In Single Parenthood There I Stood – One Dads Story.
A cold, grey day in November. Ones of those soul-sapping days, where the weather seems to reflect the sombre tone in the air. As I chased my daughter, (just a toddler at the time); through the arch, which is the exit from our 1960s, terraced square of houses.
I didn’t realise how that image, that snapshot in time, to be ever stored in a virtual photo album, somewhere in my frightened noggin. It would be the 1 st of many mental polaroids, that would visit every emotion. Some that made my heart sing, and some that still wobble me to this day.
Foremost of these; the moment my daughter’s mother, and partner of 3 years walked out through the arch, my daughter chasing her and calling for her mummy. Out of our lives, not breaking her stride.
As I scoop my baby girl up in my arms, I realise that the pain I feel is her pain. I don’t care about the cheating and lying. I just want to stop my daughter from hurting.
Not just the strong paternal empathy, and emotional connection we made the day I cut her umbilical cord. I knew the pain and confusion she felt from my childhood, an unhappy parallel that I’d hoped would never befall any child of mine. It cut us both deeply but bonded us in blood and soul forever. Team Madaddy ‘til we die!
Right next snapshot in time and memory. This one’s happier I promise!
I’m not gonna lie; those early years were tough. Anyone that’s worked full time, and been a lone parent will tell you. It’s a constant juggle, with multiple balls in the air. A blur of socks coming off as quickly as you put them on, arms and legs in the wrong holes! So much Sudocream everywhere you end up resembling a bad Beetlejuice! You quickly learn to do things with one hand, apart from opening and retrieving wipes. A skill I’ve yet to master.
Every bath time getting soaked, and hair brushing to this day haunts me in my sleep. Trying to get my daughter to eat a good breakfast became a cross between negotiating with a crazed despot, to all-out war. An ever losing battle, her inherited stubbornness is something I have to take some credit for, my cross to bear according to my parents.
The moment I saw her in her complete school uniform, a massive sense of pride, with a sharp spike of sadness overwhelmed me. Her royal blue cardy slightly too big, she looks grown up but diddy. The difficulties of the previous two years become focused in my mind’s eye, as my little pickle beams up at me, with those big blue eyes and her ringlets framing her face. I take the obligatory 1 st day photo. All my hopes and dreams for her start here really.
My baby girl is off to school.
Ok, final chapter. We’re up to present day. There’s a lot I could write, so much has happened in the last seven years. Maybe I will one day, but I wanted to focus on key memories of that archway. The way it frames a moment like an old Polaroid.
These three images, one sad, two very proud; kind of sum up the trials I’ve faced as a single dad. I’ve hopefully changed some people’s perceptions. The world is slowly changing, so it’s acceptable for male and female roles to be more interchangeable. Like us all we’ve had highs and lows, some of them extreme.
I’ve been through redundancy, health problems, money problems. There’s been many a day when I thought I can’t do this! We’ve made it thus far though, my relationship with my daughter is complex but full of love and understanding. I’ve been mum and dad (pretty awesome as I get an extra special day, and chocolate).
Big shout out to my mum, who showed me how to be both parents. I’ll leave you with the snapshot. My little girl all grown up, blazer and tie on.
We did another obligatory 1 st day photo. The 1st very proper, the 2nd has my daughter showing her sass. Hand on hip, head at a jaunty angle, throwing a deuce and pouting to the max. I walked her to school that morning, and as we passed through the arch, she linked her arm through mine.
Holding on tight, I could feel her nerves building, as we neared the same school that I attended for my 1 st day. As we found the corner, she spies her best friend. Game face on, she slips her arm out, and she’s off. I watch her with her group of friends, chatting and giggling up the road, confidence restored. Good luck pickle, we did good.
P.S. Wish me luck with puberty; I’ll see you on the on the other side….