Ok, I’m going to put this out there and make a confession, at times I really struggle being a dad. Right now is a particularly difficult time and I’ll explain why shortly. To fully understand my feelings around this would probably take years of therapy so instead I’ll share my deepest feelings and fears with you now. Hopefully it will be cathartic and as a bonus I won’t need to take out a second mortgage to pay for the therapy. Yayy, more money to spend on Nandos and Kate Bush memorabilia.
Before I became a parent I had my fantasy of how it would be. Beautifully behaved children in all situations, always doing what I asked immediately and all of us having fun every day as a family. I would be constantly happy and relaxed, joyful at the perfect life I had. Reading that back, it does seem ridiculously naive now but how could I have known how life would really be?
From the moment both our girls were born I felt a mountain of responsibility thrust upon me. How they developed emotionally, spiritually and their general personalities would depend largely on me and Rachel and how we interacted with them on a daily basis. I know from personal experience how powerful words can be, particularly from your parents and how they can effect you and your life. The knowledge and belief that one slip of the tongue and one thoughtless comment from me could potentially cause irreparable damage to the girls has always been with me. I appreciate I sound a tad melodramatic but that’s how I feel and I can’t help it.
When Jade was younger she took time to warm up to people including friends and family and was always very mindful of strangers. This meant when we met random people who said things like, “Ooh, what lovely hair, what’s your name”, Jade would stay silent or hide away. What then followed was invariably comments like, “Oh, you must be very shy” etc. We both know that if you hear something about yourself said often enough you start to believe it and this can become self fulfilling. We were then stuck between wanting to explain how she was with people but not make a big deal out of it. See, there is basis for my melodramaticism.
As parents, myself and Rachel have always tried to get the balance right and do the best we can, I guess that’s all you can really do. The problems and clashes have been due to our vastly different upbringings. Mine, where boundaries were ever constant and everywhere and Rachel’s, where the closest she got to a boundary was playing cricket at school. I’ll leave it at that as otherwise this post will go on for three days. Happily though, things are much better now.
This always happens, I have something in mind and suddenly I’m digressing away and it’s 37 pages later. Back to my current struggle, Jade. She’s approaching 14 and being more vocal with everything. That’s a nice way of saying she’s increasingly belligerent which means we tend to clash quite a lot. I think back to when I was 14 and for various reasons I was a little s*#t and used to make my mum cry on an almost daily basis. Fortunately Jade is a lot more rounded and nicer than I was and so the house is definitely more harmonious than mine in the early 80’s. I think a lot of my struggles are down to the fact that I find it hard to be an adult most of the time and my inability to just ‘be’ most of the time. It’s no wonder there can be tension.
I think back to the good old days of playing my Culture Club, Duran Duran and Musical Youth singles and watching Tucker Jenkins in Grange Hill. At the time, my parents seemed absolutely ancient to me and with rubbish taste in music, sorry ma and pa. I just find it so difficult to comprehend that I’m now in their position and the parent of an almost 11 and 14 year old. On top of that I’m expected to act like a responsible adult most of the time. It doesn’t help that Rachel’s as childlike as me. It’s a wonder anything ever gets done in our house.
Jade now likes boys, sorry, men and goes out with her friends without adult supervision. Is it wrong that I don’t like either of those? I’m happy that she’s independent and maturing but I miss her being five years old and just needing us. I’m acutely aware that in a few short years she could be leaving home and the thought of that terrifies me. I want my little girl to stay here with us forever. I’m also worried that I’ll scare off any potential boyfriends that I let in the house with my over aggressive questioning and background checks. Jade will then hate me and might run off with some complete unsuitable oddball just to rebel.
I know that I should just enjoy every moment and treasure the time we have together. I know that she’s a standard hormonal teenager and I should make allowances for that. A lot of the time I do, sometimes though I don’t. Parents comment all the time at parties how patient I am and they ask if I’m as patient at home. The answer is always a resounding no. We might argue at times, we might shout at each other and we do at times drive each other nuts. None of that really matters though.
Since writing this, Jade’s special, beautiful and brave friend Ellie tragically lost her fight with leukaemia. Her funeral was a week ago and along with countless others, I went to mourn her loss and celebrate her life. I felt totally helpless as Jade sobbed next to me, all I could offer was a shoulder to cry on and a hand to hold. Never has anything put my life into perspective as Ellie’s passing. Everything else seemed so totally trivial and irrelevant. I suddenly felt guilty for the times I’ve lost my temper with the girls, for giving them a hard time for not listening to me when asked to clear up their endless mess or tidy their rooms.
I spent the night after the funeral sitting with Jade, chatting about simple things and hugging her. Yes, being a dad has been and I’m sure will continue to be a series of ups and downs along with struggles and the occasional fight. That’s life I guess but I really am going to do my best to appreciate every minute I have with my girls, with Rachel and with my own life.