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Wednesday, 30 March 2016

"The Parent Slap: One Single Father's Pained Revelations" Guest Post

Another guest post for my blog and it's a piece written by Chris Watt of Scotland. He writes about being a single Dad which you don't read much about. This post will touch your heart as you read about the love of his child and the challenges and the joys of raising his little girl. Seriously, grab you a tissue or two because you're going to need it.


It begins at 6am.

A slight tapping on my skull, followed by something akin to a slap, but with a tad more force. It feels a little like being slapped by a four year old, which is appropriate, really, as that is exactly what it is.
The voice is high pitched, squeaky and serious. It says the word 'Daddy' as if at6am i would be capable of understanding that it means me.
I open my eyes, adjust to the barely there sunlight and I am greeted with a blond haired, smiling angel.
Except at 6am, I could be visited by the second coming and it wouldn't register.
My daughter, although no child of mine would ever dream of waking me at dawn, brings herself closer to me, her pink PJ's and bare feet clashing with my beige bed sheets.
"Daddy, I have to tell you something..."
I take a gamble and indulge her.
"What is it sweetheart?"
My mind has already started playing out scenarios. Maybe she wet the bed? Maybe she lost her favourite bear? Maybe the world has ended?
She leans to my ear and whispers...
This is followed by the loudest, pitched laugh that even a dog might strain to hear, the word 'fart' clearly being the re-invention of comedy in my little girl's still developing brain.
Clearly, i guessed right. The world HAS ended.
Of course, you never properly adjust to being a parent. There are a million routines and rituals, every one of them designed to make your little one feel comfortable, secure and loved.

What I love most of all about being a parent is that it gives your life a focus that, up until that point, you never knew it needed. There is something refreshing about waking up every day, knowing that everything you do within that 24 hour period, is all with the intention of making sure your child is looked after, provided for. This doesn't mean that you have to put your life on hold, of course. You can still have dreams and you can work hard to achieve them. But the wonderful thing about your child is that, in the big scheme of things, your dreams come second. No matter what you may desire, you have to pay the bills, buy the milk, clothe your child, keep them safe and happy.

And above all else, love them.

Its unconditional, you see. Something I've never experienced before, but it amazes me just how powerful it can be. You finally understand why people say they would die for their kids. I would, and I'm generally, not much of a man for confrontation.

But what I'm really here to talk about is the notion of being a single parent.

Its a misnomer, of course. For a start, I'm not single. I'm divorced, but I have a partner. My divorce was, on the whole, amicable. That is to say, we don't get that overwhelming urge to stick knives in each others faces every time we see each other (of course, I can only speculate on my exes part, for that one.)

Now not many divorces go down that road. My own parents' didn't. It was messy and painful, and, hindsight or not, made so almost entirely because of my father.

I was adamant that this would not be the case for my daughter. And, for better or worse, this is how it went.

Now, I'm not naive enough to think that my ex speaks only fondly about me. Divorce is a traumatic experience, no matter how amicable, and there are many casualties along the way. Mine was something of a mental breakdown, which, thanks to that perfect safety net of family, I managed to bounce back from. The other casualties are a little more manageable. Friends, friends of friends and mutual acquaintances, all fall by the wayside. Many of them will pick a side, usually without talking to you about it. Many won't know all the facts, or will judge you by what others say (always when you're not around). Don't be disheartened. These are people that you don't need in your life. Judgment calls made on a breakdown between two people (that's TWO, you understand, TWO) are always blind. They might think they are being supportive to the wounded party, but you have to wonder, when in the history of divorce, did the exes ever speak fondly of each other. Divorce is not a group therapy session, where everyone who knows you gets a say.

Anyway, outside of that bubble, and remember, bubbles can be popped, the focus has to stay far away from such distractions.

I'm 35 now, and 35 is a serious age. Time becomes more precious, as does the time you have with your child.

As a single parent, to get back to the point I wandered from in the last paragraph, I see my child three times a week, sometimes more depending on schedules. Its joint custody, which suits me fine, and my daughter doesn't often get confused by the set up. Indeed, she often boasts about having two houses, a habit I'm trying to break her of, lest she begin to think shes some sort of rich socialite, a comparison that, believe me, she will never make once she gets old enough to realize just how much Daddy makes from his writing.

There are a lot of people who like to think they know what's good for your child. Don't listen to these people. There are also a lot of people who will tell you that a single parent, particularly a male single parent, isn't qualified to do the job right. Don't listen to these people either. In fact, don't take advice from anyone who projects a blissful, care free existence. They're probably miserable, or psychotic, and if you needed that sort of advice, you could just head to facebook, where you'll find many miserable, psychotics opinions.

That includes me, by the way, so you should probably have stopped reading this about 300 words ago.

I like to think the bond I have with my daughter, gives me a parental instinct. I know in my gut whats right for my child, what she needs, what will make her happy and most of all, what will make her unhappy.

You can make a pie chart, if you want, but my child's happiness would be 10% food, 40% rest and 50% Pixar movies.

And I'm cool with that.

We have our own routines. Swimming, walks, play park time, beach time, nap time, movie time and many other activities that end with the word time. I make sure she brushes her teeth, doesn't drink too much before bed. Sleeping becomes a monumental experience. If you manage to catch 6 hours straight of unbroken shut eye, you're doing something right. Nothing can prepare you for the 'shining'-like ability you will generate, by which I mean that every cough, every shift of position and creak of the mattress becomes your cue to sit up and lean forward on the edge of your bed, trying to listen out for some sort of distress call that never comes. Its all evolutionary, I suspect. Parents are as nervous as meerkats when it comes to their own, especially when they are at their most vulnerable. The instinct is to draw them closer, but you risk too much attachment, which will come back and bite you on the solar plexus once they're teenagers, desperate to break free and blaze their own trail.

I can feel that time creeping towards me like Nosferatu ascending the stairs, casting his shadow on the wall as he goes, only in my case, the shadow is that of a 16 year old girl who doesn't want to hear about my day, doesn't want to hang out with her dad and just wants to know how much money I have on me.

Single parenting, for many, can suck. I know that. If you've ever seen a man or woman walking aimlessly down the supermarket aisle with a haunted expression on their face, their offspring are probably hiding in the frozen section, waiting to whip an ice cream sandwich at their forehead.

That isn't the experience I've had, thankfully, but I would be lying if |I didn't say that there are times when it is incredibly difficult. You will never be as tired, or as angry, or as susceptible to emotion. For example, there was a Google advert a few years back that revolved around emails between a father and his daughter. Nothing more than an example of correspondence, spanning several years, all with some cute little song playing softly in the background.

I wept buckets.


These days, anything to do with a child will set me off, especially if it's a news story about a child in distress. I just can't watch, and usually change the channel.

It makes me wonder what I'll be like when I'm 65, and my daughter is all grown up, off living her own life.

So I cherish the now. Every part of it. Because she's worth it all. Every shout, every tear, every time she goes off in a rage, but most of all, every smile, every laugh, every weird little thing she says that I don't quite understand. She's a mystery and an open book all at the same time. Who wouldn't fall for that? As I write this, she is sitting next to me on the couch, watching some stupid cartoon about a bear that didn't know it was a bear until it realized that being a bear made it the best bear in the history of bears (a pretty good movie actually) and she has her head resting on my shoulder.

That's worth every 6am head tap.

Written by Chris Watt

Follow Chris on Twitter: https://twitter.com/thechriswatt

About Maria Rochelle

Maria is a writer of multiple genres, and author of the popular children's picture story book series Jasmine Dreams.
Find out more about Maria here →


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