Here we have another blog post from my other half, Ben. Step Dad to Eloise and regular old Dad to Lily. Here he talks about the transition from single life to being the new boyfriend and finally, a Dad of two in the space of a year.
Another shot of Jäger rides through your throat while your mates cheer during the downing process. You have a lie in until 11am then wake up with morning hair and drool down your cheek. You walk into the living room and sit down to your spotless room ready to watch some morning comedy. You go for a solitary walk round the local park, or maybe even for a relaxing drive through the city, down to a forest somewhere south west. Living the dream right?
Then you meet her. Her. She can only be elucidated as the most honest characterisation of pure beauty you’ve ever come across. Her personality, a sensational desire that you crave more for the longer you’re apart. She’s everything you’ve desired. You want to spend every possible moment with her, and you find flash forwards speculating the future of what could be.
But then you realise that she has a child. A toddler, or maybe a teenager. You realise she is a Mother. Does this bother you? Does it hold you back?
Its rhetorical. It depends on what type of relationship you’re ready for. It may not hold you back, you may not like the idea of children – despite being one yourself in the past – you may like the idea of children but not have the confidence or trust in yourself to support, and raise a child.
It may be all of the above.
If you don’t want to have that level of responsibility then by all means, don’t get involved. Don’t enter that relationship to only leave when the going gets tough. Chances are, that child has already had a man leave her life, that woman has already lost a part of her. Chances are there was hurt involved. If you don’t think you can do it, don’t. What may seem like a simple, ” Sorry, I can’t do this” and then going back to looking for the One a few weeks later, will be a huge world of confusion for the child, and more self confidence destruction for the woman.
If you do stick around though, it’s not easy.
Lets, for the purpose of this post, assume the child is 4. That way I can relate more as it’s similar to my situation.
Allowing yourself to become a father to a child that isn’t even biologically yours is hard. Not because the child is not of your blood, not because there’s that lingering sense of responsibility, but because your life, for the first time ever, will go from zero-to-sixty, in the blink of an eye. Even quicker than the latest Lamborghini, quicker than a bullet leaving a high-powered rifle.
Let’s ignore the girlfriend here. Let’s just assume we all know that she’s trusting you to be a part of her child’s life. A huge gesture. Let’s focus on the kid instead. I’m going to go through, “stages” to explain the way you grow alongside the child.
You’ll start out as a stranger to this child. They’ll be shy, quiet, and be quite held back from what they’re actually like. You’ll find that you will be awkwardly talking about things that you think the child is interested in, or you’ll have the child talking to you about things they’re interested in and you’ll realise it’s things that you’ve never heard of, and that all of your interests you had as a child mean nothing now.
You’re going to find that you can be quite scary because of how tall you are in comparison to the child, and then realise that you’ve never really noticed how tall you actually are. Your face is new, they won’t know it. It’s scary. They don’t know you. You don’t know them.
Suddenly you’ll find yourself becoming friends, sharing a laugh about things, playing the tickle monster with them, playing with their toys and watching their programs. You’ll attempt to be cool and buy them little treats, not realising that when you’ve gone, you’ve just left your girlfriend alone with a child that is now loaded with e numbers. Good going.
Here we go, this is where things start to pick up.
With children, the stage from “stranger” to “best friends” can be a very short ride. If they like you, they’ll think you’re cooler than a Shopkin. They’ll start confiding in you, they’ll share more things, like toys, or secrets. They’ll want your attention most of the time and won’t care if you would rather be busy talking to Mummy, or kissing Mummy’s face off. Suddenly your time is divided. This is where suddenly you have a small amount of trust placed into your hands. Their trust.
This stage can be where you suddenly need to start putting your foot down. Maybe you’re finally staying over and the child gets excited, the Mother needs help calming and getting the child to bed. You break that cool, friendship zone a little bit. You crack it ever so slightly.
The child now starts to realise that you’re not just a friend, but that you’re starting to hold a certain parental role over them. The fact that you have that power – for want of better word – over them makes them see you – if only for a while – less fun than you used to be. They have to start getting your trust now, showing that they’re ready to listen to you. This is a hard part.
By this point, you’ve probably most likely been in a few arguments. You’re going to have no doubt told the child not to do something and as a result received screaming, strops, tears, or glares. You’ll now be more of an authoritative figure for that child. They will now still look to you for comfort and fun, but they’ll see you more as a parental figure.
It’s worth noting though, that despite the fact you may be seen as a more parental figure, the child still doesn’t really know you. They’ll mostly find comfort from their Mum rather than you. They’ll fall off something, scrape their knee. Mum will be their first port of call, simply because they’ve had their Mum since birth; you’ve only just entered.
The thing is though, the initial worries you have near the start of the relationship; the worries of not loving the child, the worries of the child hating you and as a result the Mum breaks it off for her child’s happiness, or the worries of not being strong enough. They flitter away without you noticing. If you stay strong and stick through the hard times, you find yourself becoming stronger. That trust both you and the child need to maintain remains strong.
The harder times will test you, they will crush your very heart to the gravel and scrape it along. You’ll battle emotions, and words. You’ll wonder what the fuck you can do. The connection between the child and their Mum will drive you insane, because you’ll try to be there for the child, they’ll push you away and go to Mum. You’ll feel crushed. Exhausted. Worthless.
Not only that, but you’ll have other life crap going on around you. Finances, Family, Food, and Friends wanting to meet up with you, but you’ll be too tied up with everything, you just can’t be bothered.
This is another point, people don’t seem to understand just how much work goes into building a new relationship between a Mother and child. You’ve got a child that has started to depend on you. School runs, food, fun activities, homework, and more stuff comes into play in your life. Instead of finishing up your saved game on FarCry 4, you’ll be teaching life lessons. You’ll get people getting offended that you haven’t made time for them, or that you don’t talk anymore, or that you take too long to reply.
The reality? You will be there, phone in hand, about to text back, about to message back, then suddenly the child will want a sandwich or a drink, so you’ll go and sort that, then once you’ve done that, you’ll see a mess, you’ll tidy it up, then you’ll sit down, then you just bask in that short break you can get. You forget to reply.
And that’s what people don’t see. They see selfies of happiness and content adult life. They don’t see the rush, and the exhaustion. They certainly don’t see your brain still trying to adjust to one day only caring about whether to go out and get wasted, to another day where you’re trying to find out where the hell the other sock has gone and why the child has got a load of toys out when you and your girlfriend just said that they need to get ready to go.
There’s plenty more I could say on this topic, but it would be a really long blog post. Becoming a parent halfway through a child’s younger years is a huge lifestyle change. It’s one of the most important choices you can make in your life. It’s a valiant choice, and one with an experience unlike any other. It’s a proud feeling. Only chose it if you know you can see it through.