When Radio 5 were chatting to me about appearing on their Men’s Hour slot I was informed that I would form part of a small panel consisting of another single dad and a woman who had been brought up by just her dad. They went on to tell me that this woman had fallen into prostitution and drug and alcohol addiction but was now in full recovery.
Interesting, I thought.
“Interesting” because one of the things I worry about (as do many single dads bringing up girls on their own) is how our daughters will form relationships with males outside of the pressure cooker that is a single dad household.
Jon Wilde and I were chatting before the show. Jon had brought up his lad on his own and when Clare Gee joined us we were both discussing the pressures our children must go through constantly having to explain (or not explain) why they live with their Dad and not their Mum. We could tell Clare “got” this conversation.
In many ways our pre-broadcast conversations should have taped, because the three of us had really got going and the chat was fluent and meaningful and above all open an honest! Jon and Clare are highly articulate, funny and not backward in talking through some hard stuff! (It was an honour to have spent time with them)
Once live on air, the introductions to the three of us were made: It is true to say that at this point the three of us all looked at each other and almost got a fit of the giggles! To introduce Clare with the description of “former prostitute” fell a million miles short of who Clare was and is.
Clare’s story is a compelling read. Tales of drugs, drink, and lots of sex are layered on top of vivid descriptions of emotional turmoil. I read the book yesterday. I read it with my OnlyDads hat on, but also as a father, who like Clare’s dad, must have spent many hours during Clare’s childhood wondering and worrying if he was doing the right things.
Her portrayal of men throughout the book fascinated me. Many (punters) come over as despicable, creepy and in some cases just sad. Hooked is not an easy read for a man. Some balance is struck with the occasional mention of her friend Jim – a salt-of-the-earth chap from Yorkshire. And her dad.
We get to hear a little bit about Clare’s dad. More often than not he is putting the ‘phone down on her. Angry sometimes. At other times I pictured a man seeking to secure a little self-preservation from a situation that must have felt beyond his ken and beyond his ability to help and support.
Clare traces the genesis of her slide towards an “emotional pit” to the time her mum put her on a plane from Africa to England to live with her dad who she hardly knew. And (again) with my OnlyDads focus, I ask myself simple questions:
What support was there for Clare and her Dad when the two of them spent those formative years together. How should Clare’s dad have dealt with and managed her relationship with her Mum (albeit thousands of miles away). There are no easy answers!
Meeting Jon and Clare reinforced for me the importance of the work OnlyDads can do. We are only scratching the surface at the moment. We have much to get on with.
Do look out for Jon’s writing – he’s skilled and witty and a lovely guy. I’ve asked him to guest post for us, so watch this space. As for Clare, well every good luck with the book. I know there is a sequel there too…!
Oh, and a few children down here want to talk to you about their “OddSocks” support project. But more of that anon.