T’was the fight before Christmas..

I think my heads right; I think I can write; let’s see.

Co-parenting is a challenge. I’ve written as much before. If you’re lucky enough not to be in such an arrangement, imagine trying to share something you love with someone you don’t. That pretty much sums it up.

You don’t see eye to eye becuase if you did, things would’ve worked out between you. Instead, you agree to come to an agreement over the most precious things in your life. Whilst not ideal, when it works, it works.

But what about when it doesn’t..

I had the rug pulled from under me recently which has caused me to take action. A text that told me Christmas plans were changing, as the cubs had asked for them to. It was due to be with me this year, mother invited of course. The text was to ‘run the idea past me’.

My objection by reply, was met by an ultimatum; that if all future Christmases were to be at hers then that’s how things will be. But I was welcome to join them. All heart.

As an individual, I like to respond, not to react. I try to distance myself from a knee-jerk, even with something as emotive as this. These are my children too and we have an arrangement; alternate Christmasses, with the other partner invited.

Here’s the connundrum; the weight of leverage of a loaded statement such as ‘it’s what they want’ should not be underestimated. However, when co-parenting, a child’s comments should not be weaponised. I think that this was the element that got to me the most.

Children in these arrangements will say things about the absent parent with some frequency but I feel that it is the present parent’s job to reinforce the position of the absent parent, in order to maintain some semblance of balance.

Perhaps I was niave.

What I noticed, was that as I distanced myself from the text, my physiology changed. I found myself at work, sitting at my desk but one million miles away. I had neck pain, which I realised had come from clenching my jaw so hard. I was holding my breath for long periods. Most worryingly, I had chest pain that lasted for about two days.

Immediately I took action and instigated some self-care.

Deep breathing was step one, follwed by visualisation. Every breath, as it went in, relaxed a muscle. Clean air worked into the tissues and removed the toxins.

The chest pains stopped.

I exercised more. Upped my cardio in order to become correctly fatigued, through excersion, rather than through stress. I took back control of my biggest asset; me.

I have drawn a line in the sand.

I deceided that if I did not take action now, I would forever be at the mercy of the another person. I took the decision to formalise arrangements. It wasn’t an easy decision and it’s far from perfect timing. In fact, Christmas funds have been diverted into mediation. But a single, deciding point kept coming back to me;

If not now, when?

BSD

And I’m stuck. Again. x 2

I’ve been quiet. I’m sorry.

The rules have changed and I’m in the process of seeking legal help.

Whilst there’s no good time to do this, now is a really bad time.

It’s also necessary.

When I have the energy I’ll write about it as objectively as I can.

Whilst I’m emoted and have a taste of fire in my mouth, the keyboard stays silent.

Every day, find a reason to smile; counting your blessings is the best way.

BSD

Farewell to innocence.

At 8 years old, my daughter has been called the n-word.

I received a phone call at work from the ex this week, she was in tears.

Our daughter was minding her own business playing in the playground when all of a sudden one of the boys she was playing with lashed out.

Her phone call was quickly followed up by a phone call from school; it was my daughter’s form teacher.

Her voice was trembly as she told me what happened. Most of the conversation was taken up by her assuring me of how seriously the school take such things and how they had dealt with this situation robustly.

I thanked her for the phone call and asked her to arrange meeting between both sets of parents. At this response, her voice trembled even more. She promises to call me back. She doesn’t.

I get up from my desk open the office door and go for a walk. I need to clear my head, calm down and think clearly.

From very early on I’ve tried to make my daughter self-aware. Where we live she, in fact we, are a visible minority. For this very reason I have spent years growing her self belief and the knowledge that she is worthy and can achieve anything

It appears to have worked. She reported the incident to the teachers before returning to what she was doing. The boy was removed from play, his parents were called and they removed him from school for the day.

We were eventually offered a meeting the next day with the parents and the headteacher. I declined stating that I need to put a couple of days between the incident to allow me to calm down and also do some damage control.

After school we sat her down for a talk. We asked her what happened and to explain in her words. She did and we listened.

She told us she didn’t really know what the word meant but she’d read it in a book and knew that it wasn’t very nice, and that’s why she told the teachers. I gave her the biggest hug that I could, told her she’d done the right thing and that I was proud of her.

She began to tell me that he’d only called her that name because he was angry. I stopped her. I explained that no one has the right to lash out and call anybody any names or inflict physical damage because they are angry. That is not a justification. People should learn to control themselves. He is young, he is learning, but the rules apply.

This is such an important lesson for children to learn. Words, actions, have consequences.

