Sunday, August 22, 2010

Daggy Dad, Doing It Alone, First Installment, Why be a single dad?

The other day I was asked by a friend and relative to put some words togther about how I felt about grief, my perspectives, and the challenges of that emotion. (sunshineinabluecup) Not sure I did the piece right, but it was honest enough I think, to show that I was affected deeply, and  to show the world I could manage raising four children nearly all by myself despite the circumstances.

The children have not had their mum Tarnia around for nearly the last ten years after a car accident.

I was the eldest of a large family, and knew what running a house full of kids was like, the chores to be done, the joy of clan gatherings. So I want to share what I can do, have done, the achievements, the low points, life as a single dad of teenagers after ten years. The humour and pathos.

At the time of the car accident I had just started a new job, two days in and attending a safety meeting when I was taken out to the managers office to be confronted by two policeman with serious looks an their faces, the managers a duplicate. Bad news. A car accident on a picnic day out took Tarnia away from me and her so special children that had been longed for for so long.

Back then, Tarnia's parents Bev and Ken threw in their immediate support by asking to be allowed to move in and help me. I gratefully accepted (with unseemly alacrity I now think), as my twin girls were only six months old, the youngest boy had nearly finished kindergarten and the eldest was in the last term of third year primary school.

The thought of selling up and moving closer to my parents and siblings with their own families was to sort of say, "Hi, I have Bev and Ken, can you help out too while I take a plane out for a job?". The house was Tarnia's gift to us. And it would be so difficult leaving the new made support structure behind to make a new one, sort out the conflicts that inevitably turn up between in-laws. So I stayed put, and lived day to day. And traveled to family outings a lot.

We also got in carers in every weekday to help when I was away, and they became good friends. The accident insurance gave us a few years of this help. So the laundry and house was looked after, and the kids too. Just not only by me. The grandparents may have lost a daughter, but those kids were precious, and spoiled too.

I stayed on with the job for nearly two more years anyway, until pressures mounted, and more over, family circumstances changed . Bev was slowly losing out to incurable cancer, her sister the same. My own grandmother was also in her twilight year. The job pressures and politics were really putting me off, the technological advancements and the implementations were breakneck.

 Amazing, the pressures one time on the job. My head was going to explode with thoughts, worries. My brain felt so hot at work in autumn 2002, with racing thoughts of doing a great job, how can I keep up with the kids, how was Bev getting through chemo or not?

Telephone calls were not enough. Even if it was everyday. Each day I could be left alone out there on an oil platform or walking to a drilling rig in the desert, listening to songs on the mp3 player that would forever bring tears every time I hear them, and feeling so sad. 

So I quit to look after the kids, quit a well paid career to make sure my children were brought up by me, that I would be around for all the little milestones that are important both to a child and to a parent.

Being a single parent meant that with the circumstances I was out of the workforce for a while, supported by my own resources until I needed government benefits or a more suitable occupation came up for when all the  kids were at school. No jobs in my field have yet to knock at the door as yet. But have used the times available to learn to be a wine-maker, a vineyard worker, and now a courier. The Eldest will be leaving home in the next few months to strike out on his own.

So I think for purely selfish reasons I have remained a single dad. I tried a new relationship. Maybe I was too old to change and adjust. We never lived together, maybe that may have changed things? Anyway, at the time it was nice to have another perspective on raising the kids, and have that affection for them from a new person. Nice, but at times too difficult- I was a fair let them do what they want but make sure not dangerous, and the friend not quite that way inclined, but that is a different story. Now, we are polite friends.

So I remain a single dad of teeners.


Well it is a fun project, to bring up outstanding young people, well balanced, well taught, well behaved, independents too if you like. Respectful, dutiful, wide reading and comfortable with all people. Capable.

I was brought up to tidy my room, make the bed, help out in the kitchen. And the when my siblings arrived, how to look after babies, to babysit, to ignore the obvious plays for attention when busy.  In other words, run a household.

We have issues.

One time when the boys were in primary school, I stomped on toy packaging left on their bedroom floor. I was so cross with the boys- I had asked them to tidy their room, and I returned to find them playing. I wanted them to see that leaving things around could mean broken things or some one could get hurt. Did not really take...

The girls are the same. Their room is untidy. Today they are packing to go away. It's too late to threaten to keep them from this school trip. I  can only shake my head and withhold spending money.  Two hours of exhortation is just really working me up- I refuse to tidy it up!

The joys. My head is splitting again- coffee or shouting?
They are now packing the bags, they have had three week to put it together- last minute instead.  And if I did it, there would be trouble. Why bother?

I suppose being the only one in charge is to be self important too, as pointed out once by an observer with an agenda, but no I don't think so. As long as the kids have boundaries, and a leader, they should be okay. It is the correction of ill conceived ideas they run away with that is the hardest part. Hopefully I am known as the hard-ass of the parents group the kids know, and also the fairest because they know where they stand.

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