An announcement

I’ll end the AUGUST2020CHALLENGE with an announcement. One of the reasons behind the challenge was to increase the number of good news and positive entries into this blog which has served me well in times of adversity.

In February 2021 we’ll be welcoming a new brother or sister for Tom and Lucas. After going through a miscarriage in September last year this is a most excellent turn of events and we’re all very excited to welcome the next addition to our family.

We are very much looking forward to welcoming the newest addition to our family.

Say hello to the as yet unnamed baby Smith.

All about Tom

Today is Tom’s birthday. He’s thirteen and growing up too quick. I asked what he wanted for his birthday and he said he just wants money so he can put it towards a new Xbox since his is ‘glitching’ badly. He will get a card and it will be stuffed with cash. I think, sometimes, that all I can give to him is money. Perhaps it is a sign of his age now but he doesn’t seem interested – much – in doing anything other than playing Xbox and going out with his mates. Dad gets relegated to a supporting act; I know this and I expected this, but it still stings.

I still remember the day he was born. Mum went into surgery and left my boy and I for a few hours. I held this new life in my arms and knew that at that moment I loved him unconditionally. I promised, silently, to always love and support him and to do my very best for him. I don’t think I have kept that promise. I wish things were better between us. Due to my job and the rigours of shift work I don’t see him as often as I should. I feel guilt about that but when I do see him its often difficult to know what to say to a teenager. What do you talk about? I don’t feel like we have very much in common and I get a feeling that when we are together he can’t wait to get home again.

Tom is very attached to his mother. We went through an arduous series of meetings with CAMHS to try and understand what is going on in his head. Tom played along but wasn’t invested. I want to push him to realise his full potential but I feel it is too late and he never will. His mother is the primary influencer and, whilst I know she loves him totally I don’t feel she is the best influence on him. I want him to be an independent, adventurous, inquisitive soul but instead he’s a home bird and still essentially attached to the apron strings.

Maybe one day he will reject the status quo and venture out on his own but as I type this, on the thirteenth anniversary of his birth, he won’t even sleep over here or at a friend’s house. We tried to understand why; that was the purpose of the CAMHS meetings but it didn’t make any difference.

What to do, what to do. I feel as if his development is being restricted by his attachment to his Mum. He plays up for her and she panders to him. I won’t and I think that is perhaps one of the reasons why he doesn’t like to stay here. Children need structure and routine. His routine revolves around his bedroom, his Xbox, and staying up until 3am before sleeping all morning and getting up in the afternoon. This whole coronavirus lockdown situation hasn’t helped as it played right into his hands. When he was required to stay in that suited him perfectly. I’d like him doing sports and clubs and activities which don’t consist of playing GTA V until the early hours.

I have to take some responsibility for the situation. When I left his Mum I caused this mess and I have never been able to fix it despite my attempts to do so. I believe we both want the best for him but neither of us can provide it. She lacks the strength to go against his wishes and I lack any influence to push him down a better path.

The future is uncertain but fills me with worry. What on earth should I do about Tom?

20092019a

So angry. Gave Tom £10 to get his mum – the ex – something for her birthday. He spent £5 and kept £5 for himself. Infuriating as there is NOTHING I can do about it. I have no control, no say in his parenting.

I’m at a loss at what to do. He won’t be punished for it. He didn’t even care to apologise.

“These things happen”

On Friday we learned that our expected baby didn’t have a heartbeat. Devastated isn’t enough to cover the feeling of loss. I know that he didn’t have a life yet. I know that he wasn’t really a baby being so early in the pregnancy but that doesn’t make the loss any easier. I am trying to hold it together for Fran. The loss is felt most keenly be her; her body preparing itself for carrying and nurturing a new life and now just an empty void remains. How do you pull yourself together and move on? The simple answer is there is no other option:

He needs us. Entirely unaware and immune to what has happened. He is such a wonderfully happy child. He smiles and we smile. He is the reason why we pull ourselves together and move on.