We received a contrite email from the boy’s mother. She was very apologetic, explained that he didn’t know what the word meant, they don’t use that kind of language at home, and that he picked it up on YouTube.

I couldn’t help but observe some parental choices. She’d read it in a book; he’d heard it on YouTube I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

Big cub is fine. After we had the conversation, she spent more time telling me excitedly about the football match that she was playing in tomorrow. She was playing in midfield against some other schools. I assured her that I would be there to watch.

Her mum and I, will take a little longer to recover. For us this is the end of the age of innocence. We knew that they would come up against this kind of discrimination and hatred but we had no idea how soon it would happen. I, have been preparing her for a long time by positively reinforcing images of people and women that look like her, making sure that she knew the struggles they went through, what they enjoyed, and what they achieved despite this. I’m so glad I did.

BSD

Tough love?

I taught my boy a tough lesson today and it almost broke me.

Youngest cub has now joined his sister at big school. The change in educational level has done wonders for him. His language has come along in leaps and bounds and so has his interpersonal behaviour.

He’s not the finished article yet and at 4, neither should he be.

We do have some challenges. He gets frustrated easily and when he does, he can lose it quite badly. Foot stamping, screaming and saying no to everything.

On Saturday, I had said that we’d finish the day with a trip to the park but this had to follow him cleaning up his room. His sister will maintain her’s on a regular basis, but he plain and flatly refuses, or states that he can’t do it without help.

person wearing pair of yellow rubber gloves
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Again, given his age I don’t expect much, just a token effort.

At times I help him, at other times I get on with other aspects of housework to show them what is required to maintain a home.

As he’s grown, we quickly (and sadly) moved from the response to the tidy your room request of ‘No thank you!’ to plain and flat ‘no’.

We never made the park.

As I had no wish to punish his sister, I told them both that we’d go after breakfast the next day.

Next morning, after a hefty porridging, they headed for the bathroom. A quick wash and then out, was the plan.

All went south after hair washing. Water in his eyes was too much to bear and foot stamping began. Followed by screaming, and then kicking his sister.

At 4 years old, he seems to be experiencing the terrible 2’s.

I won’t stand for kicking so tell him he’ll lose a star. ‘I DON’T CARE!!!’ he screams, and kicks out again.

I pick him out of the bath. He screams and stamps. I ask him to apologise to his sister. He’s in full flap and now cyclically repeats that he’s not listening to me and he never will.

Admittedly, I can feel my blood pressure rising, so I decide to remove myself from the situation. I leave him dry, but naked.

goats-competition-dispute.jpg

Eldest cub gets ready and I shave and brush my teeth. She does her hair, which takes a while. He eventually stops screaming and comes in to my room. I’m now reading and pay him no attention.

He climbs on the bed next to me and slowly attempts to capture my gaze. I change position away from him. His sister declares that she’s ready.

Right; let’s go downstairs.

‘Dad! I’m not dressed yet…’

I walk down the stairs, telling her to put her shoes on.

In his nakedness he’s smiling and laughing as we get ready. He asks me a few questions, which ignore.

He persists. I stand firm.

His sister opens the back door and heads into the garden. Still in a state of undress, he puts his coat on.

I walk away from him and step into the garden. He screams…

I stop and go back.

I bend down and hold him tight.

We have conversation about what it feels like to be ignored; I do my best to keep it simple. He says he understands.

His sister, a witness to the entire charade, comments on my ability to maintain the ruse.

As I said; I don’t believe in striking a child but I do believe in discipline.

I’m not sure if what I did was any better.

storm

BSD

Written in the Stars

I’ve hit upon an idea, and it’s a good one.

Okay, okay, total honesty time, my daughter has hit on an idea which was actually a re-hash of how we used to do things before the split.

With her being 8 and he being 4, the usual rivalries etc. rear their heads from time to time. A household can descend into a lawless wasteland if behaviour is left unchallenged.

We’ve been going through the normal challenges that children pass through, where they exercise the human condition of testing boundaries. I am a disciplinarian, but also a humanitarian. Being brought up by a strict father (including corporal punishment) I decided way before I had the cubs that I wouldn’t be that kind of guy. After all, what does beating a child ever teach them, that the bigger and stronger person is always right?

Wrong.

I could never hit my cubs. Such outbursts smack of frustration, a lack of control and revenge for not being obeyed.

In a technique honed with my daughter, I prefer to reason things out in conversation, with age appropriate language. Tone of voice and cadence also came in to play, supported by changing facial expressions. It seemed to work. She’s well-adjusted and appears to be quite rational.

