I have always prided myself on being a tough parent with strong values and beliefs. As far as I was concerned everything was under control. I've never once felt like the task of bringing up two boys on my own was beyond me, why should I? I've been completely hands on from the moment they arrived. The odd wave of grief aside I'm always really happy with their progress, it just seems odd that over three years after the death of their mum I should suddenly feel like I'm not as 'in control' as I think I am.
Sometimes in life you can wake up to a situation and think, how did I get here? It's no different from a parenting point of view, I've had to ask myself that very question of late. Since when, and why, does my first born Bobby seem to dislike me so much?! It's so true: we really do take things out on the people we love.
Bobby was always 'daddy's boy' yet since the passing of his mother our relationship has altered greatly. The weekend dad role is exactly how many mothers accurately describe it: a 'glory' role. You drift in and out of the equation, energetic, balanced, organised, you have lots of fun with the kids for a short while and hand them back to get on with the other half of your life that revolves around one person, you.
The children idolise you for being better company than mum. I can see why that used to hurt Jade so much, it's so unfair that you put in so much effort to the day to day duties, brushing teeth, homework, food shopping, breaking up the arguments, taking the lip...and seemingly get less in return.
Of course it's not really the dad's fault, this is the way it has to be when separation occurs. You're a team with a shared interest, you just play different roles - some more rewarding than others. The single parent knows that a few sacrifices have to be made, that we feel less loved from time to time, that we must be the emotional punchbag too. But although the feeling can be one of being second best, the fact is you are their world, their security and while they may not always show it they couldn't love you any more than they do. It can be hard for us to always be certain of that.
Allow me to be brutally honest, I'm under no illusion who my children would rather have here bringing them up, and in moments of anger and frustration they have once or twice reminded me as such. But all I can do is remain focused in my role as all-and-everything, to get them through it and to take the effects of their loss on the chin.
I know my value, my self-worth, I won't rely on my kids to give me a sense of security, I have to generate that for myself because my children need to see security and stability in me. I always visualise the day they graduate, the day they marry, the day they succeed in a profession or gain an award for an achievement, that's where I get my strength, when these things start happening only then will I know I've done my job and passed the test.
It's a shame that sometimes we only really see what we want to. I slipped into the very detrimental habit of allowing Bobby a lot of slack because ultimately, I felt sorry for him. He hasn't dealt with his anger at all and it comes flooding in my direction and I accepted it for too long which I can see now has validated it, whether it's grief-fuelled or otherwise, I have told him, it's OK to speak to Daddy in such a way.
In case you're wondering about Freddy, he was slightly younger which may have helped. But the main reason I'm not involving him in the equation is because he is in such a good place. He sees a counsellor every week who he loves spending time with talking about mum, he also has no problem whatsoever in bringing mummy up so his grief is evidently in check.
Bob sadly hates being pulled out of class infront of his friends to go for his sessions and finds it hard at times to express his feelings to me. Well not if you consider that his anger is the same thing, just in a less constructive way. These are all stages of his development and I can't make him see the help that Grief Encounter provide because then it becomes like a punishment for him, he has to feel like it's there for him when he's ready.
I also now realise what I think he has been desperate for for a few months now. They wouldn't understand it enough, so kids never admit it, but all he has wanted is for me to show him his boundaries and put him in line. I don't think for one second that he wants to be mean to me but I can see it in him that when he starts, he is just unable to stop until he's shouted at, but I refuse to shout.
I've done that, taken things personally and ended up shouting and always regretting it afterwards. I might be having a bad day, stressed about work, my relationship, whatever the reason, I have snapped before I've had time to remind myself he needs me to be constructive about this.
What have I taught him? That he can get the reaction he wanted so it almost guarantees he'll do it again. I'm as human as any of us, I just see how counter-productive this reaction is so I refuse to be manipulated by a nine-year-old behaving this way.
It's been a few days since I snapped out of the short term ignorance I was under, wrapped up in less important problems. Now I have the sense of control back that I think us parents crave in order for the kids to have routine and therefore, behave!
Bobby is slightly up in the air because of there being such a sudden change of rule, but the happy periods are longer and brighter and the anger is running scared; its last few desperate attempts to get the better of me have fallen on deaf ears, and a smile is in the place of a perplexed look that mirrored the one I would see on him.
Treating your children like an equal or certainly at an older stage than they actually are just doesn't work. Hence the bedtime of 8.30pm being brought back to 7.30pm in bed with books, with the expectation of two sleeping children at 8.15pm. They have actually started waking up before the alarm goes off and I have never witnessed a grumpy child that has got themselves out of bed. Little things make such a huge difference.