Am I A Good Parent? My Pandemic Reflection.

I never questioned my parenting skills or faults before now. The pandemic has forced me to reflect on a lot of things but none more than am I a good parent? I’m extremely lucky with my girls, they definitely make the job easier. Sure, there have been times when I have wanted to put my head under a pillow and scream until I was hoarse. There has also been occasion when one or both girls have disappeared to their bedrooms to hide from me or just simply take refuge. Trying to school the children, keep them motivated, occupy them, engage them, feed them, keep them safe, cook for the them entertain them, maintain the home etc has pushed me to limits I did not know existed. The dog (Murf) has even gone backwards in the last few months following me everywhere looking for a bit of my attention.

“Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.” –Anne Frank

Parent guilt does exist. Before coronavirus, I only worried about building my career, creating a balance and managing the day to day “stuff” of the home while raising my daughters. Let’s be honest that can be stressful enough, whether you are a single parent or not, and then by the time you get home you are riddled with guilt as you feel you are neglecting your children. Just because you feel it does not mean it is true!

Children are for life, I know we all thought they would reach 18 and job done, now time for me. Pop the champagne, we have our lives back, eh no! We cannot divorce them and we just do not wake up on their 18th birthday, open the front door and wave goodbye as we pat ourselves on the back and congratulate ourselves on a job very well done. The worry that we carry for our little darlings never goes away. I can’t always be there for my kids, and if they fall they have to learn to get back up themselves. The real world has a lot of disappointment and inconveniences along the journey of life. But I will always be there to talk, listen and offer advice, should they need it. If it is a simple Dad hug that is needed, well they never run out and I would travel the world to serve upon my Dad hugs.

I can see so many of my traits in my girls, even a few of the not so good ones! What Covad-19 has made me see is that they really have their own identity and that identity is developing every day. They both are very passionate about different things and I support that, even when I don’t really understand it, but that is mainly because I am Dad and fake tan, hair colouring etc are alien to me, but I embrace it all. I must be doing something right as on occasion my advice has been sought, this alway overwhelms me with fear as the wrong answer can have disastrous affects.

Travel restrictions due to the pandemic have pushed us as a family into doing things together often that we may not have done due to other family commitments. Going for bike rides around the city is one such activity. I would have always travelled to go for a cycle with the girls, somewhere with less traffic but for a large part of 2020 we have been in lockdown which has meant it is city centre for exercise. Being a typical overacting father, I had in my mind we would get ploughed by a double decker bus, die or at the very least end up in a wheelchair and it would all be my fault. We headed off with Daddy duck in front and is two ducklings behind him. Thank goodness I did not give the lecture that I had planned. They took safety very seriously and in the end they were probable more cautious than I was. My point is keeping our children safe is a job we all take seriously, and at times I thought my advice was going straight in one ear and out the other, the reality was it had not and they had learned from the previous excursions.

“When a man dies, if he can pass enthusiasm along to his children, he has left them an estate of incalculable value.” –Thomas Edison

I have one regret in life and that is smoking. When my eldest was about 7 she came home from school and said, “Daddy if you don’t stop smoking you will die and I will have no Daddy.” I love smoking and was excellent at it, 30 a day was a minimum and everyone was as good as the last. My daughter was and is right and I did quit and to this day not only did it help me to live longer, it enabled me to set a good example. More so than ever I have learned my kids pay attention to what I do, how I behave and what I say. I try desperately hard to be a good role model and it is extremely tough when you are a single Dad, trust me it is not like the movies, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan endings are not here.

I have written before about the importance of family dinners and it is the perfect opportunity to get some quality time together without modern distractions. I love hearing about their day, the good, the bad and the ugly and we get to talk about everything and as they get older we even have some heated debates as they form their own identities and beliefs. 

Recently I have heard some pretty hurtful stuff from my kids. Immediately I thought I was failing as a parent. It isn’t a failure, I’m not my daughters friend, I am the parent and they need me to be. I’ve learned to stand my ground and set boundaries and unfortunately on occasion enforced consequences. This is the part of parenting I dislike the most, being unpopular, but as a parent I have an obligation to teach my children and how are they to learn about the values our family strive for? I hope one day to hear my children instruct their children on our values and I suppose then a piece of me will live on.

To see my kids clearly, I have looked at my own past. How was I treated in the family, how was I seen? For example, was I seen as a burden? Do I see my kids as the same and feel put out by them? Do I over worry about them and smother them? Overcompensate for them by doing too much? I love my children and they do stir a curiosity within me. Most of all they make me feel happy and very grateful. I love spending time observing their little quirks, I appreciate how they express themselves and I love how they make me laugh. 

Understanding My Teenager And Communicating With Her.

