It’s Friday night and I have just come home from the fish-and-chip shop up the road. I went up earlier with my 9-year-old daughter Angel. While we were waiting for our order — chips and gravy — she was telling me with much conviction that if you spit chewing gum onto the footpath, some people will come along and pick it up, and because it has your tooth-prints in the gum, they can tell who you are.
“Really? Who told you about this?”
“Everyone knows, Dad. All the kids!” she exclaimed with such indignation.
It reminded me of almost twenty years ago, when I used to bring her brother up to the same fish-and-chip shop on a Friday night to get our special chips and gravy, and rush back to my flat and make our special chips and gravy sandwiches.
Back then, I was a single dad without a lot of money (nothing much has changed). The original owner has long since gone; Indians now run the shop. We are sitting on the same bench I sat on while waiting with my son almost twenty years ago. And we will go home and make our special chips and gravy sandwiches and watch cartoons, just as I did all those years ago.
It also reminded me of when I was berated by a barrister in the Family Court because I also fed my 6-year-old son McDonald’s instead of good old-fashioned vegetables, etc. When I explained to the judge that yes, I do, I only get him every second weekend Your Honour, I love him and I spoil him a bit, his honour agreed and said he enjoyed it too, dismissed.
I never told them about our special chips and gravy sandwiches.
Now back to the chewing gum. “They are scientists, Dad!” she exclaimed out of the blue.
“The people who pick up the gum, they can tell.”
“I see,” I said as we walked up the lane, hand-in-hand to our home.
“I love you Dad.”
“I love you too.”
As a single dad out there, you have to be careful — you are being judged for everything you do. Far more then when you were a happy family. How the kids are dressed, where they sleep, what they eat, where you take them. It is hard going, and things can change in an instant.
Your time with your child can be denied on a whim, and there is not much you can do about it. Long-term planning goes out the window and you live week to week, not knowing if you will see your child, regardless of court orders.
Sadly, we are at an all-time high for male suicide. A large percentage of those lost souls are single dads or men suffering from a relationship breakdown. Life is tough out there at the moment. Families are under a lot of pressure, not witnessed here since the war days. I hear it in their voices, I see it in their words.
Please spare a thought, a prayer, for those dads out there who are struggling tonight. Maybe they have been sitting in an empty house waiting to see their kids who never come, or maybe they are just entering the “empty time” after returning their kids, and they look to the upcoming empty week.
Please, if you’re struggling call:
Better still, join a support group or reach out to who or whatever is available in your area.
[Photo by Pixzolo Photography