It’s hard though. Her physical pain. Our emotional pain. I’m back at work and listening to well meant platitudes.

“It just was not meant to me.”

“These things happen.”

But that doesn’t make it any easier. It’s like people don’t know how to act, what to say. They’re waiting to respond but baby-loss is such an uncomfortable subject. People simply do not wish to talk about it.

So we share our grief with each other and with no other. I’m putting on a very brave face, but just this morning cuddling Lucas, dancing in the lounge, I cried. I smiled at my boy and I cried for the one who will never share cuddles. Never play in the sand. Never go out for walks. Never feel the wind in his hair. Never reach for comfort.

Good bye baby. We never knew you but we will love you forever.

They told my Son I’m a Bad Dad.

I should be going to sleep as I have work early in the morning but I have to get this out. I have to cleanse. It’s like a poison, like when you have eaten something bad and your body needs to reject it. You have to vomit. You know it is going to be unpleasant but it is for the good of you. This is for the good of me. Writing is Therapy, remember?

Tom told me today that his Grandma and Grandad on his Mum’s side doesn’t like me. Firstly, this doesn’t come as a surprise, it doesn’t come as a shock, I already knew. It’s clear they never have. Even when we were together they didn’t agree with my life choices. I refused to marry their daughter. I refused to adhere to their demands to join their family. Then I split with their daughter and ruined this perfect image they try and project. Perfect catholic parents with perfect catholic kids and perfect catholic grandkids living their perfect catholic lives.

But not me. That didn’t work for me.

So I’m not shocked at all that they don’t like me. To be honest the feeling’s mutual. First I reserve a contempt for most who believe in invisible sky fairies, second they stood by – or worse, supported – her when she stopped me from seeing Tom. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is unforgivable. They stood by and supported her when she stopped my parents from seeing their grandchild. That is more than unforgivable, it’s evil. Ironic really, these catholic dogooders acting so terribly, with a four year old child at the heart of their machinations.

That single act by her did more to ruin the relationship I had with my son than anything I could imagine doing. He went from spending two nights a week with me to spending a couple of hours at a time. We never recovered from that. We still may, as he grows older, but the damage it irreversible. And it was caused by that family.

So today Tom tells me that, according to his Grandad I’m not a good father, I am not a good role-model, and this is because I didn’t have my father around when I was younger to teach me how to be a good father. Note: There is no book on How To Be a Dad. Being a Good Dad comes down to heart and instinct. At first I thought maybe he was making it up. He is prone to exaggeration from time-to-time. But that phrase, ‘not a good role-model’ from a ten year old? That sounds too awful to not be true.

It’s okay that they don’t like me. It’s okay that they think I’m not a good dad and that I’m not a good role model. That’s fine. I am okay with that. Their opinion of me matters not. However, when you tell that to my ten year old boy it’s an entirely different matter. To put it simply; how fucking dare they?

Tom remains unaware that his mother stopped me from seeing him because I would never want him to think any less of her. The day before she stopped contact we had a fight and she shouted a now forgotten insult at me in front of Tom. He said, “If she says bad things about you, Daddy, I’m going to say bad things about her.” I told him he wouldn’t because he was not to be rude to his mother. She would not let me see my son for almost two months. I had to seek legal advice to get access back. The first thing he said to me when I saw him after this was, “I’ve missed you so much, Daddy.” and it damned near broke my heart.

Her parents, her holier-than-thou catholic parents, sat back and supported her in doing this to Tom. Not to me, to Tom. I’m a big boy, I can look after myself, but Tom was four years old when they, as a collective, ripped him from his father against his will. Disgusting behaviour by any standards, yet I am the Bad Dad, the bad role-model. It infuriates me, it frustrates me, and I’m not going to do a single thing about it.