There exists huge amounts of social pressure on teens today and the opinions of their friends become extremely important. But they still need help and support to build and maintain healthy friendships. I cannot stress the importance of developing a good parent teen relationship, staying connected and especially paying attention to them. Continuing to be a role model, the person they look up to a reliable parent. I am not suggesting becoming their friend just remaining their parent.

“Telling a teenager the facts of life is like giving a fish a bath.”
Arnold H. Glasow

Friendships are a necessary support group for teenagers. They provide a sense belonging and a feeling of value which in turn assists in building confidence. Teens will not always ask parents for information as in some cases they may find it all too embarrassing, for example puberty and what they are experiencing physically and emotionally. Friendships are a good source of information and provide emotional support a sense of security and comfort with others going through the same experiences. For many teens the teen years is where they develop relationships with the opposite sex and romantic and sexual relationships are experienced.

As the transision from child to teen begins it is very normal for teenagers to spend more time alone and with their friends. Essentially this translates to them spending less time with family. Many parents fret about this and fear these intense friendships will become more valuable than the family unit. This is not unusual and if you cast your mamory back and are honest with yourself your behaviour was the same.

Fear not your child, now a teen, still needs you and as they get older and mature you may even need them and who knows they may offer you support. As parents it is important to encourage friendship amoung teens, but it is also very important to know who your teen is friends with and have open conversations about the different relationships with your teen. Encourage your son or daughter to be a good friend there are a few ways that this can be done and the life long benefit is that it will stand to your child for future years in how they develop relationships.

Sometimes young people do not realise that all friendships are not forever. People change over their lifetime and friends that your child is close to now, might not be the friendships they have in years to come. The occasional fallout between friends is natural. Help them navigate through conflict. Show respect to others and they should be respectful to you!

“I tell my child, if I seem obsessed to always know where you’ve been, it is because my DNA will be found at the scene.”
Robert Brault

As a parent there is nothing worse then making the tough decisions and suddenly becoming the “bad person”. Perhaps being told how much they hate you and how you are ruining their life and followed of by the slamming of doors and then to top it off, picture without sound. It is not our job to be our child’s friend. Our job is far more complicated than that. Children and especially adolescents need limits they crave boundaries and structure. And as teenagers they most definitely need a healthy separation from their parents. Our job is to teach our children and when and they will disobey dish out consequences. If you become their friend it is impossible to lay down the law and be respected by your teen. If you have treated your teen as a friend you will create confusion and they will believe that their power is equal to yours.

As our children grow up they strive to learn where they fit in and what is their place in the world, it is our job to guide and give them the time and space to grow into each phase developing to the next stage. Treating them as a peer/friend will not allow them to be kids.

Let Dad’s Be Nurtures Too!

I was brought up to treat women as equals without exception. As soon as I had children of my own I wanted to be completely involved and I did everything possible apart from breastfeeding. Both my children weren’t interested in breastfeeding so I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to spring into action early and do my fair share of bottle feeding and my ex was able to get some much needed rest. This included during the night, after all they were my miracles too and I cannot put into words the absolute love and devotion I had and still have for my daughters. 

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

My ex wife and I never intended our marriage fail along with our plans, dreams and aspirations. But it did blow up in our faces and like many others before us we became an unwanted statistic. Ironically we were really prepared to cope, possibly because we knew we were heading for the edge of the cliff and when we did go over we had talked things through in all matters to do with our children so when I left the house we all knew what was happening and had involved the girls in the conversation, at least the bits they could understand.

From the moment my girls departed the womb I was going to be the best Dad in the world. When a relationship ends and you have children it means you have to be Dad and Mum when the kids are with you. This meant my mission was to be an absolute amazing Dad and do my very best at being a Mum when I had to be. I know I will never be a Mum but be there emotionally. An example would be being really worried my daughter might have her period during school hours so I bought a little pencil case and got some pads, wipes and knickers, a kind of start up kit. Thankfully this did not happen and the accessories were never used.

One of the things that really annoyed me was most of the women I knew thought I woulds not  be able to cope, this will be an epic fail and even some women were willing me to fail, waiting for the gaps to appear and me to loose total control. In truth I hadn’t time to fail. My kids were having their own little trauma’s, like not enough milk left for their cereal, a friend not talking to them, having too much homework, starting secondary school or just the usual sibling arguing.

Of course I made mistakes but was quick to learn any decision I made affected everything, but I was determined to hold everything together including myself even when it takes my girls a lifetime to get out the door or just out of bed in the morning. I also remind myself frequently I am not perfect and I am sure I do things that irritate my girls, most for the right reasons! I am also aware the girls will try to play us off each other and it is so important not to talk their Mum down even if I agreed with what was being said. She is Mum and like me adjusting to life as a single parent 50% of the time. Our marriage may have broken down but my respect has not and I would like to think she feels the same.