He’s a little different. He gets frustrated quickly which I suspect is linked with his rough start in life and the fact that his diction isn’t quite where it could be for a child his age; he struggles to be understood at times.

His sister can also press his buttons pretty easily and she does so often.

man doing boxing
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We had just emerged from a period of them sniping at each other, where my techniques weren’t working. I resorted to separating them and temporary banishment to respective bedrooms.

She broke the embargo to come and talk to me.

‘You know dad you should maybe bring back the star system. Every time we do something good, we get a star. When we’re not so good, you take one away.’

This was something we used to do regularly and it worked particularly well. Great idea, I told her, and gave her a hug. I also asked her why she winds her brother up all the time.

‘Because he reacts!’ she states, before heading back to her confines.

The notice board in the kitchen now has two sections. One for her and one for him. Stars are drawn for good behaviour and removed for violations. I’m not too specific as what constitutes what, as I don’t want them to escape on a technicality.

It’s been in force about a week now and seems to be working. I added the further incentive that if either got to 10 stars, I would convert those stars into pounds, or an equivalently valued treat.

If only my dad had been as inventive.

black-and-white-sport-fight-boxer

BSD

 

 

Great Expectations?

Today I’ve been reflecting

On a conversation I had with a ex-work colleague some time ago.

Knowing me to be a doting dad, she always asks after the cubs. I give her updates whenever we catch up.

I take great pride in recalling a recent shopping trip my daughter and I had, where the command of the morning was that the only way to make progress through the shopping mall, was by stepping on rectangle floor tiles and only rectangle floor tiles. She was quite specific in this.

We held hands, shopping bags evenly distributed and made our way gingerly through the centre.

close up photography of wristwatch
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We moved with the accuracy of a Suisse timepiece. A watching Police Officer nodded his approval with a smile, whilst a retired couple commented that ‘it may take us a while’ to get where we were going.

We don’t care. This was our moment and where was the harm?

All was going well until we happened upon a large area of circular tiles. Our expedition ground to a halt. Very, very poor and inconsiderate architecture. What were they thinking?

We stood in contemplation for what seemed like an age, before I turned to her and asked, well now what?

We decided to turn back. Rules are rules.

My ex-colleague seemed puzzled. ‘Sounds like she has you wrapped around her little finger!’

Perhaps, I smiled.

I then told her that we dance a lot too. It doesn’t matter where we are. If we hear good music, we dance. We’re quite uninhibited.

man and woman dancing
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‘You do realise’ my colleague said, ‘that you’re setting the standard to which she will judge all men…’

Yes I do.

‘She might be disappointed if her partner doesn’t respond to her needs in a way that she’s become accustomed’

Perhaps.

But my daughter will also know her worth. She’s not a princess; she’s a determined individual. She will know that if her partner doesn’t give her butterflies in her stomach, knows effortlessly how to make her smile and is comfortable enough to show her his true feelings, then he’s probably not the man for her.

I’m sure I’m not growing a monster so for now, we dance, we pathfind and we make memories. This is what life is about.

After all; she is only 8.

silhouette people on beach at sunset
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BSD

From the Bible; it’s Jewish..

It’s the end of their stint with me for the school holidays. Having pulled my back yesterday (on my birthday!), we had what was primarily a down day.

Late afternoon I felt sorry for my caged cubs. We jumped in the car and went to our favourite park.

Parenting trick; take them out near their supper time. They’ll then naturally leave the park in search of their next meal.

I had a plan for supper but was pressed for time. At the stove, they glossed over the fact that my usual ‘come and get it’ was replaced with ‘well, that’ll have to do’.

She finishes eating first, and leans into my personal space to tell me something.

“Daddy; there’s this story in the bible, about a stranger who knocks on a man’s door…”

Quite familiar with the bible, I’m at a loss for this particular story.

She chimes on.

“A man opens the door and the stranger asked ‘do you have a space for me to sleep?’ but the man said no”

Definitely not familiar with this story.

“The stranger then says ‘but I can help you! I can cook you a wonderful meal!'”

I’m wondering if this a Samaritans remix or some stranger danger thing that has become clouded in her brain.

She continues and I continue to fork food into my face.

“So the man let’s the stranger in and he starts cooking a soup. But the stranger hadn’t brought any ingredients so instead, he popped in a magic toenail…”

At this precise moment, something in my mouth went crunch.

“and then he popped to the neighbours to get some broccoli…”

I’m not listening any more.

The final element of confusion flooded in and brought me back to reality when she tailed off with,

“I think it might be Jewish”

“no; Christian…”

She angles her head in thought.

I fear my appetite may never return.

person standing in front of food tray
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BSD