Today definitely had disaster written all over it. #3 got up stupidly early. That, factoring in the clocks going back means at this point I’ve been awake for over 14 hours.
I also had the joyous task of doing a ‘new shoe’ shop for #2, which resulted in new shoes for everyone, copious amounts of mentally counting to 10 and threats I didn’t follow through with. Come 10am I was ready to cry.
And then I realised something (as I watched #1 dart around a self made assault course in the garden, much to #3’s delight) – it doesn’t matter how tired I am, how many hours they sit with the iPad today, if I get to the point of nearly losing my shit by 10am, or if they don’t eat their 5 a day one day. I am the ‘present’ parent and that alone makes all the difference.
We have a weird set up in our house. #1 and #2 have two parents; Me, and their Dad. We have an almost even split care wise and we are adult and respectful enough that we all get along well. Whether or not they are affected by our divorce remains to be seen, but they are currently well rounded, delightful, albeit slightly gobby little girls.
#3 is different. She has one parent; Me. Don’t get me wrong, I have an amazing support network for all 3 of the mini ones, but #3 is definitely different. She’s still too young to have realised that she isn’t the same, but old enough to vocalise “Nee, Erin Daddy Neil’s”? whenever she comes home and they aren’t here. She knows they go away but hasn’t made the connection that she doesn’t, nor that she doesn’t have a Daddy anything.
More often recently I have been wondering what I am going to tell her when she does ask. Some breakups are easy to compartmentalise – sometimes one person cheats, sometimes two adults just realise that they’re not meant to be together and they split. And sometimes, sometimes you realise you’ve had a baby with someone who just isn’t a good person. Unfortunately for us, we’ve fallen into the latter category. However, regardless of this, he is also her biological father. So what do I tell her when she asks where her Daddy is?
I keep thinking maybe I’ll lie. Maybe I’ll tell her she was the product of a one night stand. I can cope with that stigma, no harm done right? Except when she does find out the truth (and she will) then she’ll not only know I lied, but she won’t trust what I do tell her thereafter.
We have a really unique set up in our house and for the most part there aren’t lots of advice website on ‘how to cope when you have children with different men and one stayed and one of them fucked off’. Mostly I know I shouldn’t slag him off, or try and taint her view of him before she can make up her own mind. Except, it seems those rules apply when the estranged parent is normal and reasonable. We don’t have that luxury unfortunately. So what do I say?
For the most part I feel like I’m in limbo, it’s going to happen eventually, and I spend a lot of time wondering…
- What do I say when people ask where he is? (People are nosey, they ask).
- What will I tell her?
- When will I be ok with everything that happened?
I used to be ashamed of what happened, like some how it was my fault, that everything that transpired after I asked him to leave (or told him not to come back, he had already left) was because I had ended it. For a long time I believed that if I had been the more reasonable one that none of the fallout would’ve ensued. I know now, and because of dissolved court cases etc that actually none of it was me, it was all him. So I’ve come to the conclusion that only the truth will do. Obviously not the full blown adult version of the truth all in one go, but a gentler, condensed version, until she’s old enough to read all the evidence from both sides and draw her own conclusions.
It feels better making that decision. Less seedy, less compromising.
And until that day, and then every day after, I am the present parent. Not a helicopter parent or an attachment parent or a tiger mom or whatever else. I am present, every day. And that’s all any of us can be – present. Underneath it all, kids don’t care if you’re tired, or if you’ve not had coffee, or if you spend loads of money on them or spend all day in your PJs watching films. All they care about is that you love them, and that your honest and present, and completely uncompromising.
So if you’ve had a bad day, and lets face it, if you’ve got a child under 5 then you’ve probably had a slightly tired day today, shake it off. It’s 6:30pm, they’ll be in bed soon. Tomorrow is a new day, a new week, it can be whatever you want it to be. Regardless of what your set up is, if you’re divorced or married or in a step-family or a blended family or whatever, being present for your kids is everything. Give your kids a cuddle tonight, tell them you’ve got their backs regardless, and be safe in the knowledges that you are present.
And that’s what matters.