:
Continue reading “Well, I guess it depends what’s in it…”

Tired, scared, sore, smelly & frozen!

I’ve had an eventful December, especially the last couple of weeks! I’m just now finding the time to write about it.

In less than 2 weeks  I’ve been in 3 car breakdowns, having to be towed each time. The last one  – Saturday – was on the hard shoulder of a busy dual carriageway just ahead of a slip road, in the dark & the cold.

With Jake & Ellie.
Continue reading “Tired, scared, sore, smelly & frozen!”

It will be Christmas soon…

Christmas in the post-War United States
Photo credit: Wikipedia

It will soon be Christmas!

You may have noticed.

As I think so many of us are, I’m very mixed about Christmas.

There are things I love – especially since becoming a Dad – but there are also

Things I Hate: 
Continue reading “It will be Christmas soon…”

Why we’re not eating at the table much at the moment

1-DSC00454-001 Have I mentioned that our house is too small? Also, it’s possible that I may be a little disorganised, sometimes.

Although, to be fair, the ‘Bella’ magazine isn’t mine. Nor are the drawings, the clock puzzle & the pot of hairslides. And I don’t even know what that other pot is doing there: it’s empty. And the toy xylophone: also not mine. Although I do play it; quite well, actually.

We hope to be moving soon…

Memories

When I’ve spent time at the old house* I usually come back in a somewhat reflective frame of mind.

Take this picture, for instance, which I posted back in June & meant to explain but never did:

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I was working really hard: clearing, cleaning, supervising tradesmen, sorting, throwing out rubbish, organising storage & removals, trying to get leaking roofs fixed or replaced in torrential rain, sanding & revarnishing the 100-year-old wooden floorboards: that was a nightmare! I was desperately trying to get the place ready to go onto the market as soon as possible. I needn’t have bothered, as it turned out: despite dropping the price a lot – too much, I think – we still haven’t sold it.

One of the jobs then was cleaning the chalk off the back wall. This wall. It was some of Jake’s & Ellie’s first attempts at art, at making shapes. It will eventually lead to writing, drawing, who knows what else.

To wipe it all off, to erase it from existence, to remove their precious scribblings: it  just seemed wrong. I really didn’t want to do it. But I had to.

1-DSC00326Everywhere I go there I see memories. The big garden I loved so much: we had so much fun there, especially in their second year when they were more mobile & playful & I was their main carer. They loved messing about with sand & water with the play-tables, & playing with the hose. Jake never ceased to amaze me with his ability to find & pick the ripest & juiciest blackberries from the vines which were threatening to dominate all else there. Sometimes we’d just sit on the seats & watch our world go by. Other times we’d climb around & explore, & be fascinated by the insects, birds & frogs we might find. We weaned them in that garden, & would eat outside as much we could in the warmer months. In the house there are toys still there that we haven’t had room for in our little, supposedly temporary house.

1-DSC00325So many memories! They’ll never leave us, of course, but the house feels empty; just memories there now. I feel like it should be full of the sounds of laughing, running children – but it’s still, & quiet. Too quiet.

And it got me thinking : some of the most precious moments that we as parents will carry with us will be from these times: when our young loved ones were 2 or younger.

The age up until which we human beings are meant to have little or no memory of anything that happens to us.

So things that we’ll carry with us & that will be some of our most treasured memories will be things they’ll know nothing about?

I can already see myself reminiscing with Jake the teenager about the blackberries, & getting: “Oh Dad, stop being so soppy!”, before he runs off to his room to play some very loud music. Via his Ninsamyo Holodeck, probably.

Just one more of parenting’s, & life’s, ironies I guess.

I wonder what else this Daddying lark has lined up for me?

Now, if I could just remember where I put my keys…

* A year ago we reluctantly moved from our home in the Midlands to Wales because of work. We had a little place there which we had been renting out, & the plan was to move in there for a few weeks while we sold the old place, then buy a new family home in Wales. But we haven’t been able to sell & we’re still living in a house which just isn’t big enough for 2 adults & active twin toddlers. So we’re stuck. But we do have a Plan B.