Daddy’s Day

I love my dad. My dad knows I love and respect him, I just don’t think he knows how much. He worries about us and he loves us and when he can he helps us out but he never panders to us. He’s there to hold us tight when our hearts have been broken, and he’s there to congratulate us when we do well. He’ll drive to the ends of the earth at any time of day or night if one of us gets stuck somewhere. He’s not big on chatty conversations, but when he does talk, it’s really worth listening. If it wasn’t for my folks- I would probably have chickened out of a lot of things. A major part of my life is striving to make my parents proud- to show them that I actually was listening- most of the time at least.
And then there’s the other part of my annual father’s day.
There are often times when I wish I could see into Damien’s head. I’m sure every mom on the planet has wished she could read her child’s thoughts (when they’re not clearly visible in their eyes), but one of the few days that I would give almost anything for that ability is on Father’s Day.
I took a friends little boy to church with me on Sunday (let’s call him ‘T’). As we were sitting there, watching the other Sunday school children sing a song and then give little packets of Jelly Tots with messages on to all the dads in the congregation, it struck me that the little boys sitting on either side of me are both dad-less. T’s father pays maintenance and he sees him occasionally but its T’s paternal grandmother who makes a point of trying to see him when she can. Damien has never met his father, and though he asks the odd question once in a blue moon (like “does my father like animals?” and “do I look like my father?”) he has never actually asked to see him. I also try my utmost to be honest when Damien does ask a question. I always keep in mind that he may one day want to find this man and I don’t want him to remember all sorts of mean things I said when and if he does, I want Damien to make up his own mind. I would love to know what Damien is thinking on this particular day of the year, more to put my own mind at rest that he’s okay than for any other reason.
I must also confess, it’s the one day that I really wonder what Damien’s father is thinking and feeling. Knowing he has a son who he’s never met or seen. We agreed when we split up not to see each other or have any contact (see previous blogs for more details) and I am extremely grateful to him for leaving us alone. But I do wonder if he wonders, if his family wonders, if he’s thought about what he will say if Damien ever tracks him down. If he has any other children* silly and morose I know, but I can’t help it, especially given my relationship with my father.
Damien is truly blessed that he has such a big close knit family that loves him as much as they do, we would both be lost without them.
Oh, and I have also come to the conclusion that the mothers of children who are born out of wedlock (i.e. illegitimate) are “punished” for their indiscretions by having children who look unmistakably like their fathers- to remind us everyday that we’re never entirely off the hook!

If a cat has decided to love you, there’s not a whole lot you can do about it. Katrina Smythe.

Still A Taboo Subject?

My son has ADHD. I am fine with it, Damien is fine with it, he takes his Ritalin every day including weekends and we have both seen some incredible changes in our relationship as well as in his school performance. He is now bringing home certificates for his research and artistic capabilities; he gets silver awards for the speech festival (which he loathes); he has qualified for his gymnastics provincial colours three years running (this year he even qualified for the national competition); he gets merits for his class work; he does his homework; he completes and hands in projects on time and I no longer dread school parents evenings! Granted, putting Damien in a private school with nice small classes has made a world of difference too, but even BEFORE we changed schools we started seeing a difference. Yet I am still hesitant to mention it to anyone. The one time I decided to broach the subject openly in conversation, I was questioned ruthlessly as to whether he ACTUALLY had ADHD or if his teachers and I just couldn’t cope with him. I was totally gobsmacked to say the least! That ANYONE could look me in the eye and ask me if I had a reason for medicating my son. I should have said “I did it for fun” just to see how she reacted. That I am a single parent has nothing to do with my decision or with Damien having ADHD. I shouldn’t have to explain to anyone that we tried everything and anything else first. The (non-existent) ADHD diet, very specific multi-vitamins that are supposed to help, countless psychiatrists, psychologists, OTs, speech therapists, GPs and specialists were consulted. We even had his hearing tested! That Damien was poked, prodded, ECG’d, tested, examined and analysed until he wanted to have a fit if I mentioned seeing a doctor. He started developing a complex about himself- the fact that he had to see so many doctors when he wasn’t feeling sick started making him think there was something wrong with him. Then we discovered the doctor we have been seeing for the last three years. He prescribed Ritalin, and one of the huge differences between him and the other doctors we’ve seen, is that he actually monitors the dose and Damien’s performance using input from me and from his teachers. One of the aspects I battled the most with, was convincing family and friends that he couldn’t always help his behaviour. That the connections between action and consequence didn’t exist for him most of the time. I mean, bad behaviour is bad behaviour right? Wrong. In Damien’s case (and many children like him) he just doesn’t think because he can’t, he doesn’t know how. Plain and simple. He tricky part of course is where to draw the line between what he can’t help and when he’s misbehaving. I have to keep reminding MYSELF, several times a day; that he doesn’t think before he acts or speaks, that I must look him in the eye when I give him an instruction (and even make him repeat it). Make no mistake- our life is far from being a picnic- but having a decent doctor and the correct, monitored dose of medication means that we can actually have a conversation now. That he can visit friends and go to birthday parties alone without me panicking about him driving the other child’s parents insane! That I can leave him to read books while I browse elsewhere in the shop without me worrying that he’s going to be climbing the shelves or opening all the packaging. The level of trust in our relationship has gone up a thousand-fold! Obviously there are lots of things we still argue about- like keeping his room tidy, that he shouldn’t be borrowing or exchanging toys with friends, remembering to pick up after him self and wash out the bath when he’s finished- but these are the same things other parents have to argue with their children about. Every disorder or illness must be treated when it can be. No-one gives you grief for prescribing anti-depressants or chemotherapy when it’s necessary* so my point remains this: Why do I have to justify putting my son on medication to treat his disorder?

