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.

 

Family

I wanted to write something about this. At first I just posted the photo, well, that was after I tried to put something down about it but couldn’t quite manage to find the words.

This little boy, Jackson, and the circumstances surrounding him and his father (my brother) and my parents and how much they love this little boy, and how much they do to ensure they have a relationship with him, well that is the very essence of family.

And, my brother, the wonderful man who rejected this lovely little boy in favour of an evil woman, and then fell out with his brother (me) because I won’t reject my principles when it comes to family and fatherhood. He’s perhaps the very essence of anti-family. Or, to put it another way, family when it suits.

Mike has his wedding. I wasn’t invited – and wouldn’t have gone anyway, on general principle. I’m angry with him. I’m angry at the situation he brought about. I wish it was different but it’s not. He refused to stand by his family – and not ‘just’ family like a sibling, or an uncle, or a cousin, but his own first-born child. His own son. That disgusts me. It makes me angry.

I see so many fathers who are denied access to their children when that is all that they want. They are denied access and lack the resources to fight that denial, or lack the education to know what they can do to fight that denial. And here we are, a man who was raised right, is educated, has resources at his command, who chose to not have a relationship with his own first-born son. How does he sleep at night?

Family, your children, your children’s children, your brothers and sisters. You can’t pick them. They might infuriate you. You might sometimes think you cannot stand the sight of them. But they’re family and, maybe it’s duty or obligation, but you stand by your family. You do not abandon them.

Especially when the ‘them’ in question is an innocent child.

13912692_10153936704861553_7048339177815487303_n

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).

Fatherhood III

What I am going to tell you now is what got me thinking about being a dad, having a dad, and the important relationship between father and son in the first place. Parts one and two are intended to give an idea of where we came from, what we experienced, and why this situation just does not sit right with me.

I am no longer speaking to my brother. I cannot bring myself to speak to him. He’s getting married in August and I have no intention of being there. Harsh? Maybe. Will I regret it? That’s possible. Do I feel like I have a choice? No, certainly not.

I discussed previously what happened when me and my brother were younger. I was 13, he 11 when our dad decided to abandon us. This decision by him, that we innocent children had no influence over, has affected both of our lives. How could it not? There was nothing positive that came out of what he did. We have both suffered from his selfishness. We continue to suffer, perhaps in different ways.

Later in life Tom’s mum tried to stop me from seeing him and I fought as I should be expected to do against that. He’s my son, and he needs me in his life. No one is going to stop me from seeing my son. Knowing from personal experience just how detrimental it can be for a child to not have a father I was not prepared to put Tom through that. My brother had that same personal experience.

Years later my brother met a girl. They split up, he met another girl who quickly fell pregnant. He then rekindled his relationship with the first girl who knew about the pregnancy. The baby was born and girlfriend, who had become fiancée by then, made her feelings very well known. She hated that child. She hated everything about him. He was such a beautiful happy little boy too, yet she hated the very air that he breathed.

Eventually things got so bad that fiancée stopped brother from seeing his child.

If someone told me that I could not see Tom they would be cast aside before the words had left their mouth. Him? No, he accepted it. Accepted that this awful woman would not allow him to see his own child. Despite what we went through. Despite the fact that we didn’t see our dad. Words cannot describe how angry I am with him.

Last year this beautiful little boy was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Has ever a boy needed his daddy more…?

A man who chooses a woman over his child is no man and is no brother of mine. Not when such a man can claim to have experienced, first hand, such action taken against him when he was a child.

Fatherhood II

In 1990 I was thirteen years old. An awkward teen with a younger brother, living with my mum and her new partner in Grimsby. I was never very happy. I resented the new man in my mums life. I idolised my Sgt Major dad. He was living in Germany or Belgium, had been living in Canada, and despite the distance was never far from my thoughts. My dad had remarried a German woman and I had a second brother, Josef. I never saw dad very often. He was a whole other country away, but he would write to me and in the summer we would go see him in whichever country he was currently making his home.

Thirteen year old me received a letter in 1990 from my dad. In it he explained that he would not longer have anything more to do with us whilst we lived with my mum. I’ve asked mum about this letter. All I remember is my gran coming over with the letter (he didn’t trust mum to give it to us) and me being sat in a wicker backed chair. I don’t remember the words. I don’t remember the tone. I don’t remember anything about the letter other than the core message; Alan, you will never see your dad again. He has decided he no longer wants you. You are rejected. You. Are. Alone.

