My 12-year old daughter had me completely surprised a few days ago. I took her for a swimming evaluation in the gym, and for a few minutes, while she was busy swimming, I was privileged to look at her unfocussed, and see her for what she has become. How she is a big girl now, with her own preferences, her own mind, her own style. How she interacts with other people on her own, how she copes without me, yet she wants me nearby because she constantly looks over her shoulder to make eye contact with me.
And I shuddered involuntarily.
I can remember it as clearly as if she was born yesterday. I was the first to hold her, the first to love her. To bath her and wrap her and hold her for a few minutes. She even tried to grasp my finger but her tiny little fingers couldn’t go around all the way. Yes it was yesterday! How quickly did she grow into this young person!
So much has happened since yesterday. I started to think about whether it was worth it? I mean, the investment into my child. Here I am, on a Monday afternoon, sitting on a bench in a gym, and not earning money for the two or three hours. Taking time off from work. Being a taxi-daddy or whatever you call it.
And so my thoughts drifted to the sacrifices I was forced to make along the way. It was a conscious decision back in 2002 to move away from my corporate job and the lovely executive pay, and the commitment it took (time, nerves, absence) to spend more time with her. My wife at that time was a bit younger and she was still climbing the corporate ladder, so this was an ideal time for a role reversal with me slowing down to allow her more freedom to pursue her ideals.
At that time the divorce was not yet on the cards. With Tiffiny’s birth the dynamics in the house changed somewhat and soon afterwards my Ex initiated divorce proceedings, forcing me to make certain times available to fetch my daughter, play with her, or take her to sport. Maybe I made too much time available, almost becoming TOO involved, but it also gave me the opportunity to get very close to my daughter.
Do I have any regrets? No. Did I suffer financially? Yes. Did I enjoy the closeness? Yes. Will I do it again? Yes. The life of a Househusband is not easy but the rewards are intense. This post was in part inspired by Ryan Park in his post talking about being a Stay-At-Home-Dad, and I agree with him on so many levels.
I still believe that the gender inequality, by me becoming the grey and uninteresting nothingness instead of the strong executive, might have been a trigger in the divorce, but that is unimportant. I have gained so much in the process that I will do it again.
Now if only I can stop my little girl from growing up so fast …
One day when I grow older I will understand the role of a Daddy, how to behave properly, how to always do the right things, how to be that ideal person that the popular press always glorifies. Until then, when I learn that trick, I’m going to have to be satisfied with just being the best person I can be, at that moment. Good or bad, I am what I am and I can’t pretend anything else.
Thus, the story goes, a long long time ago, I made a silly promise that I will show my dogs the sea. They have never been to the sea, and they love playing and running with the family, so the only obstacles were transport and accommodation. When I mentioned this to the Minister Of Home Affairs, she used her favourite kitchen tool (Google, yes, to look up recipes and stuff) to find a dog-friendly log cabin in Hibberdene. Thus, she announced with a voice of finality, it is now my problem to find transport. And, she added with a voice of authority, it is her birthday soon and she wouldn’t mind being at the sea for that event, too.
The only correct answer I have found that works in circumstances like that is: “Yes dear”. Not knowing what lies ahead I started preparing my 21-year-old rattle-ship gas-guzzler noisy-as-hell leaking-when-it-rains Toyota 4X4 bakkie. As it turned out she came through with flying colours and went all the way and back without a hitch. Actually there were no technical problems at all during this holiday. We all had a fantastic time. The dogs loved the ocean and ran until their legs gave in, Miriam was in awe about the size of the ocean, Robby had birthday flowers and chocolates waiting for her in the cabin, and the girls giggled the nights away in their “upstairs” loft room.
So what does this mean? Where are we on this journey?
I think this was a very significant weekend. The little one is slowly changing into the butterfly I always knew she would be. The next few weeks are going to be very hard, and it’s going to test us all. I’m already picking unnecessary fights because I’m nervous. The rocky road ahead is going to cut our feet and bruise our bodies. Are we strong enough? Are we going to fall apart, or were we sent on this holiday to cement our relationships and make us strong for the big battle? We’ll have to wait and see.
I have to give recognition to Walter and Louise of Hibescape for providing us with a safe place, physically and emotionally, where we could rest. They made our stay very special and they come highly recommended.
So, was I a good Daddy? Was my best good enough? I had the most awesome naps on the beach with my dogs when they were tired, they think I’m awesome. The little one actually touched my cheek playfully instead of growling at me. Miriam saw the Indian Ocean in action. And the Wifey seems to have had a fun birthday too. And I made a QRP ham radio contact from the balcony.
My wallet might be a lot thinner, but my memories are overflowing. And that is all I need to know.
In 2001, the year before my little one was born, a Judge already wrote these wise words.
They are as true today as they were 13 years ago. Children should not be brought into their adult rock-heads’ fights.
All I know, is that it hurts me to see my little one hurt.
Beautiful photo, lots of memories. It was taken about a year ago at Harmony Stables around July 2012 – the heart of winter on the highveld. I’m having a chat with my little one while rounding up the horses for an outride. For her tenth birthday we took her and a few of her friends to the farm to play with the horses for the weekend and just rough it up in general. They had a ball of a time.
Me, well, I rode “Oupa” on the outride. He is a big but gentle fellow, able to carry my extra kilos without effort. I loved the outride. It gave me time to reflect on so many things that were happening at the time. I heard the hooves on the stones, I smelled the grass, and I wasn’t really watching where we were going. For a long time I let Oupa do what he does best – find his own way.
I’ve come a long way since then. If I thought things couldn’t get worse, I was wrong. The last year was brutal and it has seen a major escalation in the noise levels. I needed to rest last year to prepare me for the new onslaught, and Oupa afforded me that opportunity. Now, nearly a year later, Its time to reassess if the road I’ve chosen is the right one.
So today I stumble across this incredible blog by an incredible lady, Tanya Geisler, on her blog Tanya Geisler – Your Best Path Forward [click here to view her blog]. If ever there was a case of The Message Will Appear When The Student Is Ready, this was it. I am so looking for answers, begging for direction. I’m searching for somebody to give me strategic direction because I have run out of ideas completely and I don’t know what to do next. My confidence is at the lowest level ever. I want to give up, I no longer know if I am doing the right things.
And she answers with the words: “lower your head and trust that you know your best way forward”. Trust your feet. Trust your instinct. Trust yourself. Nobody knows the situation better than you. Trust your own strength.
My goodness, I am the one that knows the way, and I’m asking other people to show me! Crazy!
I am scared though. I am scared that I am going to cause more damage. I am scared that I will take unnecessary risks. I am scared that I will hurt the very people I want to protect. I am scared that I will hurt the people closest to me, the ones I love the most.
I also know that I am not home yet. I have to continue. But for how long still? Over lunch somebody whose opinion I trust a lot asked me a blind question: “When will you stop?” I don’t know. I will have to trust my feet. I will now when I enter the sunshine again.
Spiritually, in fact, we probably placed ourselves in this position because we wanted the Universe to teach us the lesson, we wanted to learn to deal with the issues and make it our own.
And once the rocky and difficult bits are over, we will enter the gorgeous clearing and step into the sunshine. Just trust your feet and your heart.
P.S. I also read some of her other posts, like “I am a Force of Nature. Even when I feel anything but. You are too”. It is all good stuff.