Let Me Count The Ways…

How can I put into words the feelings and emotions I experienced this weekend?
My baby boy has qualified for the team that is going to represent our province in a national gymnastics competition! Every time I think about it I want to giggle and cry and scream all at once! It’s really hard to put it into words.
This would have been a pipe dream three years ago. After he was diagnosed with ADHD when he was five, we spent several years bouncing around between psychiatrists, psychologists, specialists, GPs, treatments and support groups trying to find something that worked. I read every book, visited every website, joined up for every free newsletter I could lay my hands on.
Then, three years ago, I found a doctor on the internet who specialized in treating ADHD and who lived in our country (yes I was a little surprised).
Since we started seeing him on a monthly basis and getting proper treatment our loves have completely turned around. We don’t fight with each other like we used to. He is actually doing school work and homework after a few years of literally empty books.

my solo act

One thing I had to learn to keep in my mind and in my heart is that no one can tell me how to do this job, and no one can tell me my choices are wrong or right when it comes to a solo act like mine. I have to weigh up the pros and cons of everything. Suing his father for maintenance or not; buying a house or renting for a few more years so I can afford private school; buying a new car or buying a second hand car; moving away from family to have a better job or staying close to my back-up… it happens all day everyday.
Going without so that I can provide for my son- I don’t think it ever stops… but that’s not what it’s about. My boy is a brilliant, intelligent, creative, well adjusted, sociable, likeable kid who is adored by friends and family alike.
It’s a lot of stress and we are after all, only human. I try never to let anyone tell me I made the wrong choice. As long as my baby is happy and healthy my choices and decisions can’t be all bad. If there’s one thing I can’t stand, its people jumping to conclusions when they learn what our little family set-up is. Like those people who assume someone who is blind must also be deaf and yell when they speak to them. And people who assume that my son was diagnosed with ADHD and is being treated with Ritalin because I couldn’t cope.
And there really are people like that!
Anyway, without my family I wouldn’t cope. They regularly tell me I have done well and they are proud of me and I try to remind myself of that every now and then.
Something I had to learn to do was plan ahead, as far ahead as possible. I started putting away money, as much as I could spare every month, and when I can, I increase it a little bit. I don’t ever decrease the amount I put away. It’s not only for Damien’s higher education but for me too, for emergencies or simply for a weekend away when I feel like I‘ve really had enough!
I know, I sound like I’m bragging, but sometimes I have to for ME. There are so many single moms out there and I wish I could tell them all that it CAN work.
In my case, my son’s father and his family consciously decided they didn’t want to deal with the scandal of an illegitimate child and a teenage pregnancy and such. I also felt that if I sued my son’s father for maintenance I would spend every other month in court trying to get the money owed to us simply because that’s the kind of man I think he was. I didn’t and don’t have the money for lawyers and legal fees to spend on trying to get a couple of hundred bux a month… which doesn’t even cover groceries or school fees. My family and I decided to go it alone with absolutely no contact from my son’s father at all- no money, no gifts, no visits, nothing. He agreed and that’s how it stayed. I am grateful to him for keeping his end of our bargain, but I still have nightmares about my son’s father arriving on my doorstep and demanding to see him. Since it’s been so long he doesn’t have a leg to stand on legally and I have less stress about that now than I did when my son was a baby. I have also never hidden from my son what happened. Obviously I tell him only what he can handle for his age and understanding. But he knows that his father and I were in love when he was conceived; that he looks like his father (a spitting image); what his fathers name is and that when he turns 21- if he wants to- I will help him track the man down (as much as I dread the idea, I am going to have to deal with it eventually).
I must be honest, what I battle with is “spoiling” my son- purely out of guilt of course I know- but I do tend to spoil him. I try hard to limit it to birthdays and Christmas, but I really have a hard time saying no to THINGS, like toys & take out (especially since I like them too). But discipline is a whole ‘nother area… I am very strict on things like age restrictions, caffeine, bedtime, good manners, tidying up after ones self, finishing homework and such like.
There is nothing tougher than raising a child – alone or in a regular family with two parents – and I wouldn’t recommend single parenthood to anyone- not even celebrities with lots of money.
That’s what’s on my mind today.

