Give or take a month or two, I have been single parenting now for 7 years.
That’s seven years of holding stuff together. Juggling and dropping and picking up the pieces day after day; but overall just about doing OK. I’ll be more precise. By “doing OK’ I actually mean – just a little bit worse than OK. On the parenting scale from 1 to 10, I’d score myself a 3.5. Not terrible, not brilliant, a definite candidate for the “could do much better” school of parenting reports.
But last Sunday, that score slipped, or should I say, nose-dived, down to a 1 out of 10. It was a day of shit parenting.
I somehow feel that I have been heading for this moment for some time…but before I get to that, I had better offer a synopsis of the day:
It was one of those “wake up grumpy” days; brought about partly by lots of real-life worries resulting in a bad night’s sleep and certainly not helped by a 6.30am call from my 10 y/o wanting me to get up and sort her out some breakfast. By 10.00am (shortly after 14 y/o arrived downstairs and, without as much as a good morning had logged herself into Facebook) I had turned into shouty Dad.
It went from “girls, you are going to tidy your rooms today”, and “P I am limiting you to one hour on FB today so take your pick when you use it” right through to me threatening to change their schools, suggesting other children in the village were “better than them” through to God knows what. And all being shouted, to the point that any neighbours wanting a lie-in that morning would have been spared the privilege!
By 2.00pm I had been barking consistently. We had had tears, anger, cheek, rudeness and rebellion. When both girls eventually decided they were going to go out for a bit, there was a tangible sense of relief. For all of us I guess.
The rest of the day was strange! When the girls had gone I did nothing. Can you “do nothing”? Well sometimes you can. There are those occasions (like when my two girls go to Grandma’s for a few days) that I will actively and consciously do nothing. But this was different. Perhaps a better way of describing the rest of the afternoon and early evening would be to say that nothing happened.
I say that – I do remember tweeting at about three in the afternoon that there was a strange atmosphere in the house, but that was about all.
For those of you who have tried, it is really hard to write about nothing happening. So much so, that I won’t even try! Instead, I’ll offer you a list of the things left undone:
• Dinner preparation
• School uniform finding
• Shopping for packed-lunch things
• Fun day out with the children – not a chance!
This resulted in a bed time routine that consisted of 10 y/o eating a bowl of coco pops in bed and a bit later me dashing down to the nearest pretend KFC to get 14 y/o chicken and chips with extra grease. Which she too ate in bed. From the leaking box it came in.
It was a god-awful day.
A week on and I have had time to reflect. What I am not doing is putting it down to a “bad day”. I know it was and is so much more than that. Not least because 14 y/o gave me a real wake-up call a couple of days later.
I feel I am getting three huge things wrong:
1. Discipline – I am (and always have been) too lax. It would be easy to say that I am just trying to make up for them not having mum around all the time. That would not be true though. I am not sure what it is – sometimes I think laziness; whatever, the result is my girls have enjoyed (or probably not enjoyed) a degree of freedom which has probably not done well by them.
2. Patience – I just don’t have enough of it. I rarely give them enough positive attention. If they try and show me their homework for instance, I know I get bored quickly. They know I get bored too. It’s rubbish!
3. Basic Parenting Skills – I lack them in abundance. There is stuff going on with 14 y/o at the moment that I simply don’t know how to deal with. It’s complex, multi-layered, and in all honesty I just don’t know where to turn.
In my heart I want to give my girls the best start in life possible. If I had one wish it would be to see them fly this nest and live their life fulfilling all their undoubted potential. I’m not the sort of parent who wants them to be lawyers or doctors when they grow up – I really don’t care what job they do – I’d much rather see two confident women doing whatever it is they end up doing with enthusiasm, pride and smiles.
But whether I am giving the right platform for this however is a very real question. If you were to look me in the eye at the moment, I’d probably tell you I’m not.
If parenting is the “hardest job in the world”, single parenting, for some of us at least, can be a bloody nightmare for all concerned.
I am really interested to hear what others do when they get in a parenting rut…