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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The Golden Girl

While the twins were at my place on Sunday Ellie decided to do her homework!

Its theme was ‘mythology’. She didn’t know what that meant so she asked me and I explained as best as I could.

King MidasShe then went onto google on my PC (under my supervision of course!) and came up with the story of King Midas. I showed her how to click on the link she wanted and before too long she had written 2 sides of an A4 page with the story of King Midas & his ‘golden touch’. It was in her own words too, and not just copied, showing that she had understood the story. I’m a proud Dad!

She needed some help with some of the pronunciation and spelling – I mean how the heck do you pronounce ‘Phrygia’ or ‘Dionyssus’ anyway? I don’t know! It’s all Greek to me!* –  but her comprehension and written account of the story was excellent

    * sorry, couldn’t resist

Yes, it does seems a little strange her choosing to do her homework during the limited time that she has with me. She does love spending time here with her Daddy – that’s what she tells me anyway – but I think I understand. We were still doing something together, which I was enjoying & I which I think she was too. She & Jake however often don’t enjoy the same things, and even when we do all do something together they more often than not compete with each other rather than play together cooperatively. I often find myself having to break up a fight. I imagine that’s not unusual for young boy-girl twins!

When they’re with me they each mostly just want to do something with me and so are competing for my attention. I only see them part of a day on a weekend and one evening after school so we all try to make the most of our time together. It isn’t easy!

Minecraft warriorAnd to be honest Jake and I were engrossed in a series of intense one-on-one Minecraft battles that day, which he’d been preparing and planning for and looking forward to for some time. I said to both of them before they left that next time I was going to spend much more time with Ellie to compensate.

So Ellie was being ‘a good girl’, and she is that, in doing her homework here – but she had also put some thought into her reasons for doing so, which actually makes me think even more highly of her. She explained it to me:

When she’s at ‘home’ (or as I prefer to call it “her other home”) with Mummy she likes to play on the green outside with nearby friends of around her own age. More often than not, she explained, she gets called in from playing to do her homework, which obviously doesn’t usually go down too well in Ellie land! She thought then she’d take advantage of my little home office set-up to do her homework at my place, and then she’d have more time to play with her friends.

Smart girl!

Oh, and my Minecraft battle with Jake? 2-2. We are planning a rematch!

Now there is of course only one way to end this post:

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 🙂

 

 

 

Birds, bees, needles & lots of spots

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It was during the recent trauma – and closeness – of our vigil with Ellie during her week in hospital with ‘the pox’.

She slept a lot of the time, day & night, due to her illness & the medication she was taking. She’d just recently awoken, & we were doing ordinary things, like watching children’s TV or videos, & chatting.

We got to talking about our being in hospital when she & Jake were born, when out of the blue she said:

“Doctors make babies, don’t they?”

Umm…

Continue reading “Birds, bees, needles & lots of spots”

The Magic of Christmas?

Christmas is many things, but there’s one aspect of it that you don’t hear much about in the consumerism-obsessed, slick advert-soaked world of the media.

I’m sure though that it’s one that most parents will be aware of: that extra little weapon it adds to our armoury in aiding our  little darlings in their eternal battle between Good and Naughty:

“Father Christmas is watching!”
Continue reading “The Magic of Christmas?”

Film Appreciation

Now where was I?

Oh, yes: ‘Frozen’: Jake & Ellie’s first trip to the cinema! Last year.

Yes: bit of a gap; I know I wrote “tomorrow”. I’ve had a lot going on here lately…

As I said, they love films, & have done since very young. Early favourites were ‘The Jungle Book’, ‘Mary Poppins’, ‘The Wizard of Oz’ & ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’. More recently they’ve both loved ‘Tangled’ & Jake has fallen in love with ‘Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs’. And actually I may have as well!

We needn’t have worried about their ability to sit through the film without being noisy or running around: they loved it! Jake especially was rapt throughout, almost entranced.
Continue reading “Film Appreciation”

Death: The Sequel

Words. Just words. Just 4 of them. No big deal, right?

Well, yes: when those words are “How do we die?”

And when they’re spoken by a 3-year-old boy, to his Mummy & Daddy.

Continue reading “Death: The Sequel”

We’re having THAT conversation – now?!

We’d just finished their Saturday morning dance class – ballet & tap – which they’d really enjoyed.

We were sitting around drinking juice & hot drinks & eating crisps in the cafe there, which has now become something of a tradition.

There had been general chat about the class etc. but now, as there often is when children are focussed on eating & drinking, there was silence.

A silence suddenly broken by Jake:

“How do we die?”

Continue reading “We’re having THAT conversation – now?!”

Further evidence that my children are smarter than me

The 4 of us have been beset with niggling coughs & colds, on & off, for the last few weeks.

Last week on the way back from pre-school Jake was having a little coughing fit.

I tried to be nice.

“Oh, Jake: you’ve still got that nasty cough! Don’t worry, we’ll try to make you better.”

“But you can’t, can you?” was his immediate reply.

No hint of malice or bitterness, just a matter-of-fact observation.

He’d no doubt noticed that Mummy & Daddy had been coughing & sniffling as well, & that our best efforts at treatment hadn’t made our ailments go away, let alone his or Ellie’s.

I was stumped. What can you say to that?

Continue reading “Further evidence that my children are smarter than me”

Let’s catch up!

The last month has been a bit of a strange one here, for me.

A month ago today we moved house, finally escaping from the little place that was only meant to be temporary but in which we ended up staying for over a year.

There’s the usual unpacking & organising, & we’ve only had the internet & ‘phone since Monday.

My routine has changed dramatically too in the last month. I’ve found myself not able to do much in the way of blogging, or tweeting, until late at night – by which time I really just want to watch a bit of telly & go to bed.

That’s a shame as, especially since term break, we’ve been having a very active &, overall, very happy time. In the last week we & the twins have enjoyed a great freeplay session at the children’s gym, a new softplay centre, the circus, the fun farm, a day at Folly Farm, the local holiday park & the beach, as well as their new playground.

Jake & Ellie seem to have changed a lot in the last month too: for the good, I hasten to add!

Every now & then 1 or both of them seems to take a big leap. Being twins they spur each other on too: when 1 sees the other doing something new they want to do it too!

Jake seems to have completely lost his fear of heights: nothing seems to faze him now! I’ve been amazed at what he takes on, & what he can do. The frightened one now is more likely to be me: “Jake, are you sure about that?!”

It’s a telling truth that he – and Ellie – can now do physical things that dear old Dad cannot…

I hope to get back into a habit of regular posting again, including about some of our recent exploits.

In the meantime here’s a lovely scene from ‘our’ new garden. It’s great to finally have the room to eat outside again – not to mention the weather for it!

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And yes: Jake shouldn’t be on the table, even for raspberries. In his defence I think he was pretending to be a baby – along with the obligatory “goo-goo” & “gah-gah” noises. That’s been a popular game around here recently for some reason!