After Tom told me this I told him that nobody else’s opinion mattered and as long as he liked me (and he said he does!) it’s all okay. I told him that what they thought didn’t make any difference to us as long as we had each other. He said that when they said these things to him he told them to stop and that he didn’t like them talking about his Dad like that. I question whether he would do this, but the thought was there and that’s good enough.

The only answer I can have to this is an answer for Tom, not for them, because they mean less than shit to me now, but to Tom I need to be the absolute best possible. I have to be the one he relies on, the one he goes to when he’s in trouble or when he needs help. The person who teaches him life’s lessons and accompanies him on life’s journeys. I have to be, for his sake, all the things that they say I am not. A Good Dad and a good role-model. Someone who didn’t have his Dad around when he was younger but is better and stronger for it. A guide, a mentor, a bank and a taxi. All these things I need to be and more.

And I will be all those things because I can be. I’m far from perfect, and my copy of How To Be a Dad was lost so I made it up as I went along with heart and instinct. I continue to do so and I know I make mistakes. But I learn from them and I apologise when I get it wrong. I forgive those who wronged me because it’s the right thing to do. I continue to be that person and allow them to think ill of me and speak ill of me.

The only person I have to prove anything to is Tom.

Perhaps I was wrong about this.

I saw my brother today. We didn’t speak. I don’t think he even looked at me. He didn’t sit with our parents and I, and he left after the funeral service avoiding coming to the wake. It’s the first time I have seen him since we fell out and now that I am home again I wish I had said something; even if that something was just ‘hello’. Perhaps it just wasn’t the time and place.

Today I explained to a good man the reasons why we fell out. I explained why – from my point of view – our relationship broke down. I don’t know what his point of view is. Maybe I never will. This man impressed upon me my responsibilities in this. That my brother is making a mistake which he will, one day, suddenly and quite horrifyingly wake up to. His abandonment of his child; in itself a terrible act, is mirroring the actions of our own father. That I suffered and my brother suffered means I do not wish to see his child suffer the same.

My reaction was to turn my back on him. He was a fool. He was making a huge mistake and I could not be expected to stand by and watch him do what he was doing. But was that the right reaction? I don’t know any longer. Speaking today about it, and talking about it at the weekend, maybe I am wrong. Maybe what I instead need to do is confront and educate? Inform and explain? Will it make any difference? I simply do not know. BUT if there is a chance it won’t make any difference there is equally a chance that it will.

And even if it does not make any difference at all to his decision with regards to seeing his first-born, perhaps in time he will come around to see the sense of things. Perhaps between us, my parents and I, with him not being on the outside looking in but rather and inclusive member of the family; perhaps we can make him understand the error of his ways.

 

Perhaps.

The Boy

I’m worried about the boy.

He’s nine years old, just two years away from senior school, and I’m concerned.

First a little bit of back story: I stopped living with the boy and his mum in November 2011 when he was just four years old. So began a period of much difficulty. I met Clare, I was stopped from seeing Tom, that interrupted him staying over at my house on a regular basis, I fought to see him again, I won that fight – but he stopped staying over – I then changed jobs and started working shifts. That reduced the amount of time that I could see him. Recently he started staying over again, occasionally, nothing set it stone, and most recently that stopped too.

During that period of time when he was not staying with me we got some troubling reports from school. The boy wasn’t concentrating, he wasn’t paying attention in lessons, he was being disruptive, he was not fulfilling his potential. I sat down with his mum and we worked out the issue was as follows; a bit of a vicious circle.

Stays up late – no set bedtime – gets up late & tired – doesn’t have time for breakfast – goes to school tired, hungry and grumpy – doesn’t pay attention – gets into trouble – comes home – stays up late… 

We decided that we would have to intervene and get the boy back on the right path. For a week, just a week, I went over to his house each night and ensured he was in bed at a suitable time (8pm). He was then up early, had breakfast, went to school, behaved/concentrated/excelled, before coming home happy with himself. This repeated for a week, that’s all it took for the school to say, ‘he is like a different boy.’ Result!

