It breaks my heart on a regular basis. Just a few small words that wrench at the very core of what makes being a solo parent such a tough gig.
“I wish we had more time together Dad”
Talk about making you feel like an incapable piece of shit. I guess kids are experts at that in the first place, but when you have unbridled guilt about your inability to spend enough time with your children, both together and separately, coursing just beneath the surface of every required daily action, it stings just that little bit more.
It manifests differently for each of our babies. Grace, being the first born (and a bonefide Daddy’s girl from day one) has struggled since Albi was born and her Mum got sick with the sharp decline in attention available from me. We used to spend nearly 2 hours a day in insane Melbourne peak hour traffic together, en route and in return from work / daycare. These were special times where our love of being idiots together were honed to parent-child perfection. Bonding times.
Whenever we do get some time together these days, usually after Albi has gone to sleep, if we manage to have an enjoyable time, Grace gets nostalgic with “I miss you Dad” and “we should do this more” kinda comments. And I just smile and agree as internally I shrink and sob.
Albi, much to the misunderstanding of his big sister, gets to hang with me pretty much all the time, bar the 5 days a fortnight he heads off to preschool. I say misunderstood as G can’t get her head around the fact that her bro isn’t spending his days playing dress ups and kitchen parties with me while she’s stuck at school. He’s traipsing around after me while I try to keep the whole ship afloat, clean, fed and happy. And if he’s not, he’s asking me to “do something” with him, usually when I’m attempting some form of work or have just picked up the vacuum.
So often does this happen, and I have pulled out the old “in minute mate”, that little Albs, all 5 years old of him, asked me just the other day if he could go to family day care because he was bored at home and I never do anything with him.
“that’s it mate; if you twist the knife that way it hurts even more”
Little pricks really know how to hit those tender spots…
I totally get that this is somewhat of an inevitability for an older sibling, having to learn how to share parent time with new comers, but the sad acceptance I see play across Albi’s face when I turn him down, yet again, is something that haunts my dreams.
I am in the process of consciously trying not to deny these special times the kids so need. It is hard to ignore a pile of dirty dishes that resembles the Eiffel Tower, but I am, albeit slowly, realising that those 5 minutes of pushing Albi on the swing, for the 12th time today, or that 3min I stop and listen, really listen, to yet a other of Grace’s crazy DIY ideas, are far more important than anything that needs doing.
It is so easy as a solo parent to get caught in the eternal loop of trying to prove to yourself, your children and the world, that you can manage on your own, that you can handle raising a family solo, that the most important things; in particular those seemingly minute things important to your kids, are pushed to the side in the pursuit of some sense of achievement.
But surely, the best achievement we can aim for, is that our kids grow up with fond memories of parents that put them before everything else?
I don’t know if this is right or wrong, but I can tell you this; not only are both my little snapper-heads happier when I prioritise them, but so am I.