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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Three Beautiful Things

Some time ago there was a meme doing the rounds of the internets called “Three Beautiful Things” (3BT). It may still be there and I just hadn’t noticed, in some corner of the internet that I haven’t caught up with yet: it’s quite possible.

The basic idea behind it is that no matter how bad your day seems to have been that you can always try to find good (‘beautiful’) things that have come out of it. “The Power of Positive Thinking”, and all that. It’s a cliche, yes, but it works: as long as you’re not blinded to reality to the extent that you completely ignore your problems. The buggers have a habit of sneaking up on you when you’re not expecting it and biting your backside if you ignore them for too long, in my experience!

‘3BT’ is particularly good when you’ve had ‘one of those days’ where everything seems to  go wrong, or you have a setback of some kind on your otherwise Glorious Golden Path of Progress.

On days like that you sometimes find yourself scratching around to find some positivity! The “Three Beautiful Things” are still there though: you just have to look.  They may seem trivial, unimportant even, but they’re still there: and that’s what matters. They are still things in what seems like a bad day that can lighten the gloom. “Small is Beautiful”. When you find them you can realise that maybe your day hasn’t been so bad after all. ( I believe psychologists and life coach types call this sort of thing “reframing“). 

Without boring you with the details, my day today has been a bit like that – so here are my Three Beautiful Things.

    • I got my hair cut. I tend to let my locks – what’s left of them! – get straggly, and – as with many other things – put off getting them cut. Today I decided to get smartened up, and a lovely lady named Helen gave me a good smart cut, along with an equally smart beard trim. We had a good chat as well; chattiness is a skill most hairdressers have along with their cutting prowess. I look and feel much better.
    •  I treated myself to a big greasy bag of chips. With salt and vinegar: all the trimmings, a guilty pleasure!
    • I found a site for freelance writers which I think suits my skillset and experience, and which I think could prove very rewardng in days to come.
    • I updated one of my CVs with my recent experience to help with the possibility of finding some sort of ‘real job’  – as my well-meaning friends keep telling me  I should – in addition to my self-employed earnings.

Yes, I know: that’s four, not three.

Maybe my day really wasn’t so bad after all!

School, Work & Me

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click to enlarge

School – even pre-school – changes things!

In April Jake & Ellie started pre-school on a trial basis for a few hours & a few days a week; this term they’re there for the full 5 days.

We’ve been exercising our option of taking them out at 1.15 rather than the full day to 3.30 but now they’re actually asking to stay on!
Continue reading “School, Work & Me”

The Joys of Being Comfortable

In what now feels like a former life – the one before I became a stay-at-home / hands-on Dad – I used to go out to work, a lot of the time to work in an office.

I did the usual.

I carried a briefcase. I’m not really sure why: most of the time it only contained a newspaper & (sometimes) my lunch.

I had shiny black shoes. When it was cold I wore a big, thick overcoat. When it rained I carried a black umbrella & wore a (usually beige) raincoat.

No bowler hat though – what do you take me for?!
Continue reading “The Joys of Being Comfortable”

Ellie the HR Executive & Jake the Politician

Heard around the Jallie Shack this week:

“You work in an office, don’t you Daddy?”

“No, not at the moment, Ellie. But I used to”.

“When you were young”.

Technically she’s wrong, but it often feels that way…

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Jake threw the mother of all tantrums yesterday. At school pick-up he wanted to sit ‘in’ (behind) the driver’s seat; Ellie had got there first, & I’d promised it to her anyway as he’d had it when I dropped them off. Getting him in the car-seat was a Herculean task! The drivers we held up, most likely also parents on the school run, were very understanding.

At home a bit later it seemed as if he was trying to make it up to me. He walked up to me & kissed my cheek.

“I like your ear, Daddy”

Then looking up at a picture on the wall: “I like your picture, Daddy”

Well, it was a really bad tantrum!

He already seems to know that flattery can get him everywhere. I think he’ll go far, that lad…

Wot So Funee?

“Wot So Funee?” is a blog-hop, so for more funnies just click the pic!

Work

I used to work in finance. Although I have no major qualifications beyond high-school I’m reasonably good with numbers, spreadsheets & tech, and –  if I’m honest, as I always try to be here – less good with people. I’ve worked on that & my social skills have improved but at heart I am still basically anti-social! I gravitate towards screens & am often uncomfortable in social situations.

So I happened on a career in accountancy & finance, not really by choice but just as it seemed to be what I was suited for.

The truth is my heart was never in it.

Office stress 2A lot of the time it bored me senseless: sitting in front of screens for hours on end just to make all the numbers, little & large, get on with each other. At other times it was very stressful & pressured: with fixed daily, weekly, monthly & yearly deadlines for which the right numbers had to be produced. And if they weren’t then others down the line who needed the numbers got stressed as their deadlines began to loom. It could get shouty.

I hated the office politics, pettiness, dealing with annoying people, bullying bosses, tiresome meetings. There were sometimes 24-hour, even weekend-long shifts. And I didn’t even have the compensation of being highly compensated. I did OK but I often struggled to pay my bills, just like anybody else.

I guess I’ve just never been that career-minded. I have often wondered if I’m maybe just a bit lazy: I definitely value my leisure time & try to make as much of it as I can.

But when I became a Stay-at-Home Dad I, along with the Mummy of course, worked really, really hard. I’ve probably said it here before but it’s worth repeating:

It’s the hardest job I have ever had.

1-DSCF3305It was exhausting, particularly the first year. The first 6 months or so are now a bit of a blur; we basically lived in the bedroom for most of that time.

No matter how unpleasant the office was I could still come home, get away from it. It might prey on my mind, even keep me awake at night, but at least I could escape to my own space.

With our slightly premature twins & their minor but demanding health problems there was no such escape. Care was around-the-clock, 24 hours a day. Even when I wasn’t actively looking after them I was always on call, all the time. The stress of taking on new challenges way outside of my experience, with my wife, all the while with the mind-numbing, debilitating sleep-deprivation: that’s something I could never have prepared myself for.

But this time my heart was in it.

So why the difference?

Before, I worked for money. As a Dad: it was love. And that realisation makes me happy.

So: lazy? Probably not. Soppy & besotted? Definitely!

Some posts from around that time: