Growing up in a single parent family
I was too young to understand what was happening between Mum and Dad when they split up. I was five. I think I had barely learned to speak properly by then. I had a stutter if I remember correctly, and it was brought on through fear of my Dad. It was a nervous stutter. Scared that whatever I would say or do would have the wrath of my father beating down upon me. It’s safe to say that I was glad Mum kicked him to the curb, in my own way, and as much as I could understand that he wouldn’t be in our lives anymore.
I think back and it was exceptionally brave of Mum to do what she did. Back in the 80’s being a single parent family was a bit of a taboo. Kids and potential friends would cock their head sideways at me in a display of not understanding my family situation at all,
“What, you mean you don’t have a Dad?”
To them it was like not having a Dad, being born without a father, and, inevitably I’d have to go and tell them most of my life story before they fully understood what it was that I had. Kids, they accepted it though. If there’s one thing kids are great at, and that’s accepting new information whilst not holding much bias towards it – something us adults may learn a thing or two from. And yet, every time I could hear myself thinking that I was in for another explanation I’d cringle a little, being the odd one out, it was always so hard trying to explain why I was different from other people.
Back in the day I was a sort of needle in a haystack. Most of the kids I knew or hung around with had both parents. Those that I’m still in contact with have their parents on the scene today, still going strong, ploughing through life together. It’s always easier when there’s two of you. I dread to think how it would be for me coping with Alex on my own, and it’s why I have such deep respect for single parents out there. For those that decide to go solo and push against the rising tide. And Mum, she was a fighter. For all her faults she did raise me with a deep respect for women,
“Never cheat Son, if you cheat, you’ll end up like your Dad, and well, he’s an arse”
She raised me to be completely respectful to women, and men, in fact, I think my respect for people surpasses even her respect for people. I remember once asking her what she would do if I brough back an African Princess to date romantically, and she said,
“Hmmm, I’m not too sure how I’d feel about that Son”
Confirming that she had even outdone herself with me, because before my wife I was open to dating any culture or race. If there’s one thing through life that I’ve learned is that judging others is a reflection of how you feel inside. I hold no prejudice and little fear of the unknown. Life is quite an extraordinary ride. But it wasn’t always like that.
I’m in two minds with what she told me about my Dad. I was a split person as a teenager. There was the boy that wanted to please his Mum, to be that perfect example of a man that she always wanted me to be and to emit the very essence of the opposite of what my Dad was. And then there was the real me, trying to break through, trying to claw his way out through all the bravdo and maskery out into the open to have fun in the world. To play on girls advances, to experiment a little, to play the field a bit, to dabble in a bit of this and that. But for me, that was a bit too “like my Dad”
And in my Mums eyes she was protecting me from him, and she did of course. I’m fully aware that life without Dad was my saving grace. God knows what I would have turned out to be like if we actually lived with him. Yet Mum, unknowing to her, she essentially made me afraid to be myself. I didn’t experiment a little with just being jack the lad, testing my boundaries, taking risks, enjoying life a little, you know? I think every teenager does it, but not me. That behaviour was too much like Dad’s.
See, if she had just let me realise for myself, life may have turned out differently. I try not to mention to Alex about my previous life, or what Dad was actually like, because like me, if he wants to rebel he could well think that
“If it’s good for him, then it’s good for me”
It’s how I took to compulsive lying, Dad did it, why couldn’t I? In one big rebellious scoop. If I had found out for myself it would have totally been a different story.
But you know, Mum isn’t perfect. As much as I’d love her to be, she’s human, like me, and prone to humungous fuck ups, like me. So that was probably her lesson to learn during life. She’s happily married now, with a man that treats her as he should, which is awesome. She’s happy, so that means I am too.
I take my hat off to single Mums. The job my Mum had trying to find a suitable partner, that wouldn’t only take on Mum, but me too, was amazing. There were times when I’d know she was going out on a date, but I’d never ever get to meet them. It happened a lot, only a few made the cut. I can remember a lot of fridays being date night for Mum, I remember it well, and she’d always have her photo taken by Gran and Grandad in her pretty dresses. Mum was a proper little Catholic girl, quite a catch in some mens eyes. Gran was supremely religious. Church every Sunday without fail, even when she was on her death bed she had the local Priest visit her regularly. I wish Mum had kept the photos, it would have been amazing revisiting past history, but I guess for Mum it was too painful. Lots of war and peace in those days.
We bitch about single parents, I see it all over the place. In the news, in papers, on the media, on Facebook, but I doubt some people realise the hard task that they have. Raising kids are hard enough in a two parent family. I’ve developed a deep respect for these people ever since I’ve had Alex. The 6am wakeups, midnight shoutouts, illnesses, tantrums, you know I couldn’t bare thinking about doing all that on my own. As a single parent you have to juggle all that, kids and life, and it’s damn hard.
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