That lasted two weeks before falling through and reverting to how things once were, that vicious circle of late nights and unhappy days.

Recently he started staying with me again and it was working well. He’d stay, it would get to 8pm and it was bedtime. Bed without issues, without complaints, up in the morning for breakfast then to school. Sorted. Last Tuesday he was due to stay and at the last-minute he didn’t want to. I was disappointed. I didn’t understand. I asked him why not, he said he didn’t know. Infuriating. From a purely selfish perspective I get such limited time off that I like to maximise it. I had plans for a nice night in for me and my boy. He changes his mind – and I’m not going to force him to do anything he doesn’t want to do – which then leaves me wasting a rare night off. I told him it was best if he just didn’t stay over. That way we both knew where we stood at all times. I took him home and ask his mum to see if she could get any reason from him for his change of mind.

On Thursday, two days later, I was summoned to school by Tom’s behavioural teacher for a meeting. He was upset, he had told his mum and she had asked the school to assist. She told me that the boy didn’t think that I like him very much. Funnily enough, I said similar on Twitter that same day: “I have a feeling my child doesn’t like me very much.”

She told me that he wanted to stay at my house but couldn’t work out why he also didn’t want to stay. I remarked that the reason was probably that I have rules and boundaries; a set bedtime and some structure. And quite the opposite, when he’s at home he doesn’t have any of these things. She commented that I was probably right, informing me that the previous night Tom had been awake still at 10:30pm, refused to give up the iPad at that time, and pushed his mum to the stage where she had to turn off the wifi to finally get one over the nine year old.

A kid with no boundaries and no discipline will grow to be a man with no boundaries and no discipline. I see that kind of man all the time. Used to getting his own way, who is rewarded for not being naughty rather than punished for being so. I see that kind of horrible, horrible man, all the time at work. I am gravely concerned that the boy will grow to be such a man if we don’t do something about it.

The boy was then invited into the meeting. We talked. He said that the reason he didn’t want to stay at my house was because he didn’t have to follow rules at his mums. Boom! There it is. The crux of the matter.

Tonight is parents evening. I wonder what they’re going to have to say about it all. I know I’m going to have to sit down with his mum and talk this all through. He needs rules, he needs discipline, and I cannot be the one to give it if she won’t let me.

 

Ask the kids

Taken from lotusflowerlily’s blog, I thought this might be a cool little thing to do at a moment when I could prise Tom (8) away from the Playstation. I asked the following questions I wrote down exactly what his responses were.

I don’t know if he was just being diplomatic or not!

1. What is something dad always says to you?

Pardon? (because I don’t say please).

2. What makes dad happy?

Me

3. What makes dad sad?

People who don’t listen to him.

4. How does your dad make you laugh?

Tickling and funny faces.

5. What was your dad like as a child?

Dunno.

6. How old is your dad?

38 (correct).

7. How tall is your dad?

6’6″ (correct).

8. What is his favorite thing to do?

Be with me.

9. What does your dad do when you’re not around?

Go to work.

10. If your dad becomes famous, what will it be for?

Being the best dad in the world.

11. What is your dad really good at?

His job.

12. What is your dad not very good at?

Being a bad dad.

13. What does your dad do for a job?

[He got this right]

14. What is your dad’s favourite food?

Fish and chips.

15. What makes you proud of your dad?

That he saves people’s lives at work.

16. If your dad were a character, who would he be?

Mufasa from the Lion King.

17. What do you and your dad do together?

Go out places.

18. How are you and your dad the same?

We eat in the same way (all the carrots, then all the peas, etc.)

19. How are you and your dad different?

He’s older.

20. How do you know your dad loves you?

He shows it by taking me out places, paying for my dinner, and he agrees with me.

21. What does your dad like most about your mum?

I don’t know. Well, you’re not together any more, are you?

22. Where is your dad’s favourite place to go?

Roseberry Topping.

23. How old was your dad when you were born?

29 (correct).