The year was 2081, and everyone was finally equal.
Kurt Vonnegut

I worked for three years in Childcare as a General Manager of two leading and large facilities. It is unusual to find a male within this industry and I was expecting some negative feedback. In the largest unit parents, children and colleagues embraced my addition and contribution but in the other one not so much. Mum’s had real concerns which automatically led to dad’s having concerns which in turn led to an email being sent to the proprietor which the content shocked me. My gender was attacked and it was assumed all men were not capable of being in a position of responsibility to look after the safety and wellbeing of children. I can safely say this is the only time I was left speechless and hurt. It took me one year to win all of the parents, ironically the children took to me immediately and to this day I see them sometimes out and about and always get a warm welcome. This was the best job I ever had and feel privileged to have worked amongst such a great group.

Naturally enough when my marriage ended I was responsible for organising playdates for my girls with their friends some mum’s were cautious. Again, I felt my role as a parent was questioned. I would never presume to mandate to a parent who should care for their child. But, it was obvious the only matter of fact that was being questioned was my gender and not my capabilities as a parent. It is not a competition as to which gender makes the better parent as each gender is different and brings something unique to the table. Internationals woman’s day was last weekend and I celebrate that and want my daughters to be the best they can. But surely all things being equal Dad’s deserve the respect of being capable of caring for children especially when they put themselves out there? Or am I tainting all women with the same brush and I should just put it down to ignorance and prejudice? Lets look at the bigger picture;

Prejudice, light in the end, new day, new beginning, Children

Would you want your child cared for a jew or a catholic, an Asian or a Europen? It is very hard when it looks like that and if it did such views would be challenged as they perpetuate prejudice. No more than the opinion that a man is less qualified than a woman to care for a child.

A major contributing factor to the thought process here and no doubt it is a very uncomfortable one for some women to acknowledge is the subtle inference that a male is more likely to pose risk of abuse. Without a doubt tis is disgusting and vile but a fact, there is a greater risk of abuse occurring at the hand of someone in a child’s family or social circle. We, as parents are hardwired to protect our kids and will always do everything in our power to protect our children, that’s our job and God we love our children.

As parents, like within the childcare industry whose workers undergo extreme vetting to ensure our children are protected and there are safeguards put in place like how and when a male interacts with children and from what age. What I am trying to say is do not unfairly view every male as a predator. Men can and do provide an equal measure of care and nurturing like women. We are as good role models as women for children. You must agree that young children should not be conditioned to a view that nurturing and care are only elements that a woman can provide. Is this not like saying only men make good Engineers and Soliders? I want my daughters to have the opportunity to pursue whatever career they wish and I know women make fantastic Engineers and Soliders and believe it, Men are more than capable of looking after children and making a great parent.

Unfortunately single Dad’s will remain to be scrutinised and receive strange looks from the Mum’s and as my children’s social circle widens I am sure, because I am a single Dad they will think twice and even three times before making their decision whether to trust me to care for their child during a play date with my daughter. I don’t expect you to make a hasty decision but please don’t make that decision purely based on the fact that I am a male.

Finding Myself. Part 2

I have never got to grips with understanding who I am, what makes me the person I am today. I can safely say my children gave me the greatest gift. I am a Dad. Without that I really do not know what would have happened to me. I certainly do not think I would be roaming around the earth being me. Now my daughters can’t take all the credit I am blessed to have four people in my life that I can talk to without judgement being made and can always call them for council. All in all these people, these incredible people have helped me find my identity.

As a young man I was involved in sport and these activities helped me make goals. Unfortunately in life it is not always possible to achieve these goals but for me I have always struggled to have a balanced approach in realising why they were not attained. Time and time again I would fall back to being self-critical and become consumed with negativity so much so until all my motivation was drained. It has taken me five decades to get to know myself and know what I needed to do to change. This process has opened my eyes and let me approach myself in a more positive way. I suppose my life to date has been a journey to find self-acceptance. 

I was a casualty of the financial crash in 2008 and lost everything, the absolute feeling of failure is so intense and with that there were are a cue of people shouting at me in anger backing up what I already thought of myself. Things were said to me that have never left my conscious and the sorrow of letting down some really good people financially I will never get over. During this time I was truly alone and there was no God that was free to help me. This I had to work through myself.

My marriage quickly fell apart during this time as truths surfaced and we parted our ways, not before agreeing terms of the custody of both of our wonderful daughters. Common sense between both parents prevailed and only the best for our children was our focal points and goal.