No Fairy Tale For Me Thanx!

Every now and then, one of my friends will say something about how the right man for me is “out there somewhere“. Or my house-church group will pray for me to meet someone “nice“. Or a person I have more or less just met will comment on me “keeping a positive outlook on relationships” and such like.
And my mom always worries about me still being single at 30+. At least she has stopped talking publicly about how she worries about me being all alone. She prays for me and that’s no problem.
Make no mistake- I love my family and friends to death, but why the hell is it NOT okay to be single? This isn’t the 1800’s!

Is it so absolutely impossible for people to believe that I might LIKE being who I am?

And it’s not only because I am a sceptic when it comes to romantic relationships- I am- but also because I’ve been a parenting solo act for so long that I couldn’t imagine changing my lifestyle to fit someone else into it now.

Ja, okay, I am a pessimist, not because of my parents relationship- they’ve been married for 32 years, and my grandparents were married for almost 60 years before my Grandad went to heaven. But other relationships around me haven’t all turned out well. They haven’t all necessarily ended as such- but those involving children are especially messy (as always).
Here are some sad examples: a family member of mine (who will remain un-named) married a single mom, adopted her child, they had their own baby, then divorced. The divorce and ensuing battle has been very ugly. He has since decided to annul the adoption and fight for custody of his own child.
Not that there wasn’t adequate reasoning behind his decision, but my issue is that the adopted child was always a “not ours” to some members of our family, if you know what I mean. And don’t tell me children can’t sense that!
Here’s another example: my sister married a divorcee who has custody of his two children. They also had their own child.
My issue- THEIR child is “special” because he’s “really ours”. Another family member (also remaining un-named) married a single mom, and as much as he loves her children as if they were his own- a few people have been heard to comment that they wish he could have “one of his own”.

NB! Not everyone reacts to other peoples children like that, but it happens enough to put me off completely.
And let me make myself VERY clear here- under NO circumstances will I EVER allow my little boy to be put into a situation like that and take the chance of him being hurt

The other side of my personal coin is that I have a problem allowing other people to parent and discipline my child. Not my family- I know my parents and siblings have similar outlooks to mine on child rearing standards. We expect the same sort of thing from our children so I trust their judgement. But strangers? That’s a WHOLE ‘nother basket of turtles! I honestly don’t like the idea of a boyfriend disciplining my son. The knucklehead must respect him as an adult of course. But why should someone have the right to discipline my son if I don’t know he’s a long term connection. And I can’t leave something like that until we get married, that will be just too confusing for all involved!

And let me add another side to my coin (I think that’s three now). I believe in my heart of hearts that when a couple is married, their relationship comes first. Their relationship with their children MUST come second. After all, when the children leave home the parent’s relationship must be strong enough to survive being alone together most of the time. My reasoning is this- I can’t take fourteen years of singular devotion to my son and set it aside in favour of a man who hasn’t been there all along. What kind of emotional hammering will my son take then? I don’t think any amount of counselling or explaining can make him think its okay.

Now you know what’s in my mind. Use it, don’t use it.