And I had never felt so alone. My sour relationship with my stepdad meant that door was closed to me. My mum, I’m sure, saw this as validation of her opinion of the man. I couldn’t talk about it. What thirteen year old boy in the early nineties could discuss how he was feeling? Instead I internalised those feelings of loss. I withdrew. I had put all my eggs in one basket. It didn’t matter about my mum, about my brother, about school, friends, anything. I had my dad. It took me a long time to come to terms with just how central he was to my existence.

And then suddenly, he was gone. He made the conscious decision to abandon me. To reject me.

And for that reason I avoided emotional connections for a long time. I still do. If you don’t connect you can’t be hurt. If you don’t give yourself to someone they cannot reject you. I didn’t realise I was doing it, being cold, keeping people at arms length, but when I look back over the last twenty-five years I know that is exactly what I did.

What my dad did to me had an impact which has lasted twenty-five years and may last twenty-five more.

In part one I discussed how Tom’s mum made a decision to stop me seeing him. And how I refused to accept that decision, how I fought against it. Always in my mind as I went through that awful experience was the long term effects upon my son if he didn’t have his dad in his life. Having experienced first hand just how terrible that is, there is no way I was going to allow Thomas to suffer the same.

Fatherhood I

One of the most frustrating, rewarding, humbling, enlightening, difficult, joyful jobs any man can do. Being a dad is probably the most defining element of my existence. Suddenly, ill equipped to deal with life’s dramas and struggling to look after yourself, someone else is thrust upon you.

In 2007 I became a father to Thomas. Things have not been all sweetness and roses. Things have been difficult, painful, hurtful. I’ve tried to do my absolute best but I’m always wracked by the feelings that my best is just not good enough. I’m no longer with Tom’s mum. It was just entirely natural to assume when we split that he would live with his mum and I would see him when I could. A part-time dad, a weekend dad, absent father, call it what you will. I went from having each and every day Thomas to seeing him twice a week. He really struggled with it too. I can’t imagine how hard it was for him. People talk about the resilience of children, but this was all he had known and then, through no fault of his own, through no choice of his, due to someone else’s actions, someone else’s words, another’s decision, he – just like that – loses full time access to his dad.

I struggled. Christ I did. I remember coming home from seeing Tom after I first moved out and being torn by such an extreme sadness. A despair like which I hadn’t ever felt before and wouldn’t feel again for some odd years. It’s grief, quite simply. It’s a loss. Of a life, of an opportunity to be the best kind of influence. You go from steering the life of your boy to being a casual observer as others do that for you. You go from being able to guide and nurture to being a spectator. The person who means the absolute world to you and suddenly because of a relationship breaking down you’re shut out.

Its funny, because you try to then get on with your life now that you’re a part-time dad. You have time to kill and a void to fill. You do this through other interests, new relationships, moving on, living your own life. From time to time you drop back into the life of your child. I remember feelings of such guilt seeing Thomas after a week, or even just a few days and knowing that I had moved on with my own existence. I had accepted that he was now a facet of my life, no longer the focus.

I remember speaking to Tom about something, I can’t remember the details, but I’d said to him, “but we don’t live together anymore.” To which he replied, “Yes but you live in my heart and I live in your heart.” I was stunned into silence. What do you say to something like that? The kid is five and he grasped the very fabric of our relationship on a level which this bumbling old fool could not? It makes me happy-sad to think back to it. Even after three years. It’s one of the things I will always remember. A snapshot in time where I realised just how incredible my boy was.

In 2012 Tom’s mum stopped me from seeing him. She pulled the plug and just like that I was no longer allowed to see my boy. I remember it keenly. Sadly I think Tom does too. At some point he is going to have questions about that period – that thankfully short period – of our lives. It was mere months before common sense prevailed but it was damaging. I remember hearing something said along the lines of [to Tom’s mum], “if you stop him seeing Tom he won’t fight it, he will just accept it”. For reasons I will come onto in Fatherhood II that was never going to happen. When I was thirteen my dad stopped seeing me. And, that decision made by him without any thought of me, was the defining point in my life. It has affected everything I have done since. It turned me into someone uncomfortable with emotion. Someone uncomfortable with showing feelings or form relationships. If you don’t feel you can’t be hurt, right? I guess that what happened to me twenty five years ago was, in some respects, the catalyst for what happened in 2012. Recalling the damage which was done to me by my dad I was not prepared to visit that some trauma upon my son. It’s time to break the cycle. I don’t want Thomas to suffer as I have and, in turn, visit that suffering upon his children.

In the end all you can do is try your hardest and hope for the best. Hope that no matter how much you fuck it up things’ll work out okay in the end. Hope that your child will grow and develop and be more than you could hope for him to be. You have to just keep your fingers crossed that despite the unintentional emotional damage you do, things are gonna be alright.