All of these factors helped cement the negative perception of myself that already existed. I was defeated and every mistake or obstacle that came my way was proof of my shortcomings. Being a Dad kept me grounded and the desire to be the best Dad was my only motivation. Everything else I was able to park and all the negativity around me I fought. Perhaps this was the beginning of me learning to value myself or at the very least prioritising. My family and I were my motivation and goal.

I am beginning to learn to concentrate on who I am and not what I do. The negative noise in my head is slowly being drowned out. I don’t think of myself in that negative way anymore and those people that have judged me on may failures are entitled to, the only difference now is I won’t let them pull me down. Time to swim and stop sinking. My biggest lesson was to cease looking at my accomplishments either negatively or positively to validate my worthiness. My children and my four friends have guided me to validating my achievements by looking within myself and to my relationships with them as a monitor of my life achievements. Essentially this is my space to get my self-acceptance back.

Being fifty has been a wonderful gift and I have a quiver filled of experience and life to reflect on. This as given me a greater sense of well-being and a true meaning of the direction of my path/journey in life. I feel good about myself and want to nurture it and become the best Dad and friend to the people that matter to me in life and that I love.

I am not naive, life will throw lots more challenges at me. To deal with these I have made some life changes. I enjoy swimming and get huge head space when in the water and the added bonus is I am fit. I try to swim a minimum of 3 kilometres twice a week and sometimes three times a week. I have a goal this summer and when I achieve it I will share with you. I have always been a social person, now I am a little more guarded and protective of myself so only let my hair down in the company of my four friends. The power of positive relationships cannot be underestimated and this supports me emotionally and practically. I hope I am as good a friend to them as they are to me. I enjoy our very different personalities, opinions and sometimes beliefs and especially their honesty.

My goal for 2020 is to take setbacks as momentary problems and not as proof of my shortcomings and failures. I hope you are well and my experiences, shortcomings, failures, inadequacies, fight, strength and the want to be the best Dad and friend helps you understand you are not alone and you can be the person you are without prejudice and with ambiguity.

]

Coming to terms with being a single parent!

single parent, divorce, marriage break up, family, children

Marriage is this exciting, wonderful, loving, caring partnership! Unfortunately for some it stops. Of course, some marriages last and are truly wonderful or just last in existence, and then some like mine cease to exist, leaving behind a large mess and heartbreak. Marriage takes a lot of work, an awful lot of work that can be really rewarding. Ending the marriage takes even more work, especially when there are children involved. Im not sure what I expected or how I thought my life would change, and along the way I sure did get some surprises, some good and some, well, not expected.

At the beginning it was really nice and comfortable to have the bed to yourself. However it wasn’t long before I got lonely and it was not so much fun.

It dawned on me my ex was not going to be there, ever, they were gone for good and not coming back.

I didn’t rush things and I can say hand on heart it was the best decision I made. Everything hurt at the start and we were angry with each other, this insured time calmed the situation and we were able to think clearly and behave like adults and make rational decisions important to us and our children. Of course at this stage I felt a failure and had to continually remind myself this was not the case. The marriage had just reach its expiration date. I knew we were making the right decision for our family and it did not concern both our extended families. In truth I was doing a dance inside as I would never have to interact with them. My own extended family for the most part were understanding and time does heal and give the opportunity for everyone to reflect. I was purely concentrating on my children and pouring all my energy into them. The only difference now was I was doing it alone, no-one to bounce ideas off outrun for a second opinion. This took me time to adjust to and at the beginning I consistently questioned my decisions. I lost a certain amount of freedom as I had to be super organised. There was no-one to ask to stay at home with the children while I bounced out to meet a friend for a coffee or watched a game with some friends. 

I loved my wedding ring, I had it made and it was a little different. Taking it off made me fell naked and concreted the fact I was a single parent. Eventually I carved a plan on how to wear it. I spoke to my children and asked if they would mind if I had Mum’s name removed from it and inserted theirs. They loved the idea and now I wear it on my right hand. What really happened with this gesture is my children and I felt closer and it was my way of committing to them my love. 

I never regretted getting married, we have two amazing children and it was a time in my life that sometimes I reflect on with joy. Unfortunately it did not last and my family and my ex are so much more happier. 

Life goes on and within no time at all my marital break up was yesterday’s news and we became a statistic. Age has helped me, a very unusual statement so let me explain. As I reached every decade I embraced it. I knew each one was going to be difficult. As a teenager I was a car crash and my own parents must have thought what have we created. My twenties was all about my career and my thirties was marriage and responsibility, my forties was my marriage break up and I lost my career and was broke. I just recently turned 50 and I can honestly say on reflection my life to date has been wonderful. Now I am armed with hindsight and full of experience and blessed to have two fantastic children. I am eager to live the next